Do you know the story of Corrie ten Boom? If you’ve never read The Hiding Place I really encourage you to read it. It’s the story of a Dutch woman, Corrie ten Boom, and her family during WWII. Corrie was just a teenager when her family began hiding Jewish people from the Nazis in a secret room in their home. Eventually they got caught and the whole family, although they were Christians, were sent to concentration camps themselves. There they suffered terrible things and well– without giving away the whole book I’ll just tell you that Corrie had more reason to hate than anyone I’ve ever known. More reason to hold a grudge than I will ever have. Yet, she devoted her life to spreading the love of God and the lesson of forgiveness. I read the book when I was a teenager and already had a lot that I needed to forgive. Corrie’s example of forgiveness was so powerful that it burned deeply into my soul. God knew I would need it many times in my life, and he put it where I would not forget it.
In the book, she says this about forgiveness:
“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” – Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
When I read those words, it was my “aha” moment. Forgiveness is choice. It’s not a feeling. It’s not something that just happens out of nowhere. It’s something I decide to do. And then I do it. Even if I don’t feel like it. It wasn’t easy for Corrie, and it isn’t easy for me. But it’s necessary for my survival, so just like Corrie, I ask God for the strength to do it. And that’s my “how”. Now let’s talk about the “why”.
Why I Choose Forgiveness
I’ve had many conversations with people who don’t understand my choice to forgive the people who have hurt me. They usually ask me things like:
- Aren’t you afraid you’ll look weak? – No, I’m not. Holding a grudge is easy. It takes incredible strength to forgive.
- Aren’t you just condoning what they did to you? – This one’s tricky, I’ll admit it. The last thing I want to do is lead the person to believe that what he or she did was OK or give them license to repeat it. But, if I don’t forgive I’ll be letting them continue to hurt me anyway, because I’ll be carrying it with me, reliving it in my heart and in my head. So I choose to forgive them anyway.
- Do you really think they deserve it? – Yes I do. Why? Because this:
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis
In God’s eyes, all sins are the same. If he forgave me mine, who am I to refuse to forgive someone else? That’s hypocrisy at it’s ugliest and I try very hard not to engage in that practice. But, even if I didn’t believe that the people who wronged me deserve forgiveness, it doesn’t matter. Forgiveness is not for their benefit, it’s for mine because once I forgive I can let it go and not be carrying around a toxic brew of emotions murkying up my soul. I can be free. I can move on. Holding a grudge does not punish the offender in the slightest. It only affects the grudge holder. Think about that.
- Why would you want to forgive them? – Well, for all of the reasons above. And also because Jesus told us to. What better way is there to be a light in this world? That’s what we’re supposed to do, isn’t it? Just be shining examples of him and his love so the rest of the world will want what we have? I think that is all to often forgotten and Christians are not always spreading love like they should. It gives God a bad name and I hope we can stop it. But that’s a post for another day.
So there you have it. My how and my why. I can honestly tell you that I would not have come through all the trauma in my life so victoriously if I had not chosen to forgive. Again and again. Seventy times seven. I’ve mastered the art of bouncing back, and forgiveness is one of my most important brushes.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32