A lot of you will be hitting the road…or airport…in the next week to visit friends and family for a hopefully “merry” Christmas. Part of getting ready is packing. If you are going north, you will pack up a parka; if south, maybe even a swimsuit. One challenge of Christmas travel is packing so all the bows and tags arrive still attached to the correct package. However, the biggest challenge of Christmas travel may be what to leave behind. So while you are packing some bags, you may need to unpack some others, especially the heaviest bag of all—the bag of unforgiveness.
There are a lot of reasons to get rid of this heavy bag. If you are a Christian, it is a spiritual imperative: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 NASB
Apart from the spiritual dimension, there are still many great and practical reasons to forgive those who have hurt you. Stanford University has studied the impact of forgiveness on your health—both physical and emotional. According to Dr. Fred Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, forgiveness “boosts the immune system, lowers high blood pressure, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves sleep patterns” (from Brain Power by Gelb and Howell).
In their book, HeartMath Solution, Doc Children and Howard Martin explain, “Forgiving releases you from the punishment of a self-made prison in which you’re both the inmate and the jailer” (cited in Brain Power by Gelb and Howell).
Few people had less reason to forgive than Nelson Mandela. He was tortured, slandered, imprisoned, and victimized by apartheid almost all of his life. Yet when leaving prison, he decided to forgive because he knew “if I didn’t, I would still be a prisoner.” He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in a prison of his own making.
Anne Beiler, founder of the Auntie Annie’s pretzel empire and a victim of sexual abuse by her pastor, learned that she needed to “forgive because I can’t forget.”
Forgiveness is a gift to yourself; it is about you putting down those life-sapping, heavy bags and getting out of a self-made prison. So while you are busy getting ready to give gifts to others, give one to yourself. It will make for a great 2014 and a much merrier Christmas in 2013.
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© Copyright 2013 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
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