It seems as though this world is mesmerized by superheroes and superpowers. Many blockbuster movies over the best decades have included numerous superhero films. I like them like we all do, but what if you could select a superpower that could change your life and the world around you? It’s one of my favorite questions at a dinner party. If you could pick a superpower, what would it be? Most folks select strength, flight, being invisible, or even speed.
Much too late in life, I’ve discovered that we each have a superpower
that lies dormant in many lives. FORGIVENESS.
In our revenge and anger-filled culture, forgiveness is often portrayed as weakness or meekness as weakness. As a result, we are often offended – far too often – and carry around the ball and chain of unforgiveness. It is a heavy weight to walk through life with. It is intended to be directed toward the one who has offended, but it eats away at our souls like a rapidly growing tumor that sucks the life out of us. I know it first hand. I have carried that ball and chain through many years. I’ve missed the blessed life and the joy of the journey by simply not offering forgiveness and moving from a victim of offendability to a free man that lives unoffendably.
The common sense understanding of forgiveness is that we release someone from some claim that they did us wrong. Like forgiving a debt, we relinquish our grievance to another person.
And the way we typically forgive, by saying “I forgive you,” suggests that it’s something you do to or
for the other person. You’re reaching a judgment that calls for benevolence rather than vengeance,
and you relinquish any claim or demand for justice.
But the truth is that forgiveness is primarily for ourselves. It is an act that allows us to let go of the anger, frustration, pain, sadness, bitterness, and grief that we carry around in our hearts, and that is directed at this other person. It isn’t in any possible way a weakness. It is the strongest and most powerful tool in your human arsenal.
We forgive because carrying around anger and resentment is like poison to our souls. You and the other person remain tethered by your feelings – bad feelings that etch weary hieroglyphics on the insides of our hearts. When you forgive, you free yourself and this other person from that emotional strife and baggage. I contend that unforgiveness is at the heart of much of our anxieties, sadness, depression, and emotional distress.
We have so glorified, by way of film, politics, music, and pop culture, the art of revenge that we have forgotten that the strongest, wisest, happiest, most contented people on the planet have activated this superpower of FORGIVENESS.
We should start to think of forgiveness as an authentic superpower. Yes, a superpower to heal yourself and others. To leave a mark of strength and peace on a planet in desperate need of both.
It’s important to say what forgiveness is not: It’s not saying what the person did was right. It’s not saying the person should be allowed to do it again. It’s not saying that you have to forget that it happened. Forgiveness is, ultimately, an act of love for yourself because it’s simply saying that you let go of the anger and despair that occurred.
In that way, forgiveness is also not a way to bypass our feelings. Feeling anger and grief is okay, especially if those feelings are fresh. Feelings and emotions are meant to be experienced fully.
It’s just that we don’t want to live in those places.
We don’t want to live from our wounds. So when you forgive, you are saying that you are a powerful, spiritually minded, and Christlike person who can take responsibility for your emotions; therefore, this event doesn’t have emotional power over your life. It is a refusal to live with a prisoner’s ball and chain attached to your soul.
The true power of forgiveness is that it resets the clock by rewriting the past.
That doesn’t mean the event goes away or didn’t happen. It means you are now creating a new meaning for that event, with a new emotional relationship to what transpired. The pain and interpretation you had for that moment in your life, which is what matters, is what you get to rewrite. As Paul says in Romans, you are renewing your mind and living the Jesus life…the very story of the Gospel.
In Matthew’s gospel story. In chapter 18, we find what Jesus says about this superpower of forgiveness.
“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”  “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!  “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.  In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.
 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold along with his wife, children, and everything he owned to pay the debt.  “But the man fell before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’  Then his master felt pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.  “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.  “His fellow servant fell before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.
 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and imprisoned until the debt could be paid in full.  “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.  Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.  Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’  Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.  “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
Dwight Moody once said, “I believe that the sin causing Christians more difficulty than any other is the sin of an unforgiving spirit.” And he said he believed that unforgiveness, more than any other sin, was holding back the power of God in prayer in the hearts and lives of people.
Forgiveness is a problem that we all must learn to deal with sufficiently. Maybe your heart is hanging on to some heartache or hurt that somebody gave you, and you don’t know how to deal with it.
One of God’s greatest gifts to us is forgiveness. Thank God He has forgiven us. Thank God for His grace that forgives us. Now, to forgive means “to release a debt.”
Think of somebody who has wronged you. And, if you are hanging on to an offense in your heart—somebody who’s done you wrong—and you’ve not settled that in your heart, I want to give you some captivating reasons why you ought to forgive that individual right now.
Forgive Because God Has Forgiven Us
We need to give forgiveness to you because Jesus gave forgiveness to me.
If You Don’t Forgive, You Close the God’s Forgiveness
Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “If you don’t forgive men their trespasses against you, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses against Him.” As long as you have an unforgiving spirit, you cannot get the forgiveness of God. It’s a dangerous thing not to offer forgiveness.
Not Forgiving Will Destroy You Emotionally
Observational studies, and even some randomized trials, suggest that forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced substance abuse; higher self-esteem; and greater life satisfaction.
A Johns Hopkins study suggests that forgiving people tend to be more satisfied with their lives and to have less depression, anxiety, stress, and anger.
The American Phycological Association states that their research has shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression, and major psychiatric disorders, as well as fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates.
Come on, people! This is spiritually, emotionally, and physically necessary and greatly beneficial. Then why is this superpower left untapped in so many of our lives? Because we are not a naturally humble species. We require a dose of humility to forgive.
Forgiveness requires thought, intention, and action. Forgiveness, however, starts as an inside job. Stating it matters for nothing without the heart and mind in cooperation with the Spirit of God, creating a new and fresh thought (renewing of the mind) and fresh cleansing of the human heart (a blessed power of God at work in us).
Forgiveness has a few requirements:
Forgive Freely • Forgive Completely • Forgive With Finality
It costs you to forgive. You have to taste a little bit of Jesus’ Cross when you forgive, and the way to do that is to let the Spirit of Jesus be at work in you. He is not in me by nature. By nature, we want revenge. Only with the power of Jesus having free and total control of our life can we earnestly forgive.
Even if the offender doesn’t receive your forgiveness, you get it off your heart. And, even if they don’t say I’m sorry, you can refuse to carry that spirit of bitterness in your heart. You have that power! But only in the strength of Christ. Exercise that and watch how your joy radically increases, your emotional health improves, and your attitude grows more like Christ. It’s a total win!
We are fools when we drag these unforgiving balls and chains with us! There’s no reason for us to live in a prison of bitterness or a prison of resentment. Is there anyone that you’re harboring hate against, or carrying a grudge against? Is there bitterness, anger, or revenge in your heart? If you don’t, you will have an acid eating away your soul and it will destroy you.
Friend, this world is full of revenge mentality, and hate-filled speech. Much of it is grounded in unforgiveness. Can we not recognize that unforgiveness will produce bitterness? And bitterness can be directly traced to the failure to forgive. It makes you caustic, sarcastic, condemning, and nasty. Harassed by the memories of what you can’t forgive, your thoughts become malignant toward others, and your whole view of life becomes distorted.
Of all the things that we relinquish when we choose to be unforgiving, peace is at the top of the list. My life, and your life – this world and its inhabitants – are in desperate need of peace. It starts with a forgiving spirit.
Where should you start, today?