Forgiveness is a get-out-of-jail-free card or 50-million-dollar lottery ticket winner.  Who wouldn’t want that?  Nevertheless, to effectively fathom the principles of forgiveness, it is necessary to understand unforgiveness and its brutal consequences

First comes sadness, disappointment, hurt or mistreatment.  These are the seeds that may cultivate strongholds of vengeance, the worst of human behaviors with a desire for retaliation or repayment for a hurt.

Untended, these negative disappointments and hurts are fertile grounds for anger to gain a foothold.

Untended, anger grows vines of resentment.

What we resent, untended, grows to a root of bitterness in a similar way grapes ferment to wine.  Bitterness is lethal.  It grows to strong roots, and, like all weeds, they attach themselves to other roots.  Weeds take over gardens, and bitterness takes over lives.  Often angry, resentful, bitter people attract each other — just like bunches of grapes.

The final stage to this personal destruction is vengeance.  A getting even attitude then becomes the way of life.   Therefore, unforgiveness never hurts the other person; it only hurts you.

So, beware when a spouse starts hanging out with vengeful divorce friends.

Beware when your child’s best friends are hot-tempered, angry and insolent.

Beware when sweeping sadness, pain and hurt under the rug as if it did not happen.  It will grow and grow and grow through the stages of destructive unforgiveness.

To forgive is to save our own souls, not necessarily save the soul of the one we forgive.  Biblically speaking, to forgive is a command, not an option.  It is extending grace.  Why?  As C.S. Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Forgiveness Friday is a wonderful opportunity to free ourselves from hurt, anger, resentment, bitterness and, yes, even vengeance.  When you forgive, you may not change the past, but you sure change the future!