“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” -Corrie ten Boom
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who was arrested by the Nazis for harboring and aiding Jews during World War II. In the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp she and her sister Betsie were horribly mistreated, and her sister died as a prisoner. Many years later, after speaking in a church basement about her experiences, Corrie was approached by a former guard from Ravensbruck – who had become a Christian – who asked her for forgiveness.
It was, according to her, the hardest thing she had ever been asked to do.
Corrie was no “super Christian”. She struggled with how to respond to this request for forgiveness. She did not want to forgive. The years of pain and trauma were not so easily put aside. Yet, as the man stood there, she begged God to help her forgive from the heart.
With God’s help, she let go and forgave.
She said that she had never known God’s love so intensely as she did then. Having been raised a Christian, her trust was in the forgiveness Christ had won for her. But it was at that moment, when God presented her the opportunity to forgive the completely unforgiveable, that she really grasped what it meant that God had forgiven her.
To God, she was as unforgiveable as that Nazi guard. Yet, God had freely forgiven her. How could she do any less?
Corrie experienced what step four in the Six Steps of Granting Forgiveness is all about:
4. Let go of blame, resentment, and negativity toward the other person.
Letting go can be very, very hard. It is okay to struggle. But look at what you’re letting go of when you do this. Can anyone argue that blame, resentment, and negativity are good for a relationship? Can anyone argue that blame, resentment, and negativity are good for an individual at all? At what point do blame, resentment, and negativity benefit a person? Can you think of a single example in human history when someone ended up better off because of blame, resentment, and negativity?
See, when you let go of these things, you’re not just releasing the other person of the guilt of what they did, although you are doing that and that is a very important and good thing to do. But you are also releasing yourself from destructive elements that will poison your heart and suppress your faith in the one who harbors no blame, resentment, or negativity toward you at all. Even though he has every right to.
Corrie found that as soon as she forced herself to express forgiveness – and she really had to force herself – something changed in her attitude, and the next thing she knew, she was hugging the former Nazi, calling him brother, and crying with him. They shared a moment of deep personal pain over their shared tragic past. And at that point they hadn’t even known each other. If the person you need to forgive is someone close to you, isn’t it all that much more valuable an experience? Learn to let go.
Read the excerpt from Corrie ten Boom about this experience by clicking this link.
In a previous post I mentioned the Six Steps for Granting Forgiveness, from the PREPARE/ENRICH marriage system by LifeInnovations. This is the fourth in a series explaining each of those steps in greater detail.