Unforgiveness will eat you up inside and drain your life of all happiness. Whenever you sit down to eat a nice breakfast, the person you hate pops into your mind. You can’t enjoy your meal because you’re thinking about what he did to you. The rest of your day is ruined because your enemy is living inside your mind.
The only one who’s suffering is you. When you go on vacation, you don’t leave the unforgiven person behind. You take him along, and he sits next to you during the entire trip. Whenever you go to bed, the invisible person gets in bed with you, keeping you awake all night. You toss and turn because you can’t get your enemy out of your mind. You can’t rest. You can’t enjoy your meals. You can’t take pleasure in anything. All because you won’t forgive.
It’s a miserable way to live, isn’t it? Nevertheless, millions of people have never figured it out. They’ve locked up people in the jailhouse of their mind and won’t let them out. And the prisoners are rioting inside! That’s why some people have no peace of mind. They prefer to live in constant torment, rather than set their prisoners free. That’s the way I used to be until I forgave all the people who offended me.
The Secret to Forgiving Others
The truth is, I couldn’t forgive my enemies before I met God. I didn’t have the willpower within me to do it. It just wasn’t natural, or logical, to let those who wronged me off the hook. Unless He did it through me, it wasn’t going to happen. The good Lord had to put His supernatural love inside my heart before I could express it through forgiveness. When God saved me in Puerto Rico, He removed all hatred from my heart. I no longer felt the need to hire a hit man because I didn’t hate anymore. God’s forgiveness removed my rage, and I know it can remove your hate, too. Forgiveness will heal your hurt and your heart.
When you forgive, you’ll release the prisoners from your self-made jailhouse. Forgiveness proceeds out of compassion, not anger. To forgive someone, you must view your enemy with compassion. You have to see them through the eyes of pity. Jesus told a story about a slave who owed a king millions of dollars in today’s currency. The king forgave him of that debt, but only after he felt compassion for him.1 Understand, there’s a bigger issue than the one you’re upset about. Perhaps your enemy doesn’t know God. That’s a bigger issue.
When I died and went to that horrible dark place, compassion became a bigger issue for me than all of the hurt that I had experienced at the hands of other people. I didn’t want my enemies to go there, so my compassion outweighed everything they had done to me. It moved me to have pity on them and overshadowed every hurt that I had ever suffered. What they had done to me was so trivial in comparison that it didn’t matter anymore. If you want to begin this process, look for at least one good thing about the person who offended you. Too often we see only bad things in others, but you can almost always find something good in your offender if you’ll look for it. When I saw Leroy Jackson in that hotel, I remembered one good thing about him. When we were in the Job Corps together, he was the only one in camp who owned a car. Sometimes he would give me a ride off base so I could buy a pastrami sandwich. That was the only good thing I could think about him, but I let that one positive thought personify our whole relationship. When I embraced him in the lobby, I hugged that pastrami sandwich!
Stop replaying the hurt in your memory. Quit holding on to it. The longer you carry a grudge, the heavier it gets. Release your enemies out of the jailhouse that’s inside your mind. If you don’t, you’ll keep thinking about what they did. But if you’ll use the key of forgiveness to unlock the jailhouse doors, you’ll discover — as I did — that you not only set your offenders free, but set yourself free as well.
Tips from George’s Corner
On Forgiving Others…
- View your enemy through the eyes of compassion and pity.
- Find and focus on at least one good thing about your enemy.
- Look for a bigger issue than the one you’re upset about.
- Release your enemies out of the jailhouse inside your mind.
Excerpted with permission from God in My Corner: A Spiritual Memoir by George Foreman from Thomas Nelson (May 2007).
Copyright © 2007 George Foreman