We could learn much from the perspective of newscasts and the past. I was listening to a story on the news on December 2. The reporter made reference to a statement our President made on November 27. The reporter’s exact words were, “Back in November…” Just five days earlier sounded like a lifetime ago.
How quickly does leaving the past behind come in our lives? It varies widely, based on the situation.
Should I do something irrational or make a bad decision which damages my personal life or progress, I forget in a hurry. At least I should be able to learn from it and move on. If, on the other hand, someone else does the same thing to me, unintentionally or not, I will nurture the memory of that situation for as long as I can.
A very wise old woman, who quickly became my teacher the first year of my first pastorate, used to say, “Church folk ought to be more like winos. They will fight and stab each other and drink out of the same bottle the next day. Church folk will fight over a nickel and never speak to each other for the rest of their lives.”
This topic could apply to many areas of our lives, but let’s look at just one. Forgiveness.
This is not limited to our forgiving others, but also our willingness to accept forgiveness, and even to learn to forgive ourselves. How many people do you know who are still beating themselves up for some mistake they made years ago? This is a huge hindrance to moving forward.
Many things we will never be able to forget. But forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about leaving the past behind us.
World leader and Nobel Prize winner, Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013.
Not to delve into politics, but to remember his contributions to the world, he was wrongly imprisoned for 27 years. When he finally won his release, he later became the first Black president of South Africa. He played a key role in calming race relations and ushering in a new understanding of reconciliation.
Nelson Mandela came to a full understanding of the self-defeating impact of holding onto anger. Anger holds just as tightly.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” Mandela said after he was freed in 1990.
So what’s the point for us today? This is not about politics or government. This is about personal perspective in relationships. Bitterness, hatred, anger, and unforgiveness is more imprisoning than it is empowering.
Too many people today seem to relish being angry and unforgiving. Perhaps this is because of the truth in the axiom, “Hurting people, hurt people.” When we are not able to emotionally get past some way we have been wronged or hurt, we become the possession of what we try to possess. Instead of our owning our anger and unforgiveness, it owns us. The result is that we can only relate to certain situations out of our hurt. People who are hurting are the ones who hurt others.
Getting past hurt is a learned behavior. Until we learn how imprisoned we are to our hurt, we will not understand that we need liberation. Whomever becomes an oppressor must find liberation. We must be set free before we will cease trying to retaliate – or oppress.