ONE of the greatest freedoms a person can have is the ability--and willingness--to forgive. It's true that mistakes, whether our own or another's, are to be overcome, not ignored. But angry reactions and perturbed feelings are not the way to inspire genuine reformation. In fact, they usually make problems worse. The way to improve a bad situation is to turn to God in prayer and listen for answers that bless everyone.
I saw firsthand the good effects that come from quickly forgiving another. At a regional meeting I attended I was the keynote speaker. I had high expectations for the event, but the speaker opening the program did such a poor job, at least in my estimation, that I felt all hope of a successful afternoon was gone.
As my internal criticism of her and my silent griping about how the meeting was getting off to such a sour start reached full flood, I was reminded of an exchange between Christ Jesus and the Apostle Peter. The book of Matthew, in the Bible, records the incident: ''Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven'' (18:21, 22). I asked myself, Am I willing to forgive this speaker even once for not living up to my expectations?
Well, why wouldn't I be willing to forgive her? God is the source of every good quality the program would need to make it a success. His impartation of good could not be stifled by anyone. Nor could any spiritually requisite quality for completeness be lacking, for God, the source of every right quality, is never absent. I needed to stop expecting a particular person to set the tone for this meeting and let God provide whatever was needed for us to continue on track.
As I turned to this more inspired view--of man being governed by God--the growing resentment and ill will I had been feeling melted away. I knew that God, the one Mind over all, was producing a good effect for the benefit of all. I could trust the outcome of the afternoon to our common Father-Mother God's wise and discerning care.
As it turned out, every speaker from that point on overflowed with the uplifting qualities I had failed to see at the outset. The meeting was a grand success and easily accomplished its intended purpose.
I later met the woman I had been so displeased with earlier in the day and found that we got along like old friends. This made me doubly grateful that I had forgiven her!
If we are harboring animosity toward a co-worker, a family member, or anyone, we can set personal feelings aside with the spiritual understanding of God's government that enables us to love unconditionally. We should no more hold another hostage to failure than we would want to be so pigeon-holed. The Christian demand is to overcome evil with good. And it is love and forgiveness, not hate or anger, that triumph over evil.
When others aren't performing up to expectations--or when we think they're not--healing is the demand. Healing happens when we put self-righteous views aside and love unselfishly. ''Love,'' writes the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ''redolent with unselfishness, bathes all in beauty and light'' (p. 516). Love in its purest form is spiritual. As the Bible says, ''God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him'' (I John 4:16). As God blesses all, divine Love blesses all.
Everyone has the ability to express God-given qualities without limit. Forgiveness helps us be quick to give ourselves and others credit for being able to think and act rightly under God's government. Knowing everyone has the capacity to respond to God's unerring direction enables us to rest in an abiding trust that all is well.