Examples of the Power and Importance of Forgiveness

• Learning to forgive is so very important ...
• ... not just for you and your sake but for everyone else's sake, too
• So this page is dedicated to showing concrete examples of forgiveness ...
• ... and the importance of forgiveness

Over time I have received some emails from a lady I know who (with her husband) has spent years travelling the world and doing important relief work in many places, Africa first and foremost.

This relief worker as well as another lady I know who wrote me a long letter describing how she 'went through her own personal hell and back', have both kindly granted me permission to publish parts of what they sent to me.

I will use this font to show you which parts are taken directly from the emails and the I received from the two women.

Mostly I am going to let the examples speak for themselves, but I might just slip in a brief comment or two here and there. Okay, here we go ...

Examples of Forgiveness, Quote no. 1 ...

... about a tiny but personally significant episode in the lady relief worker's life:

I remember when I came home from a long day of work at the village dispensary in our rural community in West Africa. It was terribly hot. I was filthy and tired, and worn down by the diseases and poverty that so easily killed. I was angry and resentful, full of old grief, and I directed most of this towards my husband.

I laid down on the bed weeping, and hung my dirty feet off the side. Dust and dirt was deeply embedded in my toenails and sore, cracked heels.

My husband wordlessly came into the room with a bucket of water, and gently bathed my feet, cleaning the dirt, massaging the pain, and rubbing cream in the deep crevices.

His act of forgiveness restored me to myself, and I was gently humbled in a life-giving way.

Forgiveness has the possibility of bringing us profound healing and personal transformation. Lewis Smedes wrote that forgiveness is the one truly creative act of humans that mimics the creator God. When we forgive, we set something entirely new into being.

Examples of Forgiveness, Quote no. 2 ...

... which contains some thoughts on forgiveness:

When I lived in Mali, West Africa, I was struck by the deeply engrained concept of keeping short accounts rather than holding long grudges.

At the end of the Muslim year, neighbors and friends would come and visit. There were many greetings, blessings, and gifts of kola nuts, peanuts, and small parcels of meat. Always there was the request for forgiveness.

"Yafa ne ma!" our friends would say. Forgive me! We mechanically replied, "N' yafara i ma." I forgive you. Often the forgiver would add, "Ala be hake yafa an ma," God forgives our offenses.

I always felt awkward during this ritual. It seemed simplistic. I was painfully aware of grudges nourished across the years - both my own, and those of others. This little proclamation of forgiveness didn't mean anything. Or did it?

Perhaps it did its part in forming the mindset of the people who used it, and certainly it did seem like the ritual forgiveness shortened the time grudges were held. At least in terms of what was generally expected. You were expected to forgive, so to some extent some people actually did.

Perhaps there is something for us in the West to learn here?

Actual forgiveness is both a fact and a process. It is a practice, a discipline, a daily habit, and an art. It is a doctrine and a characteristic. It is the hardest work of your life, the greatest gift of your life, and that which is most capable of bringing you personal transformation.

Examples of Forgiveness , Quote no. 3 ...

... which stems from The Rwandan Genocide in 1994 - a mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people:

I was blessed to be part of a trauma healing team that went into Rwanda early post-genocide.

The Kigali airport was empty. Bullet holes marred the glass enclosed gorilla exhibits. The streets were eerily quiet: no sound of birds singing or dogs barking. No children playing. Only the occasional military truck with young men casually draped with AK-47s.

The "city of a thousand hills" had not yet started to recover. The ground of mass graves bore bits of cloth that blew in the breezes of unknown horrors.

As we conducted workshops, one man asked to speak to me individually. His cry still echoes in my mind. "How can I forgive when I saw 29 of my family members massacred?"

In unthinkable situations like that forgiveness seems impossible. It is too costly, too unfair. We are too hurt and damaged by the offense to engage in it.

And yet, both in Rwanda and all around the world there are extraordinary examples from adults abused as children, victims of violent crimes, and genocide survivors. Forgiveness has brought freedom, hope, and joy. Forgiveness can be learned, and we have the record of many masters to teach us.

Our greatest barriers to wholeness are forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. So forgiving is both intrapersonal and interpersonal, but it goes far beyond you and me. It is a crucial aspect of reconciliation between communities, people groups, and governments. It is an essential component of ongoing peace building.

Forgiveness is the process of setting free from guilt and penalty, and it is the greatest act of love and healing.

Forgiveness is the force of life that we allow to flow no matter what obstacles threaten to block the channel. It is the powerful and creative act of freedom. It is the joy of humility, surrender, and healing.

Examples of Forgiveness, Quote no. 4

And, to cap off all these examples of forgiveness, I would like to present you with an example that's more close to home, so to speak.

This one is from a letter someone I know wrote me after having dealt with the breakdown of pretty much everything in her life - including a number of old dreams and beliefs.

So, this example, which is the longest one of all, is both about self forgiveness and about forgiving others.

I used to believe in the fairy tale of a happy married couple with a happy set of kids in a happy house surrounded by a white picket fence behind which would frolic a happy dog. I don't actually know where I got that mental image from, but it was there just the same.

The funny thing is, I got exactly what I wanted - on the surface. But the reality of that dream life was a lot different from what I had expected. First and foremost in terms of the ubiquitous happiness I expected to be present all the time. Well, it wasn't.

Sure, there were moments of joy and even happiness, but ubiquitous they were not. Not for me, not for my spouse, not for our kid (we only had one), and not even for the dog, Sally. All things considered Sally was probably the happiest one of us.

The first couple of months were great.

Then the problems started piling up. Our mortgage was a real pain, and we had to work way too hard to pay it off. The birth of our child, Wendy, three months after we moved in was wonderful beyond words, but that, too, wore off real quick as long lasting bout of colic wore all three of us down to almost nothing.

It was about that time our sex life died a quiet death; and not too long after that I accidentally discovered that my husband was having an affair with one of his co-workers.

I wanted revenge for that, so I started sleeping with other men, too, primarily random men I picked up in bars and such, but also a guy that I really liked. All that sleeping around, however, turned out to be a really bad idea, because it only made me feel more lonely and let down ... and I caught not one but two venereal diseases ... and last but not least the guy I really liked ended up getting madly jealous, and hurting both my husband and me.

Soon after that the worldwide financial crises hit and both my husband and I lost our jobs, and then we divorced in what was very far from being an amiable and friendly way. It was, however, very expensive in legal fees.

Since I was very sick and bone tired at the time, I ended up ceding custody of our child to my husband. The house with the white picket fence ended up in a foreclosure auction - and got sold for less a lot less than what we had paid for it, leaving both of us indebted. I got to keep our dog, Sally, though. Small blessings!

So, in less than two years my old dream had been transformed into a nightmare, and I had lost everything: my child, my husband, my house, my job, my money, my health and my dreams.

For the longest time I hated everyone and everything, including myself ... I really, really hated! I cried and cursed and grieved and got depressed and was this close to killing myself. But I didn't, instead I gave up. In a good way.

That's right, I hit rock bottom and simply gave up on all the things I had been so very attached to. I let them go, and good riddance, too. It happened overnight for me. After crying myself to sleep for god know which time, I simply woke up one morning and decided to let everything go. Just like that! It was the best decision of my life.

In that the days that followed, I consciously worked my way through my entire life; every little bit of it, and forgave everyone and everything for everything - even myself. And in that process of forgiving, I also realized some very, very important things:

• I lost custody of my child (gave it up), but the silver lining is that the love is still there, stronger than ever, and my ex-husband is actually glad that I can take care of Wendy a lot of the time - just about half the time, in fact.

• My husband and I divorced, but the silver lining is that without the many kinds of crazy pressure on us - and after my 'period of grace' as I call it as well as after my ex-husband got some serious therapy - we get along just great again. We're actually close friends, and maybe, just maybe that what we should always have been.

• That dream about all the marital happiness inside the white picket fence is a total sham!

Marriage is a ridiculous institution that only benefits the divorce lawyers, and the cost of the house had us shackled to the bank from day one.

When we both lost our jobs, there was no way in hell we could keep the house, and since the tide of the times (thanks to some exceedingly greedy and unscrupulous American bankers and a totally wimpy government) had turned into a depression we couldn't sell it either.

Total sham, but I had been naive enough to believe in it - to expect it. Thank god I am not that naive anymore! The silver lining is that I am no longer shackled to anything, not to a husband, not to a job, not to a house with a mortgage and not to a set of outdated beliefs and dreams.

I feel free in a way I have never felt before, and I love every second of it.

• I don't think my health has ever been worse than it was at the time of our divorce, but today I am both healthy and fit. No sign of the chronic fatigue or any of the diseases. My doctor has given me a clean bill of health. How did that happen? I'm not sure, really, but it seems to have something to do with my period of grace, because that was the turning point for my health, too, and I got better real fast.

• I have learned a thing or two about work and money. Neither one is as important as I used to think, but money is a lot less important. And strangely, the less importance I attach to money, the easier it seems to come my way. So today I still live pretty cheaply, but I also have more money than ever before.

As for work, I now only do things I either like or love. FYI, I am now self employed and I love it; and Sally (my dog) and I live in a trailer even though I don't have to, anymore, but I actually like it. Because of Wendy I might not stay in a trailer forever, but you can be sure that I won't opt for a mortgage again ... ever. Life is too short to be at the mercy of reckless and unscrupulous money men.

• Hitting rock bottom and giving up in a good way (letting go of my attachments and forgiving everyone, starting with myself), was both the worst and certainly the best thing that ever happened to me. The freedom, happiness and empowerment I feel is worth everything I went through.

Yes, there we are ... this ends the examples of forgiveness that I wanted to present to you. If they can't teach us something about learning to forgive, I don't know what can. The importance of forgiveness and letting go, the sheer power of forgiveness can hardly be overestimated.

In case you're more interested in other, different angles on forgiveness, I would like to direct your attention to the pages:

- What Is Forgiveness

- How to Forgive

- Forgiveness Quotes


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