After the bullets stopped

I was going through a tough period. People who had offended me were frequently on my mind, and I found myself almost exploding with resentment and anger.

The only thing being angry and flustered does, though, is cloud my thinking and perspective. It never solves my problem. My natural reaction is to retaliate and set things right, but in the long run, this only makes matters worse.

Author Dale Carnegie once quoted a police department bulletin that advised, “If selfish people take advantage of you, cross them off your list, but don’t try to get even. When you try to get even, you hurt yourself more than you hurt the other fellow.”

The shooting incident at the Amish community in Pennsylvania some years ago is a powerful example of forgiveness in action. A disturbed man—an outsider to the community—walked into an Amish schoolhouse and took ten girls hostage, eventually killing five of them before taking his own life. I can barely imagine what their families must have gone through, yet they forgave the shooter, reached out to his wife and children, and even set up a fund to help them.

Of course the ways in which I feel mistreated are minimal compared to the loss those Amish parents experienced, yet they were able to forgive. I realized that much of my unhappiness stemmed from the fact that I hadn’t forgiven others for what they’d done. As a result, these incidents kept replaying in my mind, causing me a lot of anguish.

Judgment is God’s prerogative.1 Our prerogative is forgiveness. It applies a balm of healing to our own hearts and lets God work in the situation as He sees fit. Forgiveness does not absolve the wrongdoer of the wrong, but it does lift a heavy burden from our hearts. That’s a lesson I hope to apply.

  1. See Hebrews 12:23.