Our colleague from Illinois, Thomas Mitchinson, recently published this Christmas message on his blog:
As we decide what to give to others for Christmas this year, why not consider the gift of forgiveness? Many of us have family, friends, colleagues who have hurt us, if not this year, then in years past. Isn’t it time to forgive and forget? What benefits might it offer to others and to ourselves?
Christian healer Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, “I would enjoy taking by the hand all who love me not, and saying to them, ‘I love you, and would not knowingly harm you.’ Because I thus feel, I say to others: Hate no one; for hatred is a plague-spot that spreads its virus and kills at last…If you have been badly wronged, forgive and forget.” (Miscellaneous Writings, page 10)
Years after having written this, she had to forgive family members and former students who conspired to take away her right to make her own monetary decisions. When the case fell apart, she wrote to them words of kindness and forgiveness.
The health benefits of forgiveness are obvious. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.”
They added, “Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.”
Isn’t “peace on earth” one of the goals of this time of year (and throughout the year) whether we come from a religious background or not?
There have been times when the people I am closest to have hurt me badly. The anger and resentment has sometimes built up so much that it is hard to sleep or even think clearly. But the emphasis on forgiveness given by Jesus especially in his words from the cross, “Father, forgive them….” has been a beacon of light to enable me to forgive what others have done to me, and feel and rest better.
Even when we have hurt others, we can forgive ourselves and offer to make amends. Let’s bring more peace and health on earth, by giving the gift of forgiveness this holiday season.
© 2014 Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois