Recently, I read an article on a Vietnamese woman - Kim Phuc Phan Thi - who survived a fatal napalm fire during the Vietnam War in June 8, 1972. During an event, 50 years later, she talked about how she thought she'd never (be able to) forgive the attackers then she said:
"In order to be really free, I had to learn to forgive."
Without a doubt, it is true that: “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”* I know from experience that unforgiveness hurts (& even traps) the offended more than the offender. In fact, sometimes the offender doesn't even know that he/she has offended someone and goes their merry way with "life as usual." Meanwhile, the offended keeps fuming and is eaten up each time he/she sees (or remembers) the offender wondering: "Doesn't he/she know what he/she did and is carrying on like all is well?" In my case it was even worse. I held a grudge against my mother - for passing on while I was still a teenager. It took years for me to realize and then release myself. I mean, there was no way of "releasing" a dead person - so I was the one who needed the freedom - and wonderful it was. Lewis B. Smedes put it aptly:
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
You would think that I'd learned my lesson...well, I almost didn't. When my dad passed on suddenly and shockingly early this year, I almost held a grudge against him - for leaving without saying "goodbye." Then I saw (or felt) the Holy Spirit wag his finger (I know He's a Spirit) at me warning me not to fall into that trap again. So I let it go...as well as all the other baggage related to his passing. It wasn't easy but was liberating.
Matt 6:14-15, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37 and even The Lord's Prayer all encourage us to forgive others as a precondition for our own forgiveness. Indeed, forgiving others and even forgiving yourself is an unmistakable demonstration of love to yourself.