Forgiveness is simply the religious word for letting go. To forgive reality is to let go of the negative story line, the painful story line that you’ve created for it. If that story line has become your identity, if you are choosing to live in a victim state, an abused consciousness, it gives you a false kind of power and makes you feel morally superior to others. But let me tell you, it will also destroy you. It will make you smaller and smaller as you get older. You will find that you have fewer and fewer people you can trust, fewer and fewer people, if any, that you can love. Life itself becomes a threat. Your comfort zone becomes tinier and tinier.
Thankfully, God has given us a way to not let the disappointments, hurts, betrayals, and rejections of life destroy us. It is the art of letting go. If we can forgive and let go, if we don’t hold our hurts against history and against one another, we will indeed be following Jesus. The wounds of the crucified Jesus symbolize sacred wounds, transformative wounds that do not turn him bitter. After the crucifixion, there’s no record of Jesus wanting to blame anybody or accuse anybody. In fact, his last words are breathing forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
If we are to follow Jesus, he says we’re simply to forgive one another as God has forgiven us. He says we should forgive one another not seven times, but “seventy times seven times” (Matt 18:22). What that implies, first of all, is that God is all mercy and all forgiving in God’s very nature. But it also implies that Jesus knows we are going to make mistakes. He assumes human beings are going to hurt one another and do it wrong—maybe even seventy times seven times. This should keep us all humble.