“Craig, I know I need to forgive you…but it isn’t today. I’ll let you know when it is.”

So spoke a friend, I had seriously offended, once we met and he had a chance to clear the air of the anger he felt toward me.

“The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again.
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter,
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter,
But I think it’s about forgiveness,
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.”

So sang Don Henley of the Eagles when he came face to face with the gnawing realization that for his own health and the benefit of any future relationships he might have, he needed to forgive a person who hurt him, no matter her response.

His insights remind me of Christian author Neal Anderson who made the point in his book, The Bondage Breaker, that when we remain angry at others who we think we are keeping on the hook, in reality it is WE who are hanging on the hook. That other person may have no clue just exactly how miserable we are; they’ve moved on. We haven’t. He writes, “Bitterness is the acid that eats its own container.”

Men, I think practicing forgiveness is one of the biggest life lessons we need to learn. It is truly for our own benefit—yet it also becomes a gift to the forgiven.

Years ago I seriously offended a good friend of mine. When we met to resolve the conflict he said, “Craig, I know I need to forgive you…but it isn’t today. I’ll let you know when it is.” Several months later, on Dec. 31st of that year I picked up my ringing phone to hear that man’s voice on the other end. “Craig, I’ve decided I don’t want to take my anger at you into another year. Today is the day I forgive you.” That had the ring of genuine forgiveness, not just the shallow insincere words we sometimes say when forced to forgive.

With those words he gave me a significant gift. Yet the gift of release and freedom he gave himself was even bigger.

Following are two examples of forgiveness granted to another in extreme circumstances. Both come from other cultures that revere the act of forgiveness. It comes no easier to them than it does to us; it’s just that they may value it more highly than we do.

The first takes place in Iran where the family of a victim has the right to insist on retribution or to forgive the criminal, in which case he is released. Here a mother frees her son’s murderer from death by hanging. Mother Forgives Her Son’s Killer. She had no intention of doing so, but in this article she tells the amazing way she was released by releasing him. Rather than kick over the chair the murderer stood on, with a noose around his neck, the mother climbed it to reach over and take off the noose.

The second takes place in Rwanda where in 1994 the genocide began between two tribes that eventually resulted in the death of over 1 million people. Can you imagine forgiving the man who slaughtered your family? Watch how she does.

“How do they do this?” we might ask. My response is that they do it because they understand true forgiveness. In releasing their insistence on vengeance they free themselves from the acid of bitterness toward the person who caused them their greatest pain.

Men, all of you who read this have known unjust pain at the hands of another. Is today the day you need to finally forgive them?

What have you learned about forgiveness? How do we do it better?