When Jesus said, You will know the truth and the truth will make you free, he was addressing the key to understanding the ultimate objective of forgiveness: freedom. We not only want to be free of the hurtful actions of others, we want to be free from our own self-destructive attitudes. Whether we are talking about forgiveness of another or self-forgiveness, it’s very helpful to see it as our means of reclaiming the freedom of our wholeness.
If this sounds self-serving, just remember that you give the most when you are living your life from strength. I say often that God expresses through us as life, love, power and intelligence. Spiritual power manifests as strength, a quality that is our spiritual birthright. The act of forgiveness is really the act of reclaiming our spiritual strength.
Think about this for a moment. What does it mean to feel hurt? What does it mean to feel deceived? What does it mean to think of another as having power to make you suffer? If God is your source of power, then how could the actions of another take the power that only God can give? The truth that sets us free is the understanding that this is not possible. Forgiveness is the conscious act of returning to this truth. We’re not attempting to condone the negative actions of another. We are making the choice to return to our true source of power.
Many relationships are based on need. I think you have something I need–usually love in one of its many forms–that affirms me, that makes me feel complete. One day you become angry with me and threaten to withhold your love. So I ask your forgiveness with the hope that you will again give it to me, as my life is not complete without it.
Is this forgiveness, or is it a form of manipulation? Am I dealing with our situation from a place of strength or from a place of weakness? Am I seeing myself as an expression of God, or do I see others as holding the key to my wholeness?
There’s a story of a farmer who lived outside a village. On his land was an artesian well. One day the village well dried up for reasons no one knew. The farmer gladly began sharing his water. But then he became greedy and started charging the villagers for the water they took. His fee kept climbing. If someone complained, he would either raise their fee or cut them off. Only as they begged his forgiveness would he allow them to continue to get water, and at the price he set. Then, a certain villager realized that if they dug just a bit deeper, they could once again tap the aquifer, which they did. As the village reclaimed its water supply, the farmer’s scheme was rendered useless.
In this story, the truth that set the village free was found within their own well. What they had thought of as forgiveness was really a form of manipulation on the part of the farmer. Reclaiming their own water source once again put them in a position of strength. Knowing his greedy character, they could easily let go of the farmer for he no longer had the ability to manipulate them.
If you are struggling with forgiveness, it may very well be that you need to dig a little deeper into your own well. It might seem that another is controlling your water supply, but in truth, your source of power is never depleted. Isn’t this what Jesus was saying when he suggested that we seek first the kingdom of God and all else would be added? Find your own water supply, your own fountain of power, and the rest falls in place. When you tap your own spiritual strength, you will no longer need to forgive, for you will know that no one can take from you that which is yours already.