What do dog food and forgiveness have in common? Well, in God’s economy – healing. Years ago, I deeply offended a relative. At the time, my wife and I had decided not to attend a Christmas get-together. Our family was young, and we felt it was important to stay home on Christmas Day rather than attend the annual extended family dinner. I never imagined the offense that decision would create. While simply trying to establish our own family tradition, I unintentionally dropped a nuclear bomb on another.

In today’s world, offense comes easy. All we need to do is to look at someone wrong. Or be of the wrong political persuasion. Or simply disagree. It’s unfortunate, but families can’t even have dinner discussions for fear of offense. So many have become so deeply entrenched in their beliefs that come hell or high water, they’ll be winners at the end of the discussion. Regrettably, it can be at the expense of whatever friend or relative is sitting across the table.

My unintended offense quickly escalated as extended family members took sides. There I was, wondering what I did wrong as others were cutting ties with close family members. All of this because of ME! It made me sick. For years thereafter, there was little Christmas cheer at the family Christmas dinners.

Not only that, family member relationships that diminished were never fully restored in some instances. The bite of anger turned into the poison of bitterness. Bitterness turned into unforgiveness and unforgiveness festered. Offense is fast to arrive and slow to depart. It leaves the stench of death behind it.

It’s been said by a sage in a bygone era that unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die. That about sums it up. It’s an open, gangrenous sore than doesn’t heal.

In my early years, I wouldn’t have given a rat’s patootie about someone being offended by what I said or did. I was arrogant about being arrogant. Who cared if someone lost sleep over my mistake? Now it was different, I had become a Christian a few years earlier. The day that life change occurred created a radical change in how I viewed life and people. One could say, my life went from dark to light. That new light in my life touched my hardened heart and softened it. Somehow, I had to correct my offense.

Several years passed with no opportunity to heal the wound I’d inflicted. Extended family relationships had deteriorated further, yet no apparent door opened through which I could walk to carry an apology. In the meantime, I went out of my way to always make the relative who suffered most feel loved.

One day, it dawned on me what I’d done. My family’s decision to create our own Christmas tradition was a rejection of the person I offended. The individual was known for having a God-given talent for cooking. She was rightfully proud of her ability, and I had not only said no to her dinner invitation but to her cooking as well. Thereafter, I always made sure to buy her cakes at local cake auctions. We were on the road to healing, but the road was still partially blocked.

My family eventually relocated to within a few miles of the lady I’d offended. Shortly after we arrived, our kids’ dog was hit by a car and died. That event occurred just after I’d purchased a 50-lb bag of dog food. For some time, I looked at that bag wondering what I could do with it. Finally, a thought came to mind. Maybe this was the door I needed.

I loaded the bag and headed out. I didn’t have far to drive, and I prayed on the way. I knew how much she loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, and I was hoping God would use her love for dogs as the conversation bridge to heal her heart.

I’ll never forget that day. It was a glorious sunny day! I longed to make things right. I yearned for the family wounds that I’d created to be healed at last. There was nothing so important as two hearts coming together in forgiveness.

As I drove up the driveway, I noticed she was returning from feeding her cats. I parked, got out and said hi. From there, I mentioned that our dog had been killed and I was hoping she might be able to use the bag of dog food. I went on to profusely apologize for my carelessness. I explained as best I could how I hadn’t intended to hurt her. We talked and we cried in that driveway. As I write this, tears flow again. What a special lady!

By God’s grace, she forgave me. Oh, what a day it was! I was ecstatic! Though I don’t think other family members ever fully gave or received full forgiveness, healing across the family began. For years thereafter, the forgiveness that overcame the bitterness turned into multiple times of laughter. She came to love my kids and was so excited each time we stopped by to visit.

We loved on her each time. That day in the driveway also included a hug. From then on, I gave her a hug every time I was with her. It was always so very special. They are hugs I will never forget in a lifetime. She’s a lady I will never forget. Our hearts connected that day and they never disconnected; they merged in a bond of God’s love stemming from the forgiveness God offers each of us though Jesus.

God used that experience, that lesson, to teach me about humility. Since then, I have used that lesson when seeking forgiveness from my children and others. There’s never anything I’ve done for which I can’t apologize. I’ve even apologized for things I’ve not done just to correct an offense. Life it too short to do otherwise. Anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness are soul afflictions that must be delivered a deadly blow. If not, we will die in our pain.

Matthew 5:23-24 states, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

Prior to God changing my hard heart, I didn’t know that verse existed. Once knowing it did, I couldn’t overlook it. It was the difference between pain and joy for at least two of us. Those tears and hugs in that driveway released years of suffering. Two hearts met in humility; one gave a gift of dog food in loving humility yet received forgiveness. The other accepted the dog food with humility and received acceptance and love. There was no offense or rejection that day; everyone won!

Folks, whether real or perceived, offense is brutal; it’s deadly. It’s an arrow to the heart of the offended. An arrow they can’t remove themselves, but you can. Take my advice today. If you have anyone in your life you have either intentionally or unintentionally offended, go immediately to them to make it right. Eat crow if you must, apologize deeply, and pray they are moved in heart to forgive. Even if they’re not, you’ve done what is right.

If you are the one needing to forgive, lay down your pride, pour the poison from the cup from which you’ve been drinking, and experience the release of an unbearable burden. There’s nothing better and more freeing than giving or receiving forgiveness. It’s a choice that rests in your hands. Like the ripple bursting forth from a stone tossed into a pond, there’s no telling how many lives your forgiveness will touch. Do it today.

Final Thought: Everything I write originates from my relationship with a righteous, loving, and holy God. What I am today is credited to His transformational work in my life. I give Him glory for all that is good and take full responsibility for all else. You can learn more about me at Meet Randy. For a better understanding of why I needed God to save me from myself, look at my faith journey. Just as He invited me to come to Him, He invites you as well.