Lets Rid Ourselves of Toxic Garbage

Just recently I had lunch with a non-stop-complaining friend. Whether it was the weather, her co-workers, the offerings on TV, prices for just about anything, or the behavior of various family members, her conversation was one petty complaint after another. Later I reflected on the source of that complaining: my friend could not let go of past hurts, affronts, and various petty injustices.

She could not bring herself to simply let it go.

In other words, she could not bring herself to forgive her offender.

This inability to forgive has devastating effects.

First, it sentences people like my friend to constantly carry the baggage of unforgiveness.

The longer I live the more people I run into who carry this cumbersome baggage strapped to their back. The load weighs them down and makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to live successfully in the present. The days are overshadowed by events of the past, things long gone that continue to control the present.

This unforgiveness suitcase is heavy and burdensome. It makes the bearer unhappy.

It poisons relationships too. For such people have an odor of bitterness that infuses their whole life. Others don’t find it pleasant to be around them. Often the person becomes isolated and even more bitter.

Unforgiveness is the suitcase most travelled. In my estimation it burdens more backs and breaks more spirits than most other forms of luggage combined.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you could keep the suitcase closed tightly. But it’s not possible. And the person carrying this luggage finds that bits and pieces of “stuff” keep falling out of this floppy suitcase and intrude into virtually every aspect of their daily lives.

Jesus taught clearly and simply on forgiveness. In fact he made it a vital part of his model prayer. He said, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He actually links the forgiveness we get from God with the forgiveness we give to those who offend us.

Indeed his overall teaching on forgiveness is really simple: Forgive your offenders or I will not forgive you.

It’s not easy to drop the baggage of unforgiveness. Sometimes the wounds we have suffered are deep and traumatic. Sometimes being angry feels really good, at least for a while. Sometimes we have just got into the habit of holding a grudge.

But there are some steps that can help us unload that baggage.
First, remember that we have all been offenders as well as victims. Jesus was the one who said, “The one without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

Try to understand and empathize with the person, rather than dwelling on what they did. What stress might they be facing? What grief are they carrying around? Does illness or a family problem make them anxious and irritable? The deed may be wrong, but compassion for the person makes it easier to bear.

Realize that forgiving is a process. Marriage partners renew their vows to each other. In the same way we may need to renew our resolve to forgive a person, until it becomes a habit that replaces the old grudge.

Get help. A friend, doctor, counselor, or minister can listen, guide and support us in our attempts to unload the baggage. And God, who is the great Forgiver, will help us when we ask.

There are those who already know and practice giving forgiveness. They are a blessed people. For they practice a spiritual, emotional/psychological hygiene that God knows is absolutely essential for making people healthy and happy.

Let’s all of us resolve to get rid of toxic baggage. It’s never too late to make a new beginning. Christ will be our helper in this most difficult of tasks.

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