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  • Lynne Themelaras

Unlocking Your Superpower:The Transformational Potential of Forgiveness

Let's talk about personal growth for a sec. You know it's like that necessary adventure we all have to embark on, but it's anything but a walk in the park, isn't it? It's all about putting in a bunch of effort and staying committed to making the right choices, even when the siren call of our old habits is super tempting. But guess what? You've got this one superpower tucked away in your toolkit, and it often doesn't get the credit it deserves - and that superpower is forgiveness.

You know, the Bible tells us in Romans 5:8 (NIV) that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." That's pretty mind-blowing, right? Even before we realized how much we needed forgiveness, God was already showing us immense love and showering us with forgiveness. So, here's the deal: Just as God forgives, we should too. It's a big deal for our personal growth. In fact, Jesus himself pointed this out in Matthew 6:14 (NIV): "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

Colossians 3:13-14 (NIV) reinforces this point: "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." God's got plans to make something beautiful out of us, no matter what we've been through. And guess what? Forgiveness is both the first and last step of that journey, including forgiving yourself.

Now, why is forgiving yourself so important? Well, ever heard the saying, "Hurt people hurt people"? When we hang on to grudges, it's like building walls around our hearts. Those walls can make it tough for others to love us, and even harder for us to love ourselves. We often set impossibly high standards for ourselves, pushing ourselves to be perfect. And when we inevitably fall short, we end up beating ourselves up. But we need to cut ourselves some slack, learn from our mistakes, and forgive ourselves. It's when we start forgiving ourselves that we can begin to extend that same forgiveness to others.

TD Jakes put it brilliantly when he said, "The offender no longer owes that debt to me; he owes it to God." You see, unforgiveness is like a nasty cancer that spreads. It begins with negative feelings towards someone but quickly infects our thoughts and beliefs about them. Ever heard of the Fundamental Attribution Error in psychology? It's when we blame others' character for their mistakes but blame external factors for our own. Sounds kind of ridiculous when you think about it, right? Yet, it happens all the time.

Now, forgiveness isn't just a process; it's a choice. Forgiveness doesn't mean what the other person did was okay. It means you're no longer letting their behavior or attitude mess with your life. You're choosing to forgive them and let Jesus take it from there. They don't have the power to make you feel bad about yourself, your past, or your future choices anymore.

Remember when Peter asked Jesus how often to forgive? Jesus didn't say, "Forgive seven times and you're good." Nope, He said to forgive so often that you lose count. He even told a story about it, the one about the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV).

Now, in case you're thinking this is about keeping score, it's not. Jesus is saying we should forgive so much that we lose track. It's tough, especially if you've been through some really hurtful stuff like physical, sexual, or verbal abuse. But forgiveness can set you free. It doesn't mean you have to let your abuser back into your life. No way! It's about letting go emotionally and freeing yourself through forgiveness.

And don't forget, we mess up too. We hurt others unintentionally. We might not even realize we've neglected someone's needs or said something hurtful after a rough day at work. We all have our moments.

Let me share a personal story. When I started as a Daycare Director at my church, I was excited and full of ideas. But I overlooked something essential - greeting my staff properly. I didn't mean to hurt anyone, but I did. So, I had to humble myself and ask for forgiveness.

In Matthew 5:38-42 (NIV), Jesus says we should go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, and show compassion instead of seeking revenge. We're held to a higher standard as Christians, as Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV) points out: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

Unforgiveness can trap us in a cycle of offense, which is like the enemy's favorite strategy to keep us down. But forgiveness is our secret weapon, our way to break free and experience the incredible power of God's grace.

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