Our ability to either forgive or not forgive those who have wronged us has a direct impact on our legacy. True legacy is not about the success we have accomplished as it is about lives we have impacted.
When we refuse to forgive someone who has wronged us we rob ourselves of the ability to influence or impact them. And we live in the prison of our own unforgiveness because what we cannot forgive we cannot let go of.
The greatest pain I ever encountered was pain inflicted by an individual who over a period of years caused huge emotional turmoil, caused me to leave my job and spread lies and untruths that were deeply hurtful. It was a situation that left me clinically depressed, deeply discouraged, emotionally wounded and my life dreams shattered.
From a human perspective, if anyone did not deserve my forgiveness it was this individual who had violated me so greatly in many ways. He did not deserve to be forgiven, nor did he ever attempt to make things right. But I was left with a dilemma. As long as I held on to the hurt and offense that had been committed, I could not move beyond the pain he had caused.
If, on the other hand, I was willing to offer what he did not deserve, my forgiveness, I could move beyond the prison of the pain, allow that chapter of my life to become a part of my history rather than my present and allow that history to contribute to my personal growth, future difficult people I encountered and mold my character. It is a dilemma all of us face when others have hurt us.
Forgiving this individual in my own heart was one of the hardest things I ever did. The pain he had caused was so severe. But, once I took that step, I was on a journey toward freedom from that pain, even though it took years to finish. Had I not taken that step I would still be imprisoned by bitterness and the memories. Today neither have a hold on my life and the experience has molded me in numerous ways.
When we choose to forgive we not only do what Jesus told us to do but we release the hold that those who have wronged us have on our lives. And, in releasing the bitterness and pain we give God the opportunity to redeem the pain by turning it into ways that God can use it in our lives and in the lives of others.
When we choose not to forgive, we continue to allow those who wronged us to affect our lives negatively (effectively they continue to have power over us) and we prevent God from redeeming the pain and turning it into legacy.
Ministry gives plenty of opportunities to forgive "each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Every time we do that we live as Jesus lived and a bit of grace falls on those we forgive. And, we free ourselves from the possibility of bitterness which will lead us into bondage. Life is not fair - and God often uses the unfairness of life to build our own character and legacy. The issue is not whether we have been treated fairly, it is how will we respond when it happens.
Take a moment and write down the names those who you have not forgiven. Are you willing to forgive them today so that you can live in freedom and allow God to turn their offense into a part of your life’s legacy?