Good Intentions (Part 3)

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:26-32 ESV).

The third “good intention” I would encourage you to adopt for this New Year is to love and forgive yourself and others. You cannot express unconditional love if you do not first practice it with yourself. There is a beautiful song by the Bluegrass band Mountain Heart that lists the writer’s transgressors and his success in forgiving them. Notice the last line:

I forgive my daddy for missing half my life,
I forgive my momma for holding on too tight,
I’ve forgiven friends, strangers, neighbors, family,
Everybody… everybody… but me.

Holding on to guilt can impact relationships because it blocks the flow of communication, of love itself. Practice grace, with others and with yourself. You can’t truly live your life until you do. There is no question that learning to love in the manner Christ intended is more of a lifetime goal than an immediate accomplishment. The progress sneaks up on you over months, years. Forgiving people who have hurt us may well be the most difficult task we are asked to perform. But if you keep “carrying all that anger, it’ll eat you up inside,” as Don Henley sang.

Strangely we find comfort in holding on to the guilt of both others and ourselves. It is almost as if that somehow we have come to believe that if we punish them or ourselves that can erase the hurt. It can’t and it won’t. The result of self-depredation and deepening guilt can only drive us further away from the grace of God. However, letting go of those failures brings us freedom and peace. I know that is difficult; however, if we remember that it is a process not a singular event, we can move forward. The first step is always beginning. Start with yourself and forgive, no matter how significant your failure. Then expand to others who have hurt you. You will like the new you!