If You Want to Live, Forgive

If You Want To Live, Forgive.

Learning to give and receive forgiveness is one of life’s most fundamental lessons. In one of her beautiful songs, my friend and artist Sara Renner sings, “If you want to live, forgive.” Extremely powerful words. Such truth.


Photo courtesy: Thinkstock / Lisa F. Young

The amazing power of forgiveness heals both the giver and receiver. Forgiveness can be offered in person, giving the person receiving it an opportunity to accept the gift of grace. Or, it can be whispered quietly inside your heart to someone who may have passed away, is unreachable, may be unaware of your pain, or maybe is unwilling to reconcile.

Sometimes forgiveness is immediate. Yet often, forgiveness takes time. In the best of circumstances, forgiveness opens the door to reconciliation. In the worst of circumstances, forgiveness is never offered or received. If death comes calling unexpectedly, the survivor is often left with remorse and/or unhealed wounds, longing for the forgiveness that can never be offered or received.

In my own life, I struggle with forgiveness from time to time. Maybe you do too.

Embracing these 3 steps of forgiveness can foster greater peace and joy in your life. Here’s what life has taught me:

  1. Let go. My human nature sometimes clings to my wounds. When I feel wronged, I can be indignant at the offense. Holding a grudge can seem empowering at the beginning. Yet slowly and insidiously, the grudge consumes my heart. I can become controlled by—and even choose to feed—the bitterness. All the while, the offender may even be oblivious to the wound he or she has inflicted. I have to let go of my own self-righteous anger before my heart can forgive.
  2. Make a choice. Sometimes I can be quick to pardon another. Yet other times, I have to choose to forgive. I have to exercise personal discipline and act upon my belief that I am called to forgive. When my hurt is deep, and emotions are raw, I must decide to forgive and trust my healing to God.
  3. Continue forgiving until you have forgiven. For life’s deepest wounds, I have to practice the process of forgiveness; it requires repetition and commitment over time. I might have to choose each day to forgive—to utter the words in my mind and spirit: “I forgive him for___ .” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I am actively forgiving. Eventually, I reach the point of realizing I no longer harbor any bitterness. Only then have I truly forgiven.

Forgiveness is a worthy investment of the heart, blessing both the giver and receiver. If you have a broken relationship in your life, I encourage you to reach out to pardon another, or humbly seek forgiveness. Why wait? None of us knows when we will leave this earth. Healing relationships in the present can help you to live well, and finish well.

What circumstances have made forgiveness most difficult for you to give or receive?

QUESTION: If you have given or received forgiveness, would you please share your story and inspire others via social media? Please share this post with your comment.



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  1. The fact that my parents’ marriage ended in divorce was a challenging circumstance for me. It took my teen and young adult self a long time to let go of the hurt that was inflicted (perhaps unknowingly) on me throughout their years of fighting, and begin to accept and forgive. You’re right – it IS a process, not something that happens as soon as you (perhaps grudgingly) say the words “I forgive you.”

    • Sandra, as someone who went through a divorce, I’ve often wondered if my two sons have–or will someday–forgive the mistakes I made and be able to heal from the pain they experienced. I hope they recognize that forgiveness is a process.

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