Lewis B. Smedes QuotesLewis Benedictus Smedes was a renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian in the Reformed tradition. He was a professor of theology and ethics for twenty-five years at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
Spoken forgiveness, no matter how heartfelt, works best when we do not demand the response we want. I mean that when we tell people we forgive them, we must leave them free to respond to our good news however they are inclined. If the response is not what we hoped for, we can go home and enjoy our own healing in private.
Forgiving is tough. Excusing is easy. What a mistake it is to confuse forgiving with being mushy, soft, gutless, and oh, so understanding. Before we forgive, we stiffen our spine and we hold a person accountable. And only then, in tough-minded judgment, can we do the outrageously impossible thing: we can forgive.
God is the original, master forgiver. Each time we grope our reluctant way through the minor miracle of forgiving, we are imitating his style. I am not at all sure that any of us would have had imagination enough to see the possibilities in this way to heal the wrongs of this life had he not done it first.
If we say that monsters [people who do terrible evil] are beyond forgiving, we give them a power they should never have…they are given the power to keep their evil alive in the hearts of those who suffered most. We give them power to condemn their victims to live forever with the hurting memory of their painful pasts. We give the monsters the last word.
The moments of grace usually give us more than one good thing we can do, and we do well if we manage a pretty good batting average. … It is an opportunity that God sews into the fabric of a routine situations – It is a chance to do something creative, something helpful, something healing, something that makes one unmarked spot in the world better off for our having been there.
Forgiving is an affair strictly between a victim and a victimizer. Everyone else should step aside…The worst wounds I ever felt were the ones people gave to my children. Wrong my kids, you wrong me. And my hurt qualifies me to forgive you. But only for the pain you caused me when you wounded them. My children alone are qualified to forgive you for what you did to them.
Once we have forgiven, however, we get a new freedom to forget. This time forgetting is a sign of health; it is not a trick to avoid spiritual surgery. We can forget because we have been healed. But even if it is easier to forget after we forgive, we should not make forgetting a test of our forgiving. The test of forgiving lies with healing the lingering pain of the past, not with forgetting the past has ever happened.