Easter’s approach is a powerful reminder to Christians of the ultimate sacrifice Christ made for us: the forgiveness of our sins. We hear the story of the Passion year after year, but if you’re like me, you respond as though you’re learning it for the first time, fighting back the tears as the pastor recounts every step to Calvary, and stunned by the wonder of the empty tomb.

Sometimes we’re so focused on Christ’s forgiveness that we lose sight of the other lesson His death and resurrection teaches us: that we also have access to the amazing power of forgiveness.

You can do so many things to help and support the people in your life. You can love then, you can care for them, you can pray for them, and do things for them. You can listen to them and hold them in their moments of fear and darkness. But I believe one of the most powerful things you can do is forgive them.

There are two reasons for that. First, none of us is perfect. We may strive to be the best person possible, but somehow we’re going to fall short. Sometimes, we deliberately do things we know that we shouldn’t, such as hurt others in the hope of assuaging our own hurts. Sometimes we neglect others without intending to do so or even noticing that it happened. The relationships we have with family, friends, co-workers, and all the others around us are inherently fragile and far too easily damaged, especially when those others fall short of the expectations we’ve created inside for them.

As a counselor, I hear it every day. Wives bemoan the fact that husbands won’t do what they “should” do. Kids won’t act like they’re supposed to. Children who have become adults are still angry over perceived slights that happened decades ago, so they remain estranged from their now elderly parents. Yes, the others in those relationships are far from perfect, but then, so are we. Forgiving others is a way of accepting them for who they are and loving them in spite of their shortcomings. It doesn’t mean that you excuse hurtful acts, but that you work at looking beyond them. And the sooner you forgive, the more time and opportunities you’ll have to reshape and rebuild the relationship.

The second reason forgiveness is so powerful is that it also heals us. When we forgive another, we begin to let go of the anger, the disappointment, and the other emotions that interfere with our own happiness. Instead of dwelling on what we cannot change — anything in the past — we begin to create a new future without those limits. And the more we accept and understand those around us, the more we accept and understand ourselves and who we are. It’s easy to say we’re not perfect; it’s much harder to truly admit it.

This year, as you reflect on Christ’s gift, ask yourself if anyone in your life would benefit from your forgiveness. As difficult as it may be to offer, know that it will benefit you, too. I’ve seen forgiveness lead to some amazing changes, and I want it to do the same for you.

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