Saying “I forgive you” can be the hardest but most important sentence we ever speak. Forgiveness acknowledges the wrongs done against us while at the same time releases us from future harm.

This lesson on forgiving is one we teach in Belarus where girls ages 13-18 currently serve four year prison terms for minor crimes. Almost all come from broken homes where drug and physical abuse are the norm. These young teenagers soon form identities based around years of hurt.

One of the defining moments at on a recent trip to Belarus happened as we all sat by a lake. In small groups everyone was asked to write down a memory or person who had hurt them. We then learned about the power of forgiveness – it not only releases the person we forgive, but it releases me from the power of that hurt. It was hard for many of us to do and not all could. But a few brave souls stood up, and when ready released that person/memory by burning it by the lake.

It was a powerful moment.

Forgiveness is powerful.

There is hope when our identities become based on forgiving.

Matt Kingsley