If you’re like most people, your Christmas gift list does not include yourself. But, I’d like to suggest that you add your own name to it and consider giving yourself one of the most amazing gifts of all: the gift of forgiving someone who has hurt you.

Gift of Forgiveness

The natural response to being hurt is a desire for justice. Or more accurately, vengeance. We hold grudges that last for years and years and ultimately…they kill us. Literally.

Researchers Philip Sinato and Stephen Welch report that those people who say they tend to hold grudges have higher rates of heart disease and cardiac arrest. They have longer bouts with elevated blood pressure and higher rates of stomach ulcers. They are even more likely to have arthritis, back pain, chronic headaches, and chronic pain than those who don’t hold grudges.

In short, the refusal to forgive will cost you your life.

And the cost isn’t just physical. It’s mental, too.

When you hold a grudge, you are constantly reminded of the offense. You are chained to the offender, bound and shackled to the offense. Among those who hold grudges are higher rates of ADD, inability to focus, and higher rates of depression and suicide.

So this year, give yourself the gift of forgiveness, just as I did. I forgave my father and was finally set free.

This is part of a year-end countdown of my top 5 posts of 2014. Below is my 2nd most popular post of the year and one of my favorites. I hope that you find value in it if you are new or just needed a reminder. Don’t worry…not all of my content for the rest of the year is “Best of.” Stay tuned for some other great posts and offers.

How Forgiveness Finally Made Me Free

I’d held on to unforgiveness for too long. It was time to finally forgive my father.

Time to move past the hurt, the rejection, the anger. It was time.

I can’t tell you how many times I said that to myself. And it never happened.

Days wrestling with my feelings turned into weeks, which turned into months, and eventually years. Layers of failed attempts or flat out refusals to do so had hardened my heart. Would I ever be able to forgive him?

Or had those years actually softened my heart? Had they actually prepared me for that night recently when I would read about breaking generational chains and forgiving my dad?

As I stood brushing my teeth, getting ready for bed on the night before Easter, a voice said:

Write to him.

Write to him? Write what?

Write ‘Dad, I forgive you.’ That is all it takes.

Just go to bed, I thought. Sleep it off, wake up, and this will all go away. You won’t have to go through the pain again to get to the other side.

That’s what I was afraid of. To get to the other side (forgiveness), I had to go through the pain again. It would have to get worse, for a moment, before it would get better.

Was I willing? Was I able?

And then pen somehow made its way to paper and I finally found freedom.

Dear Dad,

I forgive you.

I forgive you for leaving when I was two.

I forgive you for being gone for seven years.

I forgive you for leaving every night to drink.

I forgive you to breaking my heart and never putting it back together.

Dad, all this time I’ve thought I needed a reason to forgive you. I thought I needed to understand why you did what you did. I thought I needed to feel sorry for you the way I did Mom, to put myself in your shoes and say “how could I have done any better?” I thought I needed to understand you. But I don’t.

I don’t know why you destroyed our family. I don’t know why you just left us. I don’t know why time with me was never good enough. I will never understand.

But I forgive you.

And I do have a reason.

My reason is a three-year old girl sleeping as I write this. Her name is Aracelli and she needs me. She needs a dad who is there for her.

She needs a dad who isn’t shackled by the chains of unforgiveness. She needs a dad who isn’t eaten up by hatred…hatred for you and hatred for myself. She needs a dad who is a man, not a boy like you remained for so long. She needs a dad who stays, who loves her, who never breaks her heart.

She is my reason, Dad. I’m sorry you never got to meet her.

My wife is my reason. You would have loved her.

I am my reason.

I will no longer be held captive by your mistakes. I will no longer be a prisoner of my own anger.

I am free, Dad. Finally free!

I forgive you. I even thank you. Because of my pain, I can help others. Because of your example, I know what not to do.

I forgive you for everything.

Your Son,


I plead with you, if you have unforgiveness in any area of your life, let it go.

You don’t have to understand what the other person did. You just need to forgive him or her.

I won’t dramatize what happened and suggest that my life instantly became a walk in the park. I didn’t. But I am free. And I do know joy now.

It is impossible for joy and unforgiveness to coexist. An unforgiving heart is too dark a place for light to shine.

Forgiveness finally made me free. It can do the same for you.

Will you choose to find freedom today? Will you choose to forgive someone who hurt you?

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0 thoughts on “The Gift You Give Yourself This Christmas

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    Beautiful. To forgive and be willing to accept forgiveness are amazing gifts.

  2. Proud of you Matt. Forgiveness is hard…especially to dads. It seems that God created a special place for dads in all of our hearts and when that place is disrupted it rattles us more than usual. Your dad had some issues but I know he loved you. This Christmas celebrate two things…celebrate the fact that you have grown past all the crappy stuff he did and celebrate that despite having some inadequacies that he loved you…the best he knew how. Merry Christmas.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      No doubt. I was just talking to Aracelli about that this morning.

  3. Stephanie Robbins says:

    Adore this post! It is true that forgiveness only hurts the one holding a grudge. I worked hard on forgiving my father. It was a hard task because he didn’t want to be forgiven, he wanted to be right. Unfortunately, he passed away 3 years ago. One of the hardest part of his death was knowing that our relationship would never fully heal. However, I knowing I worked on my side with him helped so much. My sister did not and I know she suffers to his day as a result.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good for you Stephanie! Maybe sharing this post with her will help? Or better yet, how doing so has helped you.

  4. Zechariah Newman says:

    Great post Matt! Also, Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  5. Jim Woods says:

    One of the best posts I’ve read ALL YEAR LONG. And I read A LOT! GREAT WORK MATT!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Wow, thank you Jim! That means a lot.

  6. Charles Johnston says:

    Wow this one hits home.. many of us carry the burden of unforgiveness. I know I do.. maybe one day I will need to write my own letter…

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      So Charles, I’ll ask the tough question here…why would that day not be today?

      1. Charles Johnston says:

        Ugghh.. had a feeling I set that one up… finding the forgiveness in my heart and knowing that not only I hold the power to forgive because I am forgiven..finding the words and courage to smother the anger can be a long journey…I get closer each day and someday will soon become today.. healing is hard.. one day..

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        I don’t think it works like that…or at least it didn’t for me and it didn’t for everyone who coached me through it.

        Don’t get me wrong…I’m not 100% over the stuff my dad did. There are lingering effects. Much like having the flu. You can be over it, but you still have to deal with the repercussions for a while.

        I think you should write that letter or say those words. With my mom, I did it over the phone live, because she is alive. With my dad, that wasn’t possible.

        You might have to say it 100 times. Or 1000. But I suggest saying it the first time. Today.

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