It’s so hard to believe we're over half way through April! During the first blog of the month, I focused on how Jesus offered everyone forgiveness and salvation through his death, burial and resurrection. The same way I was forgiven of my sins, I must forgive other people. I learned what we call the Lord’s Prayer as a child. Matthew 6:12 KJV states, 'Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.' The New Matthew Bible version reads 'And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.' This is verse 14, 'For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.' It is evident that forgiving others is directly connected to receiving forgiveness ourselves. I share my personal experience in my book, WHEN I WAS 40. In Chapter 1, Closing a Chapter, I share how my ex-husband and I both gave and received forgiveness needed to move forward. Sometimes people think that when they forgive they’re letting someone off the hook. No, forgiveness frees us. Forgiveness means I’m letting go of something that chained me to a part of my past. Is it always easy to forgive? No. If it were easy, no one would ever hold grudges against another person, or stay offended, or try to get even. Because forgiveness is not easy, sometimes we need help working through it. You may need a shoulder to cry on, help from a mentor, counselor, or a spiritual leader. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and I have helped patients with this. One of my resources states: Forgiveness is a process where someone who has been wronged chooses to let go of their resentment and treat the wrongdoer with compassion. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or condoning the wrongdoing, granting legal mercy, or reconciling a relationship. You can forgive a person while in no way believing that their actions were acceptable or justified. On the other hand, simply saying the words, “I forgive you”, or accepting an apology is not forgiveness. In fact, forgiveness can occur without ever speaking to the wrongdoer. Forgiveness is an emotional change that occurs within the person who has been wronged. I am employed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and I volunteer as the Celebrate Recovery (CR) Ministry Leader at Live Oak. In case you’re hearing this for the first time, CR is a Christ-centered recovery program. People can address their struggles with addictions, hurts, hang-ups, habits, issues and problems. In CR, we use the same 12 Steps that are used in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, but we also have 8 Principles from the Beatitudes in Bible (Matthew 5) to help people understand that our Higher Power is Jesus and He has the power to help us overcome whatever we’re dealing with. Of the 8 Principles, Principle 6 is to Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others. Lesson 17 in the CR curriculum is entitled “Forgiveness.” We learned that not being able to accept and offer forgiveness can hinder or destroy recovery and progress. Forgiveness is God’s prescription for all who are broken. It doesn’t matter how painful the situation might have been, forgiveness is the way to complete healing. In recovery and in therapy, we learned that one of the roots of compulsive behavior is buried pain. In Principle 1 of CR we learned that pretending the pain or hurt isn’t there or that it doesn’t bother us any more does not solve the problems. Jeremiah 6:14 reminds us that “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there.” First we have to face the past, forgive ourselves and those who have hurt us. Then, we have to make amends for the harm and pain we’ve caused other people. Forgiveness breaks the cycle. When we choose to let go of the hurt, we’re not letting the offender go free, we are actually granting freedom to ourselves. Why not give it a try? Think of a situation where someone has wronged you or you wronged someone. Maybe it happened recently. Maybe it happened years ago. Maybe that person or you have never apologized. You can still choose to forgive and to offer forgiveness. If they don’t accept your apology, or they don’t respond, you did your part. Remember, forgiveness is NOT for the other person. It’s for you. Don’t you want to be free? Say this out loud, “Forgiveness frees ME.” Free Yourself!