I’m not a bitter person by nature. If someone wrongs me, I just get upset or angry, I blow off steam and then it’s gone. Usually I have no problems forgiving people and I don’t hang on to hate or resentment long. But you know where I’ve had the hardest time ever forgiving?
It’s funny because all those arguments I use for forgiving others (you know them, stuff like ‘we’re all human’, ‘nobody is perfect’, things like that), somehow don’t apply to me. When it comes to me, I expect perfection. I have a hard time living with my mistakes.
Almost two years ago one of my former students ended his own life. He was like a brother to me, but a struggling, depressed brother. His battle with depression was a constant source of worry for me and my husband when we were his youth leaders.
But at a certain point he decided to go to another church. We were sorry to see him go, but we let him go, trusting that his new church would take care of him. Then we moved abroad. We didn’t lose contact, he even came to visit us here in Germany, but our contact wasn’t as close as before.
And then we got that horrible, horrible phone call in the middle of the night that he had ended his life. For months after, I cried every single day. I was so angry with him for doing this. But then I got angry with myself. Why had we let him go? We knew he was depressed, why hadn’t we stayed more in touch with him? I could not forgive myself.
I stayed mad with myself for a long time. It got to the point where I had a hard time worshiping because all I felt was guilt and anger and incredible sadness.
Then the horrible tragedy happened in Rick Warren’s family. And somehow, that helped me, ironic as that may sound. If these wonderful, loving, godly parents could not prevent their son’s suicide, how could I have prevented this student taking how own life? They did everything they could, got him every possible help they could think of. But like my student, he couldn’t go on anymore. There was nothing his parents could do, just like there was nothing I could have done. It’s like the rationale that I could use for others finally connected with me.
A few weeks ago I was in my home country and I visited his grave. Of course I cried again, but there was something else. For the first time, I was able to forgive myself. It wasn’t my fault, there really was nothing I could have done. But it was the hardest forgiving I have ever done.
Jesus told us that the truth would set us free and He was (as always) right. When we apply God’s truth to ourselves and forgive ourselves, even if we have made mistakes, it will set us free. I still miss this kid like crazy but my guilt and anger have gone. Now there’s sadness, but also gratefulness that I got to know this wonderful, talented guy and be part of his life, short as it was.