The story of Corrie ten Boom has been told countless times through the years. Yet, even today, it remains one of the most beloved stories of forgiveness this world has ever known. During World War II, she and her family saved Jews from being sent off to concentration camps by hiding them in a room at the top of their home. When Nazi officers learned what was going on, the house was raided and Corrie was sent to a prison, political concentration camp, and finally a death camp. But, miraculously, she survived.
As you can imagine, there were many moments of hardship that Corrie had to overcome even after the war ended. One such moment was at a church where she saw a former SS man who guarded her in the concentration camp. As the man approached her to shake her hand, everything in her reminded her of the horrid pain this man had brought upon her. And even though Corrie often spoke of the need to forgive others, she knew she couldn’t forgive this man in her own strength. God had to do it through her. Corrie writes, “When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” God gave Corrie the strength to forgive and love the man when she could not.
Perhaps you’ve never had to deal with such heavy forgiveness in your life as Corrie ten Boom has, but there are many times in life when we will have to both forgive and be forgiven. Below are four things to keep in mind when you forgive someone.
1. Realize everyone has to be forgiven. It will save you a lot of trouble to understand early on that we all will make mistakes and need forgiveness at some point.
2. Forgiveness isn’t earned. Grace is undeserved favor that no one can earn. Therefore, forgiveness should be given with no expectations in return and no strings attached.
3. Don’t bring it up again. Sometimes people forgive like they’re burying the hatchet but keeping the handle uncovered in case they need to use it again. This only prolongs the conflict.
4. Make the decision and your heart will catch up. If you wait to “feel ready” to forgive, it’s never going to happen. Rather, you must make the decision to forgive and soon enough your heart will catch up.
Is there someone you need forgive right now? Take courage from Corrie ten Boom: “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”