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Lenten Devotional, April 7: By Phil Wedemeyer

Why forgive - what's in it for me?

I was taught as a child to "...pray for them that persecute you" (Matthew 5:44) and to "...forgive seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22) but it did not seem to be a very practical way to live. I had to learn the power of these principles as an adult through painful personal experience.

Some years ago, one of my business partners and best personal friends acted in a manner that financially damaged me and our other partners. I was infuriated and experienced hurt and resentment; a feeling of betrayal and a sense of righteous indignation that continued to recur whenever I thought of this person.

Several years later, I was at my desk when these intense feelings were triggered by a reference to him. For the next several hours, I was unable to think of or do anything else because of the white-hot fury of that resentment. Finally, it occurred to me that I was, at least, seriously damaging myself and that I had to have relief.

In desperation, I decided to pray for my former partner each day. At first, all I could manage was a form of prayer without real intent. But, as the days went by, I began to realize that the heat was gone. Nothing had changed except within me and in my attitude toward that person. The relief was immediate and enduring. Prayer worked but not as I had expected.

That experience and other similar ones have also taught me that, when potential resentments arise, my prayers can prevent them from growing larger. Those prayers are for relief from anger, for restraint of pen, tongue, and e-mail, and for open mindedness. So, I have found the answer to the question of what's in it for me is that forgiveness, when practiced, has made it possible for me to live a happier, more fulfilling life here on earth.


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