This article originally appeared in the March 1985 issue of HIS magazine.

Lewis Smedes transformed my approach to fractured relationships. Before I read his book Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve (Harper & Row), I thought of forgiving other people as a duty. Now, I see it as a dubious pleasure I'm bound to benefit from—less like making my bed and more like eating my spinach.

Smedes, a professor of theology and ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, writes: "Recall the pain of being wronged, the hurt of being stung, cheated, demeaned. Doesn't the memory of it fuel the fire, reheat the pain again? … You are locked into a torture chamber of your making. Time should have left your pain behind; but you keep it alive to let it flay you over and over.

" … Is this fair to yourself—this wretched justice of not forgiving? … The only way to heal the pain that will not heal itself is to forgive the person who hurt you. Forgiving stops the reruns of the pain."

It's good for you


What spinach does for Popeye's biceps, forgiveness can do for your soul. When Professor Smedes visited Chicago recently, I asked him why he emphasized the personal benefits of forgiveness so much.

Smedes: The end of forgiveness is reconciliation. But you can't always achieve it, because the person who forgives has no control over that. The reasons may be natural—if someone who hurt you dies or moves, you can't be reconciled.

Or you may have to be reconciled to a new kind of relationship. You and your friend may have grown apart because your interests or convictions have changed. Even if you forgive, you may not want to be friends again. Coming back together in the same way is just not always possible.

HIS: But you can achieve personal healing without ...

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