Interestingly enough, last night I had a conversation with a man in my church about forgiveness. Somehow the topic of mass shootings came up. As we stood out in the cold we chatted about how as Christians it is upon us to forgive those who inflict harm upon us and others. Forgiveness is not for those who harm us, it is to help us move past the situation.
As my hands grew increasingly numb, I thought upon this small conversation. As a boy, I had an experience that caused feelings of animosity toward this other person. For years, I hated this individual. I never told him that I forgave him for what he did to me. Then one day, not too long ago I received a phone call that he had died. To my shame, all I felt was relief but then my heart grew heavy. What would have been the outcome if I had told him I forgave him? Would he had found his way back to church?
Now we will never know if he would have ever found redemption. However, as hard as it may be to forgive someone who has inflicted harm upon us, it is more difficult to forgive ourselves. As a retired soldier, I struggle to forgive myself for actions that secured my passage home. Nightmares plague me, and my mind re-lives every horrible moment that scarred my soul. It is imperative that we find a way to let go of the baggage. Dragging the past around is tiring. The past keeps us from living. Could I have been a better person? Would they have loved me if I had done this one thing? Would he/she stayed with me if I had done this? These questions lead nowhere. They cause anxiety and stress, both which are things that are best kept at a minimal.
Part of taking care of ourselves is letting go of the past. Love yourself enough to forgive those that hurt you, then move on. It took me years to move past the horrors of Iraq, however, distance is your friend when it comes to situations that have caused us harm. Forgive those that harm you, and then go live your life. At the end of the day, life is too short to spend it being bitter.
You guys take care. I will chat with you all very soon.