Oh my word, this pandemic is lasting for-ev-er! It is like we’re all stuck on ABC’s hit show Survivor – only there isn’t a huge prize at the end. (And I don’t have to eat bugs!) I know that I am not alone when I express that the last 12 months have shown us the best and worst in people.
Recently, I had a situation where someone felt the need to be outrightly mean. They configured a story of untrue statements as a retaliation for not getting their way. Although I wasn’t close to this person, I was hurt by the accusations and twist of words. My first reaction: I wished for a family of gnats to make a nest in their armpits. And as the day went on and the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. In fact, I didn’t sleep that night. How did this person have so much power over me? I am strong, confident, and have a circle of incredible friends who love and uplift me. Why am I so affected by something said by a mere acquaintance? After much thought and prayer, I made the decision to forgive them. They didn’t ask for it. In fact, I doubt they thought any further about it.
On Sept. 6, 2018, a man named Botham Jean was eating ice cream in his Dallas apartment. Amber Guyger, a Dallas police officer, had just capped off a 13.5-hour shift, entered through Jean’s unlocked door, and fatally shot him in the chest after mistaking him for a burglar. Moments after the shooting, Guyger realized she was in the wrong apartment. As the story unfolded, we found that Guyger lived in the same building – one floor above his. When she arrived home from work about 10 p.m., she mistakenly parked her pickup truck on the fourth floor of the building instead of the third floor, which corresponded to her apartment. She claimed she then walked down a hallway to the apartment she thought was hers, but when she inserted the key, she found the door slightly ajar. As she entered the apartment, she heard someone inside and saw a “large silhouette” in the nearly completely-darkened apartment who she thought was a burglar. She fired twice, killing Botham Jean.
A year later, Guyger was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, her prison sentence was not what made staggering headlines around the world. At her sentencing, Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt, took the stand and showed us all what the power of forgiveness looks like. Brandt not only told Guyger that he forgave her, but he also said he loved her and wanted the best for her. And then, he made the most incredible gesture at the end of his heart-wrenching statement: He asked the judge if he could hug her. Forgiveness.
For a long time, I thought forgiveness was something that was exclusively mutually beneficial. Sort of a quid pro quo. However, I have learned it is so much more than that. When we hold onto hurt and anger and feelings of unresolve, we aren’t allowing ourselves to live fully in the present. I experienced this firsthand as my whole outlook was affected from this recent incident with my acquaintance. It influenced my interaction with others, created self-doubt, and had physical effects on me. I had to choose to let it go – truthfully, more than once. I think many of us know how hard it is to “let it go” when you work up a real good mad.
Lewis B. Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” My friends, don’t be a hostage to hurt and pain. Live life to its fullest while we have breath.