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Forgiveness Opens the Path for New Possibilities



Advent, the preparation period for the Christmas celebration, is upon us. The first week of Advent is hope: an optimistic state of mind that expects a positive outcome in the future. To create a positive future, we must release the baggage of the past. The most powerful tool to release a history that no longer serves us and to open the path for new possibilities is forgiveness.


One of the most provocative descriptions of forgiveness that I have come across is "to give for", or in other words, to give some actual, definite good in return for the seeming harm given. I had the opportunity to witness such forgiveness by a young woman named Melissa. When a car driven by a drunk driver mangled her legs, that driver crushed Melissa's career as a model. The case went to trial; the driver was found guilty and scheduled for sentencing. Melissa was quite popular, and many people in the courtroom that day came with an agenda of retribution and revenge against the person who caused this tragic event in Melissa's life.


On the human level, it would have been understandable if Melissa harbored resentment and anger toward the man who snuffed out her dream to be a supermodel. But something surprising and unexpected took place - at least to most people in the courtroom that day. Melissa pleaded with the judge not to send the man to jail. She told the judge, "He didn't do it intentionally." Melissa then turned to the man who caused her to have her legs amputated and live a life relegated to a wheelchair and said to him, “I don’t hate you. I’m mad at alcohol. But I don't hate you." The man began to cry. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Melissa then beckoned him to her wheelchair. He approached her, and Melissa reached up to the man, handed him a Kleenex, hugged him, and said, "I forgive you." And they embraced.


Melissa's actions distressed some of the people who were there, who desired retribution and revenge. Ultimately, the judge did not go along with her plea for leniency. The man was sentenced to jail as requested by the prosecution. The judge said the man had to be held accountable for his actions. In that regard, it was probably the right decision. But the real story and essential truth is that Melissa could see this man as he is - a child of God. Because she was able to see him rightly, she was free.


Forgiveness, among other things, is the ability not to carry a past experience into the present moment. Melissa was able to let go of that experience - as horrendous as it was - and live in the here and now. No doubt, she went through a process to get to the point where she could distinguish between what the man did and the truth about him. Melissa aligned her mind and soul with love - the truth of her being.


Sometimes, we confront the choice to answer a call for forgiveness. In some instances, it may be to forgive ourselves. Other times, it may be a call to forgive others, institutions, or groups we perceive to have done something to or against us - to give some good in return for actual or perceived harm.


We can choose not to carry the baggage of an experience and begin anew. As we do, we express our true, authentic, and strong selves. And like Melissa, we will be free and infused with hope.


Peace and Blessings,

James

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