Rat Poison

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
Who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
That we might learn to fear you.
I am counting on the Lord;
Yes, I am counting on him.
-Psalms 130.3-5

Have you ever been just unable to forgive someone? Maybe someone wronged you, hurt you. Maybe you were beaten by them or neglected. Maybe they said something against someone who you deeply care about. Maybe they lied to you.

There was a man in the recovery home where my parents lead bible studies. He’d been in and out of the program, to the streets and back, struggling to get clean. Our family knew him well and had been working with him relatively closely. He had a drug problem but was troubled with something much more toxic, more destructive. He had an un-forgiveness problem. Every time, in my parents bible study, the topic of forgiveness would come up he would get up and leave the room. His father was not a good father. He had been somehow mistreated and failed by his father in his childhood. Of course, the first person that came to mind for him, when the subject of forgiveness came up, was his father. He couldn’t forgive his father. He believed in the depths of his heart that his father didn’t deserve forgiveness.

Can you relate? Is there someone who does not deserve forgiveness? Someone you can’t forgive?

What happens when we see forgiveness as something which is only to be given to those who deserve it is we gage people’s actions. We decide what level of wrong-doing is just too bad, so bad it shouldn’t be forgiven. We become the judge. We dole out forgiveness when we choose to and hold it back when we feel it necessary. But what if we’re holding back something that shouldn’t be held back? What if God held back forgiveness? What if there was something that God just couldn’t forgive you for because you wronged Him too much?

Forgiveness is not about someone else deserving it. It is about you. It’s about how you deal with them. It’s about how you handle being wronged. We have a forgiving God who forgives even before you wrong Him. Are you a forgiving person?

What happens when we hold back forgiveness? Why do we do it? It is a type of internal revenge. In a way we are getting back at them for what they did to us. But who are we hurting? We suffer our own un-forgiveness. Anne Lammot says it like this; “not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”[1] It’s self-destructive. All the pain and anguish we wish upon someone else will only fester inside us. For our friend, the drug addict, it destroyed his life. Since he believed his father didn’t deserve to be forgiven from the depths of his heart that is where the pain and anguish was; in the depths of his heart. His un-forgiveness followed him into the program and back out onto the streets.

Forgive and be free. As God forgives you, as His forgiveness flows down upon you even before you do wrong, forgive others. If you can forgive, from the depths of your heart, then freedom will follow wherever you go. You’ll never be able to kill the rat, so instead, just let it go.

[1] Anne Lammot, Traveling Mercies (New York: Anchor Books 1999) 134.


bruced said…
If we can't forgive others, we don't understand how God forgives us.

We do what we see our Father doing. And if our view of our Father is tainted, then we will be tainted.

If we see Father's forgiveness as conditional, and only offered if we are first willing to accept it and change because of it, then we will expect those rules to apply to our forgiveness of others.

But, if we can only begin to understand how far-reaching, all-emcompassing, and complete our Father's forgiveness is, we will respond likewise to others.

What's more, is that being exposed to that incredible level of forgiveness, we will find ourselves inexplicably drawn to the Father's amazing love. His love will pull us into Himself, and as a result we will fall in love with Him.

Have you ever been in love? Really in love? So in love that nothing else matters? And nothing can get you down? So in love that you can't even feel the ground beneath your feet? And you can't seem to get the smile off your face?

That's what God wants. He wants us to fall so deeply in love with Him, that nothing else matters. And when nothing else matters... there is profound peace, and awesome joy! That's what it's all about. That's what the cross was all about!
wellis68 said…
great thoughts Bruced,
I guess it's all about theology. Bad theology can make bad people. So with your comment it depends on your theology of loving God. If loving God only means singing worship songs and forgetting about the poor then loving God is not what it's all about and it's not what the cross was about. But if loving God means loving everything He loves and caring about what he cares about then i agree, nothing else matters, that's what it's all about!

Thanks Bruced. Great thoughts!
Agent X said…
Forgive like your forgiveness depended on it (Matt. 18:35)

ABC NEWS ran some powerful series on forgiveness a few years ago. I bet you could find them in archives on the net. Of course there are others too.

Good thoughts.

Many blessings...
wellis68 said…
Thanks Mike,
I'll have to check out that ABC thing.
Unknown said…
Some of my deepest hurts have been at the hands of folks in the Church. Boy, talk about hard to forgive!

But then you go ahead and remind me of what God whispers to me so often. He reminds me that God loved me and gave himself for me, loooooong before I deserved it. Come to think of it, I still don't deserve it. He also reminds me that whatever I am facing, even at the hands of other "Christians" pales in comparison to what He endured for me and my sins.

You are correct. I must forgive in light of being forgiven.

SteveW said…
I think that forgiveness that comes from a need to forgive just to be forgiven is rather hallow and empty but a heart that forgives BECAUSE we have been forgiven....ahh yes...that is Life.
Agent X said…

But, Steve, it is biblical. It is the true world order. If you prefer your motive, fine. Be blessed. I certainly would not criticize it. But it does not change the fact that without forgiveness, creation grinds to a halt or explodes in retribution.

My observation is intended to lend weight to the subject matter. It is not some spiritual warm fuzzy or against a spiritual warm fuzzy. Just KABOD.

Many blessings...
SteveW said…
All I am saying Mike is forgiveness, if presented as some sort of religious obligation, in order for us to BE forgiven is no different than any other religious obligaqtion that is taught will WIN us Gods approval. The cross demonstrated Gods approval. I am forgiven period and that makes it so much easier for me to forgive my neighbor. Like everything else from God it is free. Sorry if my post added nothing to the discussion.
Agent X said…

Ouch. I seem to have struck a nerve?

When I read your first comment, it looked as though it were pointed at mine. Is that wrong? I am standing by my comment.

You do not need to apologize to me, though that too sounds a tad biting. I really do not want to get embroilled in a tit-for-tat. I'll do my best to keep my rhetoric respectful. And I hope that my comments have not been hurtful to you. If so, I too apologize.

In the spirit of the given subject matter, at the least, and from what ever motivation, I forgive you. Will you forgive me?

We seem to be on the same team here. Though we seem to have differing motives, we are both promoting Jesus and His agenda for the world. That is of most value. I am with you in that 100% I do not want to do or say anything that puts our commonality in the Lordship of Jesus in jeopardy.

It could be that we are misreading each other. It could be that was the foothold and now more is going on. Or perhaps I am just way off base. But this is my olive branch, and olive branches are good anytime.

May you be blessed. And may we be friends...
SteveW said…
Mike, that's the problem with the internet. We are often talking with people we really don't know at all. But of course I'll forgive you my brother. Absolutely no offense taken. Please forgive me too for the reaction.

Sometimes my nerves may be a little too sensitive...maybe just a by product of having the extremely heavy millstone of religious obligation so unmercifully placed upon my neck many years ago until it cut deeply into me....when all I wanted was to know Him better and His people.
For a while it produced many feelings of worthlessness that is until I returned to my First Love and He restored my worth.

I see your heart. We are on the same team and in the same family.

Thanks friend.
Agent X said…


The thing that almost was is not. And it is eternally buried.

Praise God!

Thanks bro.