It’s hip to be sad and melancholy, and righteous indignation can make you seem important, but we often forget about the importance of the positive virtues in life. Throughout our current sermon series, we will explore the positive virtues of the Christian life. In particular, why we ought to be serious about our pursuit of things like gratitude, forgiveness, and joy.
This week’s sermon was on the virtue of Forgiveness. If you missed it, you can listen online on our podcast.
“The sport Kali O’Keeffe loved at age 12 had turned into a chore, devouring her free time, leaving her out of touch with friends.
She was the starting second baseman for Chanhassen High School’s softball team by eighth grade and a major college recruit by 15. But O’Keeffe reached a breaking point before her junior year, on the way back from Tennessee, where her club team had played in a national tournament.
Three hectic years traveling to tournaments across the country and spending countless nights inside a batting cage had taken a toll. She sat down next to her father on a curb outside their roadside hotel. Crying, she told him the pressure of playing year-round softball was just too much.
“When I told my parents, I felt so bad,” she said. “They had spent so much money on softball, and I just didn’t want to do it anymore.””
The disintegration of Jake’s life took him by surprise. It happened early in his junior year of high school, while he was taking three Advanced Placement classes, running on his school’s cross-country team and traveling to Model United Nations conferences.
Everett – a licensed psychologist- had to learn to not only forgive a killer- but to forgive himself for not being able to help his brother.
“I was so angry, I pointed to a baseball bat against the wall and I said, ‘I wish whoever did that were here. I would beat his brains out.'”
All that loss from a crime that, to many, may seem unforgivable. But Worthington found a way through the anger – to practice what he preaches.
“Chains fell off, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt free. From research, I can tell you it helps with physical health, mental health, relationships, and spiritual life.”
He says his mother got him through – she taught him any good virtue needs to be tested.
“That’s where you find out whether you’re just doing the comfortable thing or whether this is something real that’s built into you.”
“Charlotte Witvleit and her colleagues published a groundbreaking study in 2001 after having seventy-one participants recall an interpersonal offense and then alternatively imagine an unforgiving or a forgiving response. Throughout the study participants were connected to psychophysiology-monitoring equipment, tracking their muscle tension, skin conductance (a measure of stress), heart rate, and blood pressure. As respondents imagined an unforgiving, grudge-holding response, the researchers found corresponding increases in all four physiological measurements. As the respondents moved into forgiving thoughts, their bodies became calmer again.” McMinn, Positive Virtues, p 48
Worthington’s REACH Model of Forgiveness
Step 1: Recall the Hurt: Be honest about the harm done. It’s not helpful to deny the pain or the hurt. Accept it and be honest about it.
Step 2: Empathize: This is tough, but try to understand what the other person might have been thinking and feeling. How would the other person describe what happened?
Step 3: Altruistic Gift: Forgiveness is ultimately a self-offering gift we are giving to the other. Instead of wishing the other person harm, we decide to wish the other well.
Step 4: Commit: Commit to forgiving the other. This may involve telling a pastor or counselor, a partner or a friend. Whom we tell isn’t as important as that we make a commitment to forgive.
Step 5: Hold On: Forgiveness isn’t easy. We may readily slip back into unforgiveness, making it important to have ways of holding on to our commitment to forgive.