IT iS rare for members of a family, peer group, school, workplace, religious group, government or mass media to function without offending one another. One truth we must grasp and learn to live with is that human beings cannot dwell together without offending one another. Offenses are snares, stumbling blocks or anything that causes people to commit sin or do wrong.Jesus Christ taught, saying “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come” (Luke 17: 1)! This means the tendencies to hurt ourselves through words or actions are bound to occur as long as we live in this world. We can minimize their occurrences by the grace of God, but we ought to arm ourselves with the understanding that they are unavoidable. Even true Christians who are freed from the bondage of sin can be tempted to hurt others and be hurt.
Offenses occur in various ways and forms, but commonly in relationships – even relationships where love is the anthem. They often occur among people who are closely knit together in marriages, friendships, cliques and businesses. Offenses can make people behave in ways which negatively affect their individual or societal equilibrium.
Thus, offenses and hurts often cause psychological, spiritual and behavioural disorders in our lives which lead to conflict, divorce, separation, resignation, ex-communication, and in extreme cases, murder and war. In every case of offense, there is the offender and the offended. And in most cases, offenders receive punishments just as Christ Jesus said “…woe to the one through whom they (offenses, stumbling blocks) come.”
However, oftentimes, the offended do not do inner searching to critically examine the injuries, wounds of their hearts and how to heal them. The disease of the offended heart is unforgiveness, which is, holding grudges, bitterness, anger or rage in our heart. And this is what we greatly discussed in the last week’s edition under the heading: “Forgiveness: A Powerful ‘Medicine’ For Our Health.”
Now, people who are offended, but do not want to forgive their offenders and live on, hate their own lives. They are ignorant that living without forgiving the wrongs others do to them is dying without knowing. Unforgiveness is a deadly poison. We all know what it feels to hold a grudge against someone. Your heart precipitates; beats fast, fast, increasing in blood pressure which can lead to premature death.
Many suffer depression, stress or anxiety as a result of unforgiveness that is in their hearts. One may say, “Over my dead body will I forgive this man or that woman! But they do not know that a person who will not forgive the mistakes of others punish their own souls. Have you thought about why your heart pounds within you with fear when you see a person you hold resentment against? Your heart’s abnormal rate of beating is as a result of unforgiveness you hold. Also, many pay no attention to the fact that unforgiveness hinders prayers and can lead to eternal death.
God, the giver of perfect wisdom, knows that holding a grudge is harmful. That is why He commands His children to be quick in forgiving those who offend them. Thus, it is written in Leviticus 19:17 that, “You must not harbor hatred against your brother in your heart. Directly rebuke your neighbor, so that you will not incur guilt on account of him.”
Jesus Christ greatly taught about this, saying “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18: 15- 17).
Now, we need to understand what forgiveness means. To forgive is to stop being angry at someone who has hurt or offended you. It means letting go of bitterness, resentment, anger, rage or revenge. To forgive is to remove guilt and restore relationship. Now, to maintain a free heart or spirit, it is only advisable that a Christian immediately forgives those who offend them or repents of the offenses they cause others and gladly participate in the forgiving and healing process.
There is no doubt that forgiveness is a great medicine; it tastes like a bitter pill in its usage, but it is best. People who forgive heal themselves as forgiveness improves mental health, free our hearts of anxiety, stress, depression and frustration that robs us of sound sleep and logical thinking. By forgiveness, we normalize our blood pressure, improve our immune system, self-esteem and restore relationships.
A morally upright Akan understands the relevance of forgiveness, mercy and sympathy in relationships and the community in which they live. The Akan says, “Wo yonko da ne wo da” which literally means that “Where your friend sleeps there you also sleep.” Dr. S. B. Adubofuour explains this maxim to mean that “You can also fall into the same trouble as your friend and therefore, sympathy and pity, not vengeance should be displayed towards the one in trouble.” So, now, let us forgive and live!