By Jeremiah Mitchell
These are three words that have stood out to me in one way or the other. I think that forgiveness is something that we as Christians don’t talk about enough. We talk about how we should feel towards certain topics as Christians, but we do not talk about how forgiveness works within ourselves.
I went through a tough time as a kid. I moved when I was seven to Mansfield, Ohio, and I thought that things would go well for me. I thought that I was going to make new friends, but when I went to class, I was ignored. This happened for the first week. After being ignored I was bullied. One person was behind most of the bullying that I received for seven years at that school. He would insult me, call me names, and make fun of the fact that I would take my faith as seriously as I could. My classmates would regularly use derogatory terms to insult one another, and I would try and explain and tell them that the language they were using was unacceptable. Instead of stopping, they started to call me those same terms. Mostly there was one kid who started to call me those things.
I was hurt. He would mentally and verbally bully me most days. Some days it became physical as well. I had a tough time dealing with it. We are told to pray for those who persecute us, and to forgive our enemies, but I was not willing to forgive this person. I resented him, and I became bitter towards him. It was after seven long years that I moved away, and that bitterness came right along with me.
I had been hurt, and now I was hurting myself. I was angry and bitter. I could not think in a positive way about that person, and even about myself at times. I harbored so much bitterness that it felt like a physical weight on my back. I would even make myself sick physically because of how I felt about this one person who had mistreated me.
I then started to hurt others. I was so angry and bitter that I started to lash out at people who I thought even came close to that in my new school. None of them knew what I had been through, but honestly that was not an excuse. My bible teacher, and a pastor of a small church pulled me aside and said that he saw that I was hurting, but that I had to forgive, because according to him I was “a pot on a steady boil, that if the heat turned up just a bit, would boil over.” And he was right. I prayed and asked God to help me forgive this person that had hurt me. I, with the help of God, was able to forgive the person who for so long had hurt me. I felt a physical weight leave me, and I felt so relieved.
Between my junior and senior year of high school, I went back to that school. They were still in session, and I saw the bully I had, he was down the hall. I was so worried. He started to walk up to me, and I could feel the fear that I had felt for so long well up again. But something different happened. He looked at me, and he said “Hey man, it’s been a while, and I wanted to say I’m sorry for all the things that I did to you when we were younger. I did a lot of maturing, and I realize now how badly I treated you. Could you forgive me?”
To be able to look at him and say “I forgive you” was such a relief. I meant it too. If you pick up one thing from reading this, forgive. Forgive, because it is what God tells us to do, not just because God wants us to be nice, but because if you don’t forgive, it hurts you more than it hurts anyone else. That bitterness that I carried hurt me, more than anything the bullies I had ever did. I hurt myself by not being willing to let go. Yet I had to look at myself, then look at my savior. God forgave me, even though what I had done, put Him on a cross. If God can forgive us for the sins that we commit, why can we not forgive those who simply hurt us?