Dear Suzie, I believe that forgiveness is important in helping me to heal and get past this, but a lot of people don’t agree. Many of my friends say they would never forgive, and a lot of experts say it’s not even necessary. So now, I am confused. How important is it to forgive someone who’s hurt you?
I think that’s a very powerful question, and I’m really glad you asked. In the next few minutes, I’m going to introduce you to a technology that gives you the power to reverse the negative effects the extramarital affair has had on your life. After today, no injustice or undeserved hurt will have any hold over you.
I promise you that after learning about this technology, it will forever change the way you play the game of life. Rather than being ruled by circumstances, you become the ruler of your circumstances.
What’s the technology? (More on that in just a moment.)
First, I want you consider this:
To survive the negative effects of betrayal, it can be useful to think of yourself as a beekeeper. On one hand, the beekeeper knows that the sting of a bee hurts and too many stings can be deadly. On the other hand, he also knows that if he approaches his beehives correctly, he can extract honey from these potentially lethal creatures.
The same is true for you.
The unfairness of infidelity stings like a thousand bees, but if you learn how to handle the situation correctly, there’s a way to extract something wonderful from it.
How, you ask? Well, we’re coming to that.
For now, consider the following true story.
From 1995 to 1997, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
His job? To listen to more than 21,000 people describe the human rights atrocities committed during apartheid.
His mandate? To forgive the perpetrators in order to foster healing.
What follows is one of his accounts of what happened during those proceedings.
There was something called the Bisho massacre, where thirty to forty people were killed and over 200 injured. We held a public hearing in a huge hall. The room was packed to the rafters with angry people, many of whom were either injured at that incident or had lost loved ones. The four officers that had shot and killed people came in. You could feel the tension in the room, the anger. They came and sat over there on the stage… one white officer and three black… they got up and said, “Yes, we gave the order for the soldiers to shoot.”
The temperature shot up in the room, the tension you could cut with a knife.
And then, he said, “Please forgive us. Please forgive these three of my colleagues and receive us back into the community.” Now, you’d have thought this hall would erupt with anger. You know what the audience did?
They applauded. Incredible. They applauded. And when the applause subsided, I said, “Let’s keep a moment’s silence because we are in the presence of something holy. We are standing on holy ground. We ought to be taking off our shoes like Moses did.”
(Source: The Wisdom of Forgiveness – Dalai Lama XIV, Victor Chan)
So, what happened in that room that day?
It’s the very thing I’ve been leading up to. What happened in that South African room was nothing less than the astonishing power of true forgiveness at work. This is the type of forgiveness that heals everyone involved. In this case, not only did it heal the people in a courtroom… it healed an entire nation.
Let’s take a look at another true story.
After her 12-year-old daughter and ex-husband were killed by a drunk driver, Sheryl Maloy arrived at a startling decision: the only way she could heal was to meet face-to-face with the driver of the lethal vehicle.
Who was the killer?
Her name is Audrey Kishline, and she had captured a lot of media attention because she was the founder of Moderation Management (a controversial program that offered an alternative to abstinence for people who felt they drank too much).
Before the accident, she’d already appeared on countless shows, including Oprah, Dateline NBC, Good Morning America, ABC World News, and others. Kishline portrayed a success story of self-control. But that public facade came crashing down when in a drunken stupor, she drove head-on into the car carrying Danny Davis and his daughter Lashell, instantly killing them both.
What would you say to the drunk driver who killed your child?
Amazingly, for this mother, it wasn’t what most of us might expect. Many people told her that what happened was unforgivable. “No,” they told her, “she doesn’t deserve forgiveness. After all, clearly this woman is a complete hypocrite and a liar. She knew that she was drunk when she got behind the wheel of that car.”
The accident fired off a media frenzy.
Victim rights groups organized to help the mother prosecute, get justice.
All the while, Sheryl silently struggled deep inside. Intuitively, she knew forgiving would free her and allow the memory of her child to remain untarnished. But she also knew she had to forgive the drunk driver for the right reasons.
She couldn’t truly forgive just because she was told to do so, or because she wanted to look like a good Christian, or because she was looking to pay the entrance fee into heaven.
She had to forgive because it would heal her and heal the other woman. So here’s what she did:
One morning, she set out to do the unimaginable. She went to have a face-to-face meeting in prison with the woman who had robbed her of her most precious gift on earth, but she didn’t go with hostility, rage, hurt, spite, or vengeance in her heart. Instead, she set out with the power of true forgiveness in her heart.
What happened that day was truly astonishing.
When the prison guard brought out the frail, broken woman who had killed her child, instead of rage, compassion filled her and she opened her arms to her and said “Audrey, I forgive you.”
Audrey, completely shocked and overwhelmed, broke down. And in that moment, both women discovered they, too, were standing on holy ground, because something indescribable, inexplicable, and improbable was happening. The power of true forgiveness had moved a mountain of pain that everyone had said couldn’t be moved.
Later, the mother goes on to say…
It was after that face-to-face meeting that she first began to feel peaceful again. For the first time since the accident, she felt her heart filling up, instead of draining out.
What do those two stories have in common with your own?
Well, here’s a few things. They both deal with immeasurable heartache. They both deal with unloving acts. They both involve pain, heartbreak, loss, and suffering. And in the eyes of a lot of people, they both involve supposedly unforgivable mistakes.
But there’s one more thing they have in common. Did you catch it? They both demonstrated that with the astonishing power of true forgiveness, no negative situation or painful circumstance can prevail.
Now, the question is:
Did those people have to forgive in order to carry on with their lives? The answer is no. The mother didn’t have to forgive to carry on. The people in South Africa didn’t have to forgive to survive. However, if you want to go beyond surviving to thriving… if you want to go beyond existing to being fully alive again… then true forgiveness is the way to go.
So what exactly is true forgiveness?