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Free Bird
Photo: Pam Roth
Last weekend I met a man whose aunt just succumbed to liver cancer. As we sat around her kitchen table, the nephew reminisced about the lady and her life.

For 27 years she snubbed her three sons who were now grown men with families of their own. Sadly, she wanted nothing to do with them, their wives, or the eight grandchildren she had never once seen, nor held on her lap.

The resentment and bitterness she carried to her grave was apparently the byproduct of a painful divorce some three decades earlier. And, as insidious as the cancer that eventually took her, was the venom that coursed through her veins poisoning the thoughts, words and actions of her life.

When the nephew nervously pushed his aunt’s handwritten last will and testament toward me, I quickly perused the first couple of paragraphs. In flowing cursive this mother thrashed her sons one last time writing them out of her estate and her life, bequeathing every last dime to her nephew.

What an immeasurable tragedy, that this woman could never forgive. The thought of all those wasted years and painful estrangement, looming over the happy hours that never were, but might have been, is heartbreaking.

Undeniably, it is difficult at times to forgive others, and even more so to ask forgiveness of someone else. For, they both threaten to blow away our pride. We must humble ourselves to seek and offer forgiveness. Asking forgiveness is an admission of wrongdoing. And, offering it demonstrates a willingness to let go of the wrongs perpetrated against us.

Setting Captives Free

But, forgiving another doesn’t minimize the offense committed nor does it mean we forget what happened. It is merely a letting go of that which threatens to destroy us. Someone once said, “To forgive is to set a captive free, only to discover that captive is me!” 

Like a nail imbedded in a tire tube, researchers have found that forgiveness deflates anger, which when allowed to fester and flourish, has an adverse effect on both physical and mental health.

Along with various lifestyle and environmental factors, researchers have also discovered several personality traits that are exhibited by people with cancer to a higher degree than those who are cancer free. One of these traits is the tendency to hold resentment, with inability to forgive.

The bottom line:  It is healthy to forgive, mentally, physically and relationally. It is unhealthy to withhold forgiveness.

Perhaps there is someone you need to forgive. If so, why not start the process of letting go today? It is a process, rather than an event in time; one that will yield a rich reward in your relationships, as well as, your health.

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By Kathy A Lewis. Copyright © 2009
by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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