40. True Forgiveness

40. True Forgiveness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

True Forgiveness

Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue.

~Adam Clarke

“I forgive you.” I said it long before I meant it.

The claim confused my estranged husband. “How? Why?” he asked.

“Because I’m supposed to. But I do—I forgive you.”

After finding that my husband of twenty-eight years had strayed into the arms of another, my emotions were all over the place: fear, hate, heartbreak and bitterness.

I had read and studied enough to know forgiveness was always the right thing to do. I knew I had to forgive; I just didn’t know how. Still, I repeated it to him often, “I forgive you,” hoping it would stick and become true at some point.

I didn’t convince him. Mainly because I hadn’t yet convinced myself.

For the longest time I satisfied my conscience by pretending to forgive. My hurt still felt too deep and fresh to absolve him. Besides, his choices had disrupted my life so much that I had no desire to forget any time soon.

Many months later, as I drove to town flipping through radio stations I stumbled upon a teaching already in progress.

“Not forgiving gives the bad guy control over you, your feelings, and your actions…” The unidentified speaker offered examples and his message intrigued me, so I pulled into a parking lot to hear more.

“Holding a grudge never affects the offender in any way. It’s us, the hurt ones, who stand to forfeit the most.”

I searched for a pen and wrote furiously, trying to capture the message on the back of a grocery receipt. The pastor’s list continued.

“Number five. Forgiveness has nothing to do with who was right or wrong, who did what, or who started it. Forgiveness is a choice you make, allowing God to handle it. Six. Forgiveness frees the one who forgives.”

Hmm… that was interesting.

As the speaker pointed to scripture, I stopped listening to think. Had I given control of my life to my soon-to-be-ex-husband simply by not forgiving him completely?

Just a week prior, my friend and I had driven around the parking lot of an Olive Garden three times, making sure my husband’s car wasn’t there. And when he hinted he might stop by one night I didn’t want the drama, so I turned off all the lights and faked sleep. Yep, he had control of my life!

“Eight.” The pastor captured my attention again. “Forgiveness does not mean you forget—there are lessons to be learned and kept. Nine, forgiveness does not mean you have to maintain a relationship with that person, but rather, you trust God to make the relationship what He desires.”

I reached over to turn down the volume. I had heard enough. I leaned my head into the steering wheel. “Father, how many times have you forgiven me? Your forgiveness is continual and without exception. I never deserve to be forgiven, yet you do so freely and often. I want to forgive him, but I need your help. I do not want to carry vengeance in my heart a second longer. Please don’t let me default into a negative spin of disobedience after you have brought me this far in the healing process. Help me to forgive him. And her. I forgive them both. I forgive.”

I leaned back in my seat and took a deep breath. The radio pastor’s voice droned on and I caught his concluding words: “There is a test for forgiveness…” I turned up the volume again, and grabbed the paper receipt and pen. “If you can pray God’s blessings on the person who offended or hurt you, only then have you adequately forgiven him.”

I bowed my head once more. Every good and perfect thing—all the blessings—I usually prayed for those I loved, I now prayed for those who had hurt me most. It was a practice I would continue for years.

True forgiveness completed.

~Cynthia Mendenhall

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners