“He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself.” — George Herbert

Matthew 6:9-15 (esp. 14-15)
Matthew 18:21-35
Mark 11:22-25

Someone said that love primarily has a contractual nature. Love means a commitment to which we bind ourselves. With love, we agree to give, receive and seek forgiveness. We choose to continually reconcile, repair and rebuild the relationship. We believe the person worth the choice to return again and again, no matter the cost.

The same nature underlies unforgiveness. We choose to sign a contract with binding terms, though no visible ceremony takes place. This contract, with its attendant vows, is subtle. But it is as great in its consequences.

When we decide not to forgive someone, isolation sets in. So do bitterness, misplaced anger and alienation. We think our pride and dignity worth the price, but we forsake so much of the richness of life. And we forsake a person, a friend.

Look at people who have chosen such a path; they’re not hard to spot. Someone somewhere in the past wounded them. Since that time, they have planted a bitter root in their soul. The root needs nourishment to remain present, so it absorbs energy. Forgiveness would starve it quickly, but the root feeds on angry thoughts and memories. “It’s just, it’s my right. I remember what happened. I won’t forget.”

The difficult choice to forgive presents itself daily. But we have to smother the pride that tells us to cling to our list of grievances. There’s more pain in forgiving, at least at first. We have to extract the wrong from our heart as we might a piece of shrapnel from our chest or leg. If we don’t, it slowly poisons us as it infects cell by cell.

We must forgive ourselves, our loved ones, and our enemies. Otherwise we place ourselves in bitter bondage. Few people are free from this prison. Daily we all observe the resulting tension and alienation around us.

We, of course, have the power to stop it: with each opportunity to forgive, to cancel debt, to heal wounds. Each time with choose forgiveness, we renew the agreement.

You’ve signed the contract, and you agreed to its terms. Only you can break it.

Whom have you not forgiven?  Why?
What would it take for you to forgive them?
What price could you pay if you don’t? 


© 2006