"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
I said in a message I delivered last week that the Bible talks so much about forgiveness because unforgiveness is so toxic to us. It's true, and you'll never see a better example than around the holidays for many families.
The holidays can be a very stressful time of the year. Often we find ourselves together around the table with friends and family members that we don't get along with very well. I used to dread seeing these people every year. The vitriolic remarks. The condescending tone. The attempts to bait me into a debate. And too often, I'd fall for it.
We make that decision whether we're going be dragged into a conflict or not. Whether we're going to allow somebody that will never be our biggest fan to continue to steal our peace year after year is completely up to us. When you learn to truly forgive, you will find peace. People will not have the power to steal your joy anymore.
When you learn to forgive, you can accept people the way they are. You understand that people that can't let go of their hurt and carry grudges year after year are prisoners. They are prisoners of unforgiveness. They are in pain. They are unhappy. It's not about you, it's about them. They want to share that unhappiness with you, because in their mind you contributed to it.
How we react says a lot about us. If we're still allowing ourselves to be pulled into these debates, it means that we're still carrying some of that upset with us still, also. That we may think we've let it go, but there's still something there that hurts when somebody pokes at it--something that we need to pray about because it is still there.
We just weren't built to carry this burden. It eats at us. It steals our peace. Pray about it. Ask God for help with it. Pray for the person that hates you. Pray for peace. Listen to the counsel of the Holy Spirit when you're faced with these difficulties.
Let it go. Forgive. Accept that not everyone is going to love you. Learn to disregard the caustic remarks and hostile behavior, and as Jesus taught "turn the other cheek."
Forgiveness is rarely mutual. They don't have to forgive you in order for you to forgive them. And forgiveness isn't conditional. They don't have to apologize or acknowledge what they've done was wrong. Forgiveness is simply saying, I'm not going to live with this turmoil in my life anymore. It's done and can't be undone, and I'm going to live with what's happened in the past. And even if this person continues to treat me the same way for the rest of my life, I'm going to forgive them, and I'm going to pray for them.
If you're a person that dreads these holiday gatherings because of quarrels and difficulties with family, just know that there's a choice. And it's yours. You can fall to their level, or you can live by the example Christ set.
~Todd E. Creason
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