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of RED RIVER VALLEY
|February 2005 Character Quality - Forgiveness
|the following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
A middle-aged woman sat in the corner of a dark, cold and lice-infested barracks. Just now,
however, her thoughts were not on how malnourished she and her sister were, nor how cold she
was without adequate cover for the winter, nor even how hard she -- along with countless others
-- had to work. For tonight, she had learned a dark truth -- the only reason she was in this
prison camp in Germany as a “criminal” was because of a fellow countryman -- a Dutch-man. A
traitor! She was the victim of betrayal as well as her entire family! She could never forgive this
man! Her father had died in their captor’s hands and her sister was very ill and could pass on
as well! “We have to forgive him, Corrie,” her sweet sister, Betsie persuaded her. She had
already forgiven him. Could Corrie forgive even a traitor? The answer was, yes. Throughout
her imprisonment and after she was released, Corrie ten Boom learned to forgive even those
who had treated her wrongly. What made it possible for her to forgive these people who had
betrayed her, treated her horribly, or hurt her in other ways? Corrie knew what Jesus Christ had
said, that if we do not forgive others their offenses, He could not forgive her. It hurt her terribly
to forgive the traitors and the guards, but she was willing to obey the command to forgive, and
slowly not only her lips were saying it, but her heart was too.
We in a free and just country, may not be in the same type of situations as Corrie and her sister,
Betsie ten Boom were in, but every day, we are always given opportunities to forgive. In each
one, we are given two choices: forgive them not only with words, but also with attitudes and
actions, or let pride and anger get in the way and cut the relationship off abruptly and hurtfully.
Forgiveness is clearing the record of those who have wronged me and not holding a grudge.
When someone hurts us, we try to show them how offended we are by not responding to them.
Many times, the result is that we become bitter and end up hurting ourselves. Be quick to
forgive. Do what is necessary to mend broken relationships. Saint Augustine once said, “If you
are suffering from a bad mans’ injustice, forgive him lest there be two bad men.”
Here are five suggestions for building forgiveness. Let go of any anger and get rid of any
personal desire to see your enemy or offender suffer in any way. Talk about what happened in
an open and honest discussion. Ignoring an offense is not forgiveness. Heal the wounds that
were created by focusing on what is right and releasing the offender emotionally. Forget what
went wrong. Lastly, move on to the next things. Purpose to forgive those who offended you.
An important point to remember, though, is balance. Just because we forgive someone does
not halt just and due punishment. If a house is broken into and the inhabitants are wounded,
the law requires the offenders be prosecuted and pay their penalty. It is the victim’s
responsibility to forgive, but it is also their responsibility to recognize justice. Restore the
offender to their position wisely. Consider the person’s needs and avoid putting them in a place
to fail again.
Let us take the challenge to forgive those who have wronged and hurt us. Do not keep “scores”
of who offended whom when and where. Escape the prisons of bitterness, strife, and anger by
releasing them. Booker T. Washington made this statement: “I will permit no man to narrow and
degrade my soul by making me hate him.” It is not easy forgiving some people, but every man,
women and child needs to be forgiven. The more we comprehend how much we have been
forgiven, the easier it is for us to forgive others.
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! material. For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact: Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK 73102, (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at www.character-paris.org.