Taking Forgiveness to the Next Level
A lot has been written about forgiveness and how it blesses the person who forgives. I hope to add another aspect which is very important in the journey of full forgiveness.
Corrie Ten Boom is one of my heroes. She was a Dutch woman living during the time of World War Two. She and her family felt it was wrong that their Jewish neighbors were being taken away to camps. They built elaborate hiding places in their home for their Jewish neighbors. They knew it was extremely risky and that they could be taken to the concentration camps themselves if caught, but they felt so strongly that they did this for several years.
They were finally caught. Corrie, her sister and best friend, Betsie and their elderly father were all taken to the concentration camp and tortured. The father died within the first week and Betsie died later on. Both women were beaten and starved by the German soldiers.
At the end of the war, Corrie was released. She found her way to some kind people who helped her regain her strength and health. Corrie decided to dedicate her life to helping other people like herself who had been terribly treated and were now homeless wandering the streets like lost souls. These people had nothing. All that they had owned was sold to other people while they were in the camps.
Corrie went on a mission to create homes for these war victims. Since there were no funds for such a plan, she set about fundraising herself by giving talks. At one talk she recognized the man who had repeatedly tortured her. She went up to him and he started to shake as he felt so ashamed of himself for what he had done to her. Though this was very difficult for her, she reached out to him and forgave him, stating that all were victims in the war. The man got down on his knees and through copious tears, thanked her and said he had not been able to sleep once the war was over and he fully realized the inhumane things he had done. Corrie demonstrated courage in being able to forgive this man. But something happened that was even harder for her.
She was doing tours all over Europe speaking about the concentration camps and what had really happened within them. She had a manager who was collecting all the money and organizing the tours. Corrie worked for almost a full year. She was exhausted and felt she had made enough money for her special homes for the refugees. She went to her manager to collect all of the money. It was at this point that she realized that this manager had spent all of the money on herself and her family. There was no money left. All of Corrie’s dreams and work to raise money was in vain. There was now nothing left for the refugees. Corrie could not forgive this person for what she had done.
One day, a very close friend visited Corrie. Corrie told her friend in detail all that had happened, and then she showed her all of the receipts of all of the money that had been raised and then spent by this woman. Corrie kept these receipts in a box under her bed. Corrie’s friend said to her, “You must burn those receipts in order to be free. You are hanging on to this injustice and it is keeping you a prisoner.”
Corrie objected, “But this is my proof!” Her kind friend said, “God knows about this. Now you need to let this go as these receipts are keeping you bound to this injustice.”
Together, they burned the receipts and Corrie felt a lightness that she had not felt in a long time. She had been able to forgive the prison guard for torturing her, but not the woman who kept money that was designated for helping people in need.
In her mind, Corrie had kept a record of the wrongs done to her by this woman. She even kept the physical records. True forgiveness requires that we also let go of all the records. There is a line from 1 Corinthians 13 that says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
In my own life, there is a person who has done an injustice towards Barry and me. We pray for this person daily and, in my heart, I have been able to feel love and compassion for the way this person acted and continues to act. In my mind, I feel that I have forgiven this person, but I still think about every single detail of the injustice. Therefore, I have not fully forgiven. My work on myself is to let go of the details, the records I have been keeping. When I can let go of the records, I know that I will have totally forgiven. I can sense the feeling of freedom that will come. I have to be honest with myself and realize that I am not quite there. I have not forgiven completely as long as I cling to the records. But I am working on this. I know that complete forgiveness is a gift that I will give to myself.
I encourage all of you to do this same inner work of forgiveness and allow yourself to be free. If it took Corrie Ten Boom several years to be able to burn those records, I have hope for all of us that we also can forgive completely without keeping records. It is so worth this inner work.