A story is told of a teacher who once asked her students to bring a clear trash bag and a sack of potatoes to school. In class, she had each student take out a potatoes and write down the name of someone they hadn’t forgiven and then place it in the bag. Some of the bags were light and others were quite heavy. The teacher then instructed the students to carry this bag around with them everywhere for the next week. It was to be with them at all times and they could only set it down when they had to (sleep, meals, etc).
After the week was up, the students brought back their potatoes. Interestingly, the potatoes that were brought back looked nothing like they did at the start. The potatoes had deteriorated into a nasty sight from being dropped, hit, baked in the sun, and a variety of other damaging influences. Hauling around these nasty potatoes as well as the burden of carrying them made for a very powerful lesson for these students as well as us today.
When we refuse to forgive, it becomes quite a burden to carry. For example, if the unforgiven person is seen somewhere, everything that was done and said in the past comes flooding back into the memory. If the unforgiven person’s name comes up, even in a pleasant conversation, negative feels arise and it puts a noticeable awkwardness and cloud on the situation. Every time we are reminded of the fact that the unforgiven person is still living, we are burdened by our own negative feelings, emotions, and speech towards him or her.
For whatever reason, we have come to think of forgiveness as a “gift” to the other person. In reality, forgiving them is as much for ourselves as it is for the other person!
The potatoes that were carried around were burdensome. The longer they were carried, the more of a stinky, rotten, nasty mess they became. The same is true with unforgiven people in our lives. The longer we refuse to forgive, the more burdensome and nasty it becomes.
Every word of Colossians 3:12-14 applies to this discussion: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
God has forgiven us and we should forgive others as well. Can you think of someone who needs your forgiveness?