Jesus said, "Father, forgive these people, because they don't know what they are doing." And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. (Luke 23:34)

Many of us have hurtful relationships from which we are unable to escape.  Though the person may have technically left our lives, are they really gone?  Not if we still carry unforgiveness, anger, and even hatred in our hearts.

Whose job is it to judge? Is it ours? We sometimes ACT like it is!
Ever have this conversation in your head? "If he would only ... " "If she would just ... " or "(Expletive deleted) "That stupid (*&^%$) (*%$@#)!!!"

That, dear Reader, is resentment and judgement at its finest. Sometimes, we even augment our criticisms with our actions, or by poisoning anyone close enough to hear, especially children, against another person.

Oh, so they deserve our wrath? My, my. Guess you will have to pray for that person all the harder.

Yeah, you heard me right. That pain in your stomach, those migraines, the barely contained urge to cave in someone's head, THAT is unforgiveness. And the remedy of course is prayer.

One way to relieve oneself from wrath (churning, churning) IS to pray for the person who is renting space in your head. Not saying it's easy, you may have to do it with your teeth gritted at first, but you cannot simultaneously pray and hold a grievance.

More importantly, forgiveness is not something you can just "say" and have done with. Nor can you just "decide" to forgive — otherwise, many of us would be "tra-la-la-ing" about our daily lives with nary a care. Nope! "Ya gotta wanna" if you are going to forgive when it's hard.

In my case, my un-forgiving, self-righteous attitude, and yes, judgement of others, especially people I believed had harmed me, began to grow like a cancer for which there is no chemotherapy. But I discovered that there WAS something I could do, and I discovered it quite by accident. I had tried the other methods — the "deciding" and the "I swear to ..." They were good for a couple of hours, but not for the long haul.

Then finally one day, I realized that this unforgiveness was something that was eating me alive. Not the other person; they were totally oblivious to the fact that I mentally murdered them or assassinated their character.

So in despair one day I cried out to my Lord: "Help me Jesus! Free me from this. I am so sorry! Please Lord, I want so much to please you, to do the right thing, and this poison I am holding inside is KILLING me. HELP me Lord! YOU forgave ME, help me to forgive others!"

I cried. I begged. I spoke aloud. I prayed, "Lord, let those people have peace, love, and understanding. Let them have what I so desire, but PLEASE FREE ME from the prison of my unforgiveness!"

Then came the peace ... slowly ... and the knowledge ... surely, that God had heard, and was doing a work in me. It didn't come overnight. But, I continued to pray for those whom I perceived had harmed me, to ask everyday to forgive them, and to thank Him for forgiving me.

And after that?

Why, what could be more "one with our Creator" than to have a truly, inside and out, clean heart? And as an added bonus, we get some of what we'd prayed for our antagonists brought into our lives — love, life, understanding, peace! 

Might we also more likely have time and energy to do those things we've been putting off when we give up this unforgiveness burden? Things like ... improving ourselves, going back to school, going to church, spending time with our kids, walking the dog a little further?

Wouldn't we quit having an excuse for our behavior, and thus feel better about ourselves?

Help me Lord! You forgave me, help me to forgive others!
Wouldn't we have more to give to others?

Wouldn't we be more desirable without that nasty look on our face, with a lighter heart, and with more room in that heart to really have relationships, instead of hostages trapped by resentments that come out of us sideways.

There IS that nasty "plank/speck" story in the Bible, about not pointing out the speck in another's eye, when we have a giant plank in our own. You see, Jesus is serious about unforgiveness!

Unforgiveness hurts; it hurts us more than "them." Wouldn't it be nice not to carry the burden of anger, hurt, and guilt?

Ask God to intervene. Forgiveness is a job too big for a mere mortal, but one in which God specializes. Is He not the One who gave us forgiveness, in the flesh? What could be more fitting than to ask that He help us forgive others?

Your ulcer, your high blood pressure, your depression, and those loved ones around you will thank you. And, you will be more like your Lord!

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)