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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 18, 2002

Forgiving can help release past

By H. Murray Hohns

Have you ever had an enemy? I don't mean the Taliban, but someone who, for some reason, warred with you?

An enemy is someone who does bad things to you, sometimes to help himself and other times just to be mean. Enemies delight in doing harm even if you did nothing to provoke their actions. They are terrible to have.

My enemy was a former employee in a Mainland engineering consulting firm. He had done some time in prison for securities fraud before he joined us. A mutual friend had introduced us, and I remember my enemy was so grateful for a chance to start over. He worked hard and turned into a gifted marketing person.

He left one day, and I quickly realized he had taken business and prospective business with him. It was not long before he had more business than I did. He even took some of my employees. It was a tough period in my life. Every time I turned around, he was there, and invariably when I had to compete with him for a project, it seemed that he had the upper hand. I resented his tactics and his success.

I met Lewis Smedes, a seminary professor who specialized in forgiveness while all this was going on. His counsel was that I begin to forgive my enemy by saying "I forgive in the name of Jesus Christ" and to repeat this simple sentence over and over until I had fully released resentment.

Now, that may sound simplistic, even silly, but it was hard, so hard to do back then. I really didn't want to forgive this bird; I wanted him to get what I thought he deserved. But I took Smedes at his word and began to repeat, "I forgive in the name of Jesus Christ." I had misgivings and felt a little dumb about it.

Months went by and I continued to repeat that sentence over and over whenever I thought of it. One day the phone rang: It was a prospective client who had a big case, indeed he was one of the major players in the problem, but I already was working on the job and for a minor player at that. Alas, I could not take the job offered. Could I recommend someone? Someone good? Before I could think, I found myself recommending my enemy. I did not do that with any sense of nobility; I just responded with an honest answer to a question. My enemy was capable; after all, I had taught him much of what he knew, and it made sense.

Later the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "You have now become the head and no longer are you the tail. Your enemy is vanquished and will stay that way so long as you continue to bless him and pray for him." That was 20 years ago. Scripture says that if we walk in God's ways, he will provide for us. If that is true, we do not have to be concerned with others taking what we want or think should be ours.

So simple, so fulfilling, but at first so hard.

H. Murray Hohns of Makiki is a retired engineer and an associate pastor at New Hope Christian Fellowship. Expressions of Faith welcomes written works from leaders in faith and spirituality. E-mail faith@honoluluadvertiser.com or call 525-8035. Articles submitted to The Advertiser may be published or distributed in print, electronic or other forms.