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Forgiveness: How Much Is Too Much?

It was Marianne Williamson that said and I quote: forgiveness is not always easy. At times,  to forgive the one that afflicted you feels more painful than the wound we suffered, and yet there is no peace without forgiveness. Forgiveness requires feeling willing to forgive. Sometimes you won’t want to forgive because the hurt has already gone too deep, or because the person was too abusive and/or never expressed any form of regret for his actions. Do not attempt to forgive someone before you have identified, fully felt, expressed, and released your anger and pain. Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance towards a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether or not they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness doesnt mean forgetting nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. You may say, is it possible to forgive someone that repeated the same offense over and over again? Is it possible to forgive someone who you know can’t stand your guts? How much is too much in terms of forgiveness? If that is your question I will tell you its natural and you’re not alone in your category of thought. Peter asked the same question, and I believe the reason he asked is because he wanted to know how far is too far? His suggestion was even very generous, he asked, is it up to seven times? Afterall, we stand by the  phrase three strikes and you’re out, but let’s examine how his question was answered. Come with me to Matthew 8:22 which states, “I tell you not just seven times but up to seventy times seven.” I know seventy times seven is 490, but in essence the answer to the question is that you should not count the offenses of man. Are you going to say to someone “this is the 314th time you have offended me and i’m still counting? Such a person will have no life, and then when offended they will have to recap all offenses and top it with the most recent one. Such a thing would make life unbearable.

 

So how can one handle difficult and impossible people that for some reason are able to sneak into our lives and make life miserable. Is it your husband? Your wife? Your colleague at work? Your father or even your mother? or maybe it is one of your siblings. Come to think of it all the kind of people mentioned so far in these relationships are the individuals you can’t help but deal with. These are individuals you see almost on a daily basis, with which you share a common space. With your colleague at work you are there mon-fri until you resign or one of you is fired and all the others you live with and share a space with. So Jesus is saying stretch your capacity to endure. Stretch your ability to accomodate. You may say that is so impossible, well i’ll take you through somebody’s written testimony. A virtuous woman. Before I talk about her, let me talk about the kind of person she accommodated and tolerated for many years without losing her sanity. Her husband was an impossible man. He was described as a scoundrel, one nobody can talk to, a dishonest, unscrupulous person; a rogue. A good for nothing reprobate. How can one live with such a person for many years and still have her composure and never think for a moment to kill such a person. This lady’s name was Abigail and the man i’m talking about is Nabal her husband. You can see this in 1 Samuel chapter 25. When you live with such a person its either you adopt the teaching of Christ which says, as recorded in Luke 6:27, “but to those of you would listen, I say love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Wow, can anyone uphold this? Abigail did not even for one moment think of hurting her husband Nabal. How do I know? When the opportunity came for him to be taken out by David she intervened to save this man from an untimely death. Now you cannot hate people and still rescue them at the same time, especially when the cause of death will not be traced to you. That is a character worthy of emulation. She prepared the dish and rode, put her life on the line, and intervened on behalf of a worthless husband.

So, how much is too much? David the king in 1 Kings 2:7 gave in his charge to Solomon, his successor to the throne, and told him in 1 Kings 2:8-9  “And see, you have with you Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim. But he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’  Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood.” David obviously in this passage did not forgive Shimei. He bottled it in his heart for many years. He swore to him he wouldn’t kill him with the sword, but that with the sword he will still die, just not by David’s hand. So, what do you do when the pain of offense goes too deep like in the case of David?

 

Let me tell you the story of a lady that came to me for advice. She’s a Cameroonian lady. She came to the house and one glance told me there is something deeply wrong with her. I ushered her in to sit and our session began. She told me of the story of how she slipped up and was pregnant at 16 years old back in Cameroon. Many years later she was able to relocate to the U.S but the child that was born she left in the custody of her elder sister. She sent money to her sister to put her daughter in private school. Keep in mind cell phones were not as common 10 years ago as they are now. She was unable to talk to the girl freely anytime she called. Anyone who answered the phone would tell her the daughter was busy or unavailable. Her one goal in life was that her daughter would not experience the same hardships she went through. Something happened the day she came to meet me. Earlier that day she was able to speak to her daughter without any interference from her guardian. So she called home like she normally did and the daughter picked up the phone, hearing her mother’s voice, and since there was no one there to interrupt her conversation with her Mom, as they had all traveled and left her alone that weekend, she opened up.  She accused and blamed her Mom for abandoning her. To which the mother responded no, I did not, I put you in a private school, and she answered, no its my cousin that goes to the private school. I attend the public school and last year they accused me of something I did not do and kicked me out of the house for one week and for one week I had no choice but to sleep with the security man at the gate who forced himself on me and impregnated me. Mommy I had a baby and she’s 4 months old. This lady dropped the phone and headed to my house. Now she came to ask me just one question, and her question goes thus: I know the bible says to forgive regardless of the situation. I want forgive, but how can I forgive? As she asked, she cried. I saw tears, mixed with saliva and a free running nose. She was trembling from sheer emotion. So how do you forgive when the pain has gone too deep? How do you forgive an unrepentant sinner? How do you forgive one who fails to accept his or her fault and will never say sorry? Stay tuned for the next article to read more…

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