Forgiveness

Wess Stafford, the president of Compassion International, was abused as a child in a boarding school for missionary children in Africa. His story in Christianity Today (“A Candle in the Darkness,” May 2010) is an amazingly moving account that is worth reading.

More important, I think, is Stafford’s followup response in this month’s issue (the Letters section):

Ever since my story appeared in Christianity Today, the most common question I’ve heard is, “How did you move from pain to deliverance?”  My reply to readers is a single word: forgiveness.

At age 17, I realized that those who hurt me would never apologize. They weren’t even sorry. But I could no longer bear carrying the pain of my past, so I chose to forgive them anyway. “Get out of my heart. Get out of my mind. Get out of my life!” I remember saying. “What you did to me will not define me. You stole my childhood, but you cannot have the rest of my life. Get out — I forgive you!”

Since then I’ve learned that while God always requires us to forgive, forgiving isn’t saying that what happened was okay. It doesn’t release someone from the consequences of their actions. And it doesn’t require letting someone back into your life. It does mean giving up the right to seek revenge.

So, here is my counsel to those who have suffered: If you have never been able to forgive, you are allowing the person who hurt you to live rent-free in your heart. It’s costing him nothing and costing you everything. Perhaps it’s time for you to evict him through forgiveness.

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