I was fired from my first youth ministry position.
Now, if you were a member of that church and you just read that sentence and you thought, "I thought you resigned," you would not be alone. Back in those days, when the leadership wanted a pastor to be gone, they allowed the pastor to tender a resignation. This allowed the departing pastor to avoid the stigma of Being Fired.
I survived the trauma, obviously, and went on to serve at three other churches before putting lock-ins permanently in my past.
The thing is, the one elder who was most responsible for my departure from that first ministry position stuck in my mind. Any time I heard a sermon or lesson about our need to forgive one another, my thoughts turned to him. It even got to the point where I couldn't enjoy the sitcom, Head of the Class, because one of the actors looked a lot like that one elder.
I finally realized that I was harboring a grudge against him and that I needed to heed the words of Jesus in Mark 11:25, "When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
I needed to forgive the man or I would be carrying around a burden of bitterness the rest of my life.
So, I wrote him a letter that explained how I felt he had personally undermined my work with the youth and manipulated the board of elders into getting rid of me. But I also said that I believed he thought he was doing what was best for the church and that I was no longer going to harbor any ill will toward him.
His response acknowledged that he had received my letter and that he had heard I was doing well at my new church. There were no words of apology or regret...and that was just fine with me.
Truth is...once you've forgiven someone, they no longer hold any power over your personal peace or sense of worth.