Summary: Understanding what forgiveness really involves and why its so important.

Why Should I Forgive?

Brennan Manning tells a story

in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel.

25 years ago, he had a drinking problem.

He voluntarily entered a 28-day treatment program.

Early on in the treatment program

they had to sit in a circle with a leader

and tell the other people in the group,

about the extent of their drinking.

So they went around the circle

and they all told their story,

except for one business guy named Max.

When it came time for him to talk about his drinking, he said,

"I never really drank that much."

They said, "Max,

you’re in an alcoholic treatment center for a month.

You weren’t sipping cokes.

Tell us the truth. Admit it."

He said, "I’m being honest with you.

I’ve never really had all that much to drink."

Well, upon coming into the program

they’d all signed affidavits

to be able to get information any way they wanted.

So they had a speaker phone in the center of the circle,

and the leader of the group said,

"I’m going to call the bar that’s close to your office

and we’ll just find out."

So they call and ask for the bartender

and the leader says to him,

"Do you know Max So-and-So?"

The bartender says,

"Oh, like a brother! He stops in every day after work and has a minimum of six martinis.

Man, this guy drinks like a fish! He’s the best customer we have."

The rest of the people in the group all looked at Max.

Max says, "Yes, I’ve had a lot to drink."

A little later on in the group, they asked everyone,

"Have you ever hurt anybody,

a friend or family member,

while you were drunk?"

Some people described their experiences.

They get around the circle to Max, who says,

"I would never, ever hurt anybody.

Not when I’m sober, not when I’m drunk.

I have four lovely children.

I’d never hurt my wife, I’d never hurt my kids."

The leader says,

"You know, Max, we don’t believe you.

We’re going to call your wife."

As soon as Max’s wife starts talking on the speaker phone,

Max starts breathing heavily.

He knows something’s coming

that he has been unwilling to face.

The leader says,

"Mrs. So-and-So,

has Max ever mistreated you or anyone in the family

when he was drunk?"

And she said,

"Well, yes he has. It happened just this last Christmas Eve.

He took our 9-year-old daughter shopping on Christmas Eve, bought her a new pair of shoes; he’s a generous man.

On the way home, our little girl was sitting in the front seat enjoying her new shoes, and Max passed the bar and saw the cars of some of his buddies.

"He pulled in. It was a cold, wintry day, 12 degrees, with a high wind chill.

He made sure all the windows were rolled up snugly.

He left the car running so that the heater was blowing, and he said to our 9-year-old daughter, ’I’ll be right back.

You just play with your shoes; I’ll be right back.’

"He went in the bar and started drinking with his buddies.

He didn’t come out of the bar until midnight.

In that time, the vehicle had shut off and the windows had become all frosted over and locked up tight so she couldn’t get herself out of the car.

When the authorities opened up the car and rushed her to the hospital, she was so badly frostbitten that her thumb and forefinger had to be amputated. And her ears were so damaged by the cold that she’ll be deaf for the rest of her life."

The wife describes this to the group,

and Max falls off his chair and starts convulsing on the ground.

He just couldn’t bear admitting what he had done.

He couldn’t face it.

He was going to live the rest of his life

in some fantasy world of denial

about what he had done.

Why did I tell that story?

Just to depress everybody here?

I’ll tell you why.

If I had the time,

I could pass a microphone down the aisle

and I’m willing to bet that every person here

would have something they could share,

some way they’ve hurt others deeply.

You probably didn’t put a kid in the hospital.

Maybe the only wounds the other person got

were emotional.

Maybe you did it on purpose,

or maybe you just didn’t realize what you were doing,

you just weren’t aware,

Maybe you had such huge needs yourself,

and were so hurting yourself,

that you didn’t realize

you were hurting someone else.

I have a little brother, named Phil.

He lives out in Portland Oregon now,

and of course he’s not little anymore,

he weighs about 50 pounds more than I do.

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