Forgiveness is one of the most powerful expressions a human can make towards another. It has implications for everyone involved.
It does not mean forgetting. In fact, when we consider everything that has happened in a situation forgiveness is only really possible once we can reveal the full weight of the experience. We hold every detail in our hands and heart and choose to fully accept the implications of the pain. We release ourselves from the (not so merry) merry-go-round and tangled web of hatred, hurt and pain. In forgiving we release the power of the hurt so it no longer holds us captive. The memories are still there, but the pain can slowly be released.
The story of Corrie Ten Boom is a powerful lesson in forgiveness.
Corrie Ten Boom and her sister suffered in the concentration camp during World War II. Her sister died there as a result of severe torture. After the war, Corrie was invited to speak on forgiveness. At the end of her talk, a man came up to speak to her. It was the person who had tortured her sister and contributed to her death. Now this man stood before her to ask her for forgiveness for the atrocities he had committed years earlier. The memories of his cruel acts flooded back to her mind and she says, in her first response, she could feel only hatred towards him. But, in a moment she reached her hand out to him and love flowed through her to forgive him.*
While most of us have not experienced the cruellest of torture and atrocities as seen in the concentration camps of WWII, there are still times in our lives where we come face to face with hurts, both big and small.
Corrie Ten Boom did not forget what was done to her, her sister and the thousands of people in the concentration camps. But she chose forgiveness and love. The act of forgiveness can provide a release and a sense of healing: no longer holding onto something that has hurt us, but letting it go so it no longer has power over us. It makes room for something more: for healing and change.
In Corrie Ten Boom’s freedom she was able to forgive – and that forgiveness gave them both freedom and hope. Forgiveness is a human and divine exchange: it allows hope and love even after atrocity.
And what of those who hurt us? Does forgiving them let them off the hook? Not necessarily. They are left to whatever consequences they face, or at least to their own conscience. We can only take responsibility for ourselves and are perhaps best to use our time and energy to look after ourselves. We can make a choice to keep letting that person hurt us or take steps to find and walk in freedom.
It takes a strong and powerful person to forgive … is there someone you could forgive today?
wife, mum, and blogger
*read The Hiding Place for more on the life of Corrie Ten Boom. You can find more information on Corrie Ten Boom and her story of forgiving those who imprisoned her here.