I think when people start to look not at what they will lose through the forgiveness process, but what they'll gain they'll begin to see it differently. When God tells us to forgive, He doesn't say wait 'till that person is good and sorry. Wait 'till they come and apologize. Wait 'till they do something to make it up to you. He doesn't say that. He tells us to forgive. Our healing is not contingent on what happens to the bad guys, to the people who are convicted of these crimes. Our healing depends solely on our relationship with God and our willingness to let Him heal us. Because healing like this, healing of this magnitude can only come from God.
What's apparent in both of these stories is that forgiveness is something you do for yourself. It's a choice between living a life of anger and bitterness or one of healing and freedom. In the studio with me is the man who wrote a book on how to forgive the hurts we don't deserve, the many who helped Debbie Morris learn to forgive. We'll talk to him right after this.
Dr. Lewis Smedes taught at Fuller Theological Seminary for many years. He has written books, several books. One on love, a classic on love. One on hope. But today I am focusing on two books of his both with the subject of forgiveness. Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve and this newer volume, The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don't Know How. Lewis Smedes, welcome, delighted to have you. Let's put it right in a nutshell.
Ok, I'll try
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is what you do to heal yourself you never had coming. You were hurt and it wasn't fair and you can't forget it. How do you get over that resentment and pain? There's only one way. First of all, surrender that impossible thing called getting even. You just say, I'm going to live with the score untied because whenever you try to get even with somebody that person will say in his or her mind, Look you hurt me more than I deserve to be hurt. So now I owe you one. Why do you think the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda keep on killing each other? Because they are always trying to get even. There are 44 wars going on in the world right now. And every one of those wars is caused by each side trying to get even. And they'll never get even. You can't get even. Secondly, you think that person who wounded me is not just a monster who did that to me, he is God's image. But he is weak.
You paint another picture up here of the person.
You paint a picture of that person
I got you
Then be becomes not all that different from you. And then finally, gradually, I emphasize gradually, you learn to pray for that person and wish him well. When that happens you know that you're in a stream of forgiving. You need all three, all three.
When the tally is made, is it true there are some hurts, some evils, that are just plain too bad, too awful to possibly, to humanly forgive? Do we run into that?
Sure we do, a lot. Because when it happens to you...
It's never small.
So when you talk about too big, too evil to forgive, when you've been bruised, it's pretty big. And the worse it is, the worse it hurts, the more you need to do something about it. So is there an evil too big to be forgiven in the sense that it just doesn't deserve to be forgiven? I remind you, nobody deserves to be forgiven. Is it hard to forgive those great evils? Yeah, very hard, very hard indeed. And the process goes on and you mustn't think you are going to do it in a day, swoosh and it's over. God can forgive and its over with, not you. You are a creature of time. You are a creature of time. Things take time. Every hard thing that you do with your spirit takes time. So give yourself time. Never think of anything as too evil to forgive. If you want healing, if you want things to be better than they were when you were wounded and wronged, then forgive, because that is the only way out. You know, it isn't the best option, it's the only option.
No other way for healing
There's no other way. If you don't forgive, you have, it's like a video tape solely inside of your mind. And you don't have the on/off button. And every time there is a vacancy in your mind that video plays the rerun. And every time it plays the rerun you get walloped all over again. And there are people who carry that around with them their whole lives. They are just shattered by it. And there's always a dark shadow over every nice moment in their lives because they can't forget and they cannot forgive. And there's God too again. God comes in because He is the God of hope. What's God about? He is about coming into people's lives that have been wounded and damaged in the past and say "Hey, this isn't the end. There's a tomorrow. I've got a tomorrow. I've got a tomorrow for you. And together we can make it a better tomorrow."
Lewis Smedes, thank you for being with us on "The Evidence."
My pleasure, Dwight.
What do you think, this whole subject of forgiveness, want more details on Sunny and Debbie's stories? Want to more explore more deeply the reality of forgiveness? I'd like to invite you to visit our website at www.theevidence.org. In just a few moments we'll be back with some closing thoughts.
The stories we have heard today about forgiveness stretch the quality of mercy to it's human limits. People who have suffered terrible injustices show us that forgiveness itself is the way to rise above the pain. People who suffered. People like Sunny Jacobs and Debbie Morris demonstrate an extraordinary way out of anger and out of that bitterness. Human instincts usually send us in the opposite direction because we want to hang on to that hurt, that sense of outrage. We want somebody to pay so that we can feel better. But in the end no one can pay enough to heal our hurt. Atheists and believers alike question how in the midst of so much pain, so much suffering and injustice, a loving God can possibly exist. But could it be that the human ability to forgive such deep wrong, such intense pain itself comes from the heart of one who offers ultimate forgiveness. I believe the answer is yes. I'm Dwight Nelson. Join us next time for more of The Evidence.