The price of forgiveness

How much does forgiveness cost?

That’s what popped into my thoughts as I paced the isles of our local Staples store. All I could think about was what my husband had just confessed.

You WHAT? You DIDN”T!” Was my first reaction to the news that he’d borrowed (without asking)–and then lost–my Bose quiet comfort headphones (a gift from my husband), along with my iPod (with a lot of personal stuff on it), for a recent business trip. How could he leave them out of his sight at the airport terminal? Unthinkable! Add to that no travel insurance.

So now I was facing a sheepish husband in the Staples store while I added up the damage. That’s when I eeked out a prayer and heard, “How much does forgiveness cost?”

Wow! You did have to say that, God. In that moment, under fluorescent lights, I realized forgiveness is priceless, but bitterness and resentment are costly to my well-being–not to mention my marriage. Relief washed over me as I consented to leave this incident behind and tell my husband I was OK now.

He was so relieved. He told me he’d been on the phone with airport authorities all week to recover the missing items–everyone, down to the pilot on the plane, knew how much he cared about finding them again. He’d even been planning to replace them before I ever missed them. Since my name and contact info was on both items, we both decided to join in prayer together to forgive the person who had taken them.

Christ Jesus tells us to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven! That’s nearly 500 times. And I really don’t think most of us have to forgive that many times in a lifetime. So it’s pretty much saying we have to forgive all the time. No exceptions.

I’ve had bigger things to forgive in my life, but I know my experience pales in comparison to a story like the Amish parents who immediately forgave the man who murdered their children in a Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania school house six years ago. The world was inspired–and perhaps not a little surprised–when news carried that the Amish had donated money to the killer’s widow and her three young children, and they even attended his burial service at the cemetery. For the Amish, forgiveness is a community-wide response.

Jonas Beiler, an Amish man and family therapist who works with Amish families, said that “. . . because the Amish can express that forgiveness, and because they hold no grudges, they are better able to concentrate on the work of their own healing.” (Amish Forgive School Shooter, Struggle with Grief.)

It really comes down to our thoughts. How much are we concentrating on healing thoughts vs. unproductive, hurtful thoughts?  There are plenty of studies that show how holding onto past wrongs negatively affects health–from high blood pressure to anxiety and depression. (Mayo Clinic: Forgiveness–Letting go of grudges and bitterness).

I’ve found that beyond the health benefits, when I practice forgiveness I feel more flexible, less “my way or the highway,” and more able to resort to kindness as a rule of thumb. And it’s my practice of daily prayer that gives me the inspiration and strength to keep the healthy thoughts growing and prevent the unhealthy ones from taking root. I love this guiding principle: “Consistent prayer is the desire to do right,” (Mary Baker Eddy).

Dr. Fred Luskin, co-founder and director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, has been studying forgiveness for over 20 years. He has this to say: “Forgiveness is the experience of being at peace right now, no matter what’s occurred 5 minutes ago or 5 years ago. It’s the creation of peace in the present. We are the ones who created the lack of peace, so we’re the only ones who can remedy that situation. ”

Forgiveness really only costs our own consent. And that’s free to all.

You can watch Dr. Luskin discussing forgiveness here:

 

Comments

  1. Virginia McCullough says

    Thanks again for a timely, practical blog. Dave, sounds like you’re HOME FREE! What a good example along with the examples in the blog itself. I’m putting this into practice too and am grateful for all the supportive ideas.

  2. Dave says

    After working for an company for a number of years, and giving my blood, sweat, and tears to it, my position was phased out. For a number of years, I held onto resentment, and mistrust, and vowed never to set foot inside their doors again. Then came a time where my financial situation was rather teneous, and I was praying about what to do, the answer came apply for a job back at this same place. I said No! Long story short, I did, and as the day for reporting was getting closer, the resentment and mistrust just started melting away, and my first day back, as I was walking outside on my way to lunch, I just stopped, turned and looked all around, and said to myself,
    I’M HOME!

    • Ingrid Peschke says

      Wow, Dave, that’s a beautiful example of coming full circle with forgiveness :)

  3. says

    oooo – Sharla,
    I like that idea that “Resentment is a like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.” What a good way of putting it – they never do, but it sure makes one feel rotten oneself while we are waiting.

  4. Sharla Allard says

    I liked Dr. Luskin’s leaving each person with the task of forgiveness (after perhaps a harsh reaction). A speaker at a conference I just attended said “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” An ill-thought-out action on the part of another shouldn’t hinder our own continuing to strive to think and do the wise and good thing–and to be forgiven, in turn, should we make a misstep. And I believe this stance will be rewarded in some manner, richly.

    • Ingrid Peschke says

      I’ve heard some form of that analogy before, too, Sharla. Thanks so much for sharing it here–an excellent reminder!

  5. says

    Forgiveness! What a blessing to the forgiver – and, yes, to the forgiven too.

    Thanks for sharing this Ingrid. It really captured my attention – let us know when your ipod and headphones are returned. I’m sure they will come home.

    I remember that event with the Amish and appreciate having it brought to the front of my thought again.

    • Ingrid Peschke says

      Sue, I realized that the answer I got in prayer was much more valuable and important than the missing items. My husband actually got me new Bose earphones for Christmas that I really like…and my iPhone has all of my “tunes” and photos on it, so I’m not missing anything. I love how prayer always gives us the answer we uniquely need :)

  6. J. Perrone says

    This is a great explanation of forgiveness from Fred Luskin. Thanks for sharing!

Trackbacks