Forgiving the Unforgivable:
Police and Grace
In a profession filled with sentiments of brotherhood and thin blue lines, there are also underlying resentments and resistances. It’s okay to admit that there is sometimes a higher level of tension inside the station house than there is in the crack house. I’m sure some if not most of us have had longer lasting hurt caused by those who wore the shield, than those who oppose it.
Although we conflict among our own, once we fold into the unified force of “the police,” the thin blue line ethos replaces any harboring of ill will toward one another. But, it would be naïve to imagine an agency of two or two thousand where everyone got along.
The Big Pull
Internal tensions arise from disparity in pay, promotion and position (assignment.) It was a quick but poignant lesson that I had to learn as a newly promoted Captain and division commander in a large, nationally accredited Sheriff’s Office. I wasn’t always being lifted up and supported by the hundreds of officers whose rank fell below mine.
Truth was, those who wanted my spot at the top were sometimes pulling me down. This leads to anger and resentment toward your brothers and sisters. Instead of confronting it, we just keep shoving the anger and anxiety down deeper and deeper.
Off the Hook
Forgiveness is a vital but most often misunderstood act. Many people, myself included, have refused to forgive others because the sense of hurt or resentment was too great.
We feel as though there was too much harm to forgive. After all, why would we let the offender off the hook? So we draw comfort while waiting for karma to get even with them. Sound familiar?
Unforgiveness causes a deficit in your spirit and the holder of the balance is the one who hurts and holds power over your life. Anger is a destructive force, and until you learn to forgive, it will control you.
There were times when pure hatred fueled me to push forward against someone or something. But, once the issue was resolved or removed, I was left with an abandonment of who I was. My anger wasn’t as much for the person’s actions against me, as it was the subjection I’d placed myself under because of their manipulation made possible by my feelings of anger.
Forgiveness is not about letting the offender off the hook. There are consequences for every action. Forgiving is an act of power. You are given that authority to set yourself free from the offense, and the offender.
While not biblical, the illustration is fitting. I love the quote attributed to Confucius;
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
Now, onto biblical truths about forgiveness. Do you have a verse of Scripture in mind, or if you’re like me and don’t do well reciting them, can you Google one about forgiveness?
One of the most commonly known is Jesus’ instructions when asked by His disciples how to pray. He gave them the example of what is referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew 6:9-13 includes the line, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
God Demands It
God doesn’t mess around on the subject. His only Son was crucified so we might know salvation through forgiveness of our sins. Jesus himself, hung upon a cross as they mocked and wounded Him. They laughed as they threw dice for His clothes. And we think we’ve been offended because someone was assigned the newer squad car, or made rank faster?
Instead of raging against them for revenge, Jesus exercised His power, strength and authority.
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots” (Luke 23:34).
Tough to Do
After my dad died, it took over a year to forgive many of my siblings. As cops, we’ve all seen the way family behaves when there’s more than a five-dollar bill at stake. Mine were no different, and although I chose not to communicate with them any longer, I allowed them to exercise control over my life because we were bound together by hate. Once I forgave them, I was free.
God showed me the truth about forgiving and life-changing freedom. This is true, tangible power that you have the heavenly right to control. Forgiving also doesn’t mean that you have to become friends again. Forgiving someone doesn’t even require you to say it to that person.
God gives us a nugget as motivation. Matthew 6:15 says, “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.”
How’s that for digging deep to forgive others? Talk about hate being a destructive force in your life, try living outside of God’s grace. For those who still can’t get past the idea that your offender will walk Scot-free after you have forgiven them, here is another assurance from Romans 12:18-20:
“Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
It won’t be easy at first. It’s a process of growth, so it’s not meant to be easy. Try making a list to get started, of maybe the top three people who have caused you to be wounded. Maybe even include yourself in that list. Start speaking words of forgiveness. You don’t have to say it to the people, but you must start by saying it out loud.
Repeat this for as many days as necessary, and I promise you will soon realize just how much hurt you’ve carried as caused by others. That’s a lot of folks with their clutches in your life. You will also begin to know what true freedom feels like. Again, you have the power. You just have to be willing to flex a little spiritual muscle.