Finding a Cure in Forgiveness

MCLEAN, Va. – Cancer patients, former cancer patients, and Christians seeking to learn how to forgive gathered Monday at a megachurch in the D.C. metro area to hear of the healing effects of forgiveness on Christians, cancer patients, and hurting people alike.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Barry, director of pastoral care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Eastern Regional Medical Center, shared with Christian attendees at McLean Bible Church not only the health benefits of forgiveness, but the necessity of forgiveness for ones who claim to be followers of Christ.

“All I’m saying is that we are called to engage in godliness; and what is more godly than forgiving?” said Barry, who specializes in the connection between spirituality and health.

The former pastor of a Chicago church defines forgiveness as taking all the negative emotions and replacing them with positive emotions. He recognizes that forgiveness is not the same as forgetting.

“When you go through the forgiveness process – I can promise you if you humbly attend to the process of forgiveness – God will honor your faithful attempt and pull the pain out of your memory,” said Barry. “You will always remember what happens; you will never forget the angry words or situation - that is just how our memory is created. But it doesn’t have to be a painful one. You can look back at the memory of the past with very different lenses.”

Monday’s Forgiveness Seminar discussed how not forgiving and holding onto anger lead to higher blood pressure, psychological problems, and a decrease in the immune system’s ability to fight illnesses, which Barry describes as “an accident waiting to happen.”

Barry, who has dedicated his life to providing spiritual guidance for patients battling advanced stage cancers, explained the art of forgiveness through a three-step method: “Contemplation-Action-Reinforcement.”

Contemplation phase occurs when a person considers whether or not to give a fair trial to the accused person. Barry compares the Contemplation phase to a crime scene where a person judges if there is enough evidence to lay blame on someone.

The Action phase involves several step including identifying clearly what happened and particularly what caused the problem. The second step of the Action phase is “truth-seeking” or fact-gathering where involved parties are invited to discuss their situation in order to gain a more objective view.

“Prayer is a key component to forgiveness,” explained the pastoral care director. “We have people ponder the Scriptures on forgiveness and ask God to reveal to them the truth that will set them free from their pain.”

Lastly, the Action phase invites people to "give the gift of forgiveness" to the wrongdoer, even though it may be undeserved and write a declaration of forgiveness.

The third stage, Reinforcement, consists of reflecting on what has been learned during the first two phases as a reminder that the pain that may sporadically appear does not mean that they haven’t been forgiven “but rather the residue of pain that our defense mechanism triggers when we remember certain people or events.”

Barry used the analogy of a brick and the Great Wall of China to explain sin and forgiveness. He said if each of his sins was a brick then it would be the size of the Great Wall of China. The forgiveness counselor asked the audience if God can forgive their sins the size of the Great Wall of China, if they can find it in their hearts to forgive a person a bricks-worth.

“If we are saved, we are saved by grace. What is grace? Grace is God showering His blessing upon you, His blood shed for you and what does He expect you to do in light of all He has done for you? Forgive!” said Barry.

“What would the world be like if it was more forgiving? What would my life be like if, when I was years younger, I had heard the seminar tonight? How different my life might have been,” concluded Barry.

To contact Dr. Barry email: michael.barry@ctca-hope.com