Thanks again for the questions you are sending in. Please feel free to continue to send new ones, even questions that are stimulated by the answers I’m giving. My next question comes from my friend, Adam. Adam and I have never actually met. Adam read Josh’s story in a magazine back a few years ago in a doctor’s office. After reading the story, he had some questions that he has held onto until I gave him permission to ask them.
Forgiving those who wrong us
His question is this: how hard was it to forgive the driver and the hospital and how long did it take me to do that?
Honestly, it wasn’t as hard as you might suspect. There are two reasons why. My parents, my teachers, the mentors in my life–they had taught me about what bitterness and unforgiveness can do to a person. In fact, the very afternoon that we drove home from the hospital after Josh died, I had family in the car with me who were “coaching” me through this. They encouraged me to pray immediately, to begin to forgive. It was only a beginning but it got my heart and mind moving in the right direction. Mostly, it just got me moving.
The second reason? I had seen what bitterness had done to others. I knew I couldn’t allow that to happen to me. Some people very close to me after the accident were ravaged by their inability to forgive. It paralyzed them spiritually and served as a warning to me as I watched them deal with the deaths in their own way. I could not be the dad or pastor I needed to be if I could not find it in my heart to forgive.
As far as the question about how long it took, you will note that in question one I didn’t say it was easy or that it was over. The truth is that it’s an every day process. I believe that forgiveness, just like love, is not a feeling you have. It’s a decision you make. The choice is mine. If I had gone with what I felt in those first few hours after the wreck, there would have been a totally different outcome. I had to choose to do something different. Some days are much harder than others. Some days I don’t even think about it. Other days, I struggle with it throughout the day. This past week, I thought about it a little more than at other times because it was the anniversary of Sarah and Josh’s deaths.
The bottom line (and keep in mind, this is wisdom from someone I love and respect. It’s not from my brain)…bitterness is a poison that kills no one but me. To attempt to move on with anger in my life is really not an attempt to move on at all. It’s a choice to die in my own hatred and bitterness.