Grace To Forgive
GRACE has many definitions, both as a human and spiritual attribute. Humanly, it signifies poise, decorum, honour, favour and all desirable and attractive human attributes. But it is the spiritual definition of grace that enables an individual to forgive. When grace is seen as being kind or favourable to the undeserving or unworthy, it becomes evident that grace comes at a cost — it requires some self-sacrifice on the part of the individual expressing it. It is not abstract, but active and full of power. The most well known phrase for grace as a spiritual attribute is ‘unmerited favour’. This is not to be confused with mercy, which involves commuting a deserved punishment.
Forgiveness is a choice. It is an intentional decision for a change of attitude by the victim of a real or perceived injustice or offence. Forgiveness lets go of thoughts of retribution, revenge or a desire for punishment. It is practical. As a spiritual activity, it is a gift that blesses ‘forgiver’ and ‘forgiven’. It brings freedom from resentment, repairs relationships and sheds the burden of victimisation. More often than not, forgiveness is undeserved. This is where grace comes in.
Case in point: A boss had taken an intense, irrational dislike to a new employee. She did everything possible to make the working environment intolerable and miserable, and finally got rid of him through unfair means. He felt victimised. Friends advised that he express his justifiable anger in no uncertain terms. A gentle, persistent thought, however, insisted he choose the more difficult path of forgiveness.
He found a statement by spiritual thinker, Mary Baker Eddy, helpful. “Remember, thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love (God) has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee”. Eddy goes on to say that negative situations can bless, when decisions are guided by grace. So, this man prayed for grace to forgive. By the end of that day, three other job opportunities came up, one had even been in the offing a day before his unfair termination.
This is a heartwarming story, but the decision to forgive, and the grace which enables it, are their own rewards. Humanly, reward and profit are directly related to hard work. And it is essential to work hard. Yet, grace rewards the unforgiveable with forgiveness, and the forgiving with freedom. Researchers at the University of Missouri, USA found that spirituality improves mental health. Interestingly, their report states ‘The only spiritual trait predictive of mental health after personality variables were considered was forgiveness.’ ‘Forgive as ye would be forgiven’, is possible through the grace of Christ – the intense self-sacrifice of Jesus that enabled him earn salvation for humanity.
Regardless how difficult forgiveness of an offence may seem, grace, exemplified so completely by Christ Jesus, makes it possible. The grace that forgives, not only improves health, but removes the toga of ‘victim’, and enables the individual become master of the situation.
•Solanke is Christian Science Media Representative for Nigeria
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