Noble Beauty

Noble Beauty

The Refreshing Radiance of a Forgiving Woman

by Leslie Ludy | March 1, 2012

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one

another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

– Ephesians 4:32

A couple of years before I was married, my brothers and I began visiting a local nursing home. I’ll never forget my very favorite resident there. Her name was Dolly. Dolly was eighty-seven years old, and she was beautiful. Nearly blind and in frail health, she was confined to the nursing home and spent most of her days sitting in a wheelchair, knitting scarves for her great-grandchildren or playing checkers with the nurses. Every week, my brothers and I would knock on Dolly’s door and she would light up with a genuine smile. “It’s so wonderful to see you!” she would exclaim, and joyfully hold out her hands in welcome. Though Dolly’s body was wasting away, her mind was sharp. She was funny and witty, and loved to be told good jokes or interesting trivia. Dolly enjoyed talking about God, and especially loved to hear my brothers and me sing worship songs. She was by far our favorite occupant in the nursing home, and we lingered in her room longer than any other. Her joy was contagious. She had sparkling eyes, silky white hair, and rosy cheeks. It was clear that Dolly had lived a rich, full life, and that she did not have many, if any, regrets about her life. I think that was what made Dolly stand out so dramatically from the rest of the nursing home residents.

So many of the older men and women we encountered seemed to be wallowing in regret, heartache, and bitterness. One woman, named Simone, had once been a fashion model. On her dresser was a framed “glamour shot” of herself from younger days, beautiful and seductive. But now, in her old age, there was nothing left of her beauty. She was hardened and bitter. Every time we talked with her, she was complaining, griping, or criticizing. It was clear that her life had been quite a disappointment, and that for all the favor and beauty she used to posses, it did not provide lasting happiness.

Dolly had settled all her accounts; there was no one in her past whom she was bitter toward, and she enjoyed the last years of her life to their fullest. Simone, on the other hand, carried many painful wounds that had never been healed. She was angry and resentful toward just about everyone, from her son who had placed her in the nursing home, to her husband who had died five years ago, to the nurse who forgot to bring her the right blanket.

It was stunning to see the difference in beauty between the two women. Dolly glowed with life and radiance, while Simone, the former model, wasted away in bitterness and ugliness. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

Not only is being gracious and forgiving the pattern of the Gospel, it’s a crucial element to true feminine beauty; the kind of beauty that will last long after physical allure has faded. Bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness can turn even the most physically beautiful woman into a hard, cold, undesirable, unattractive female. But by the same token, graciousness, forgiveness, and guilelessness can transform a physically plain woman into a radiant princess. Just think about women you’ve met who are seething with anger and bitterness. Are they pretty and ladylike, or rigid and ugly? God’s Word says, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman” (Prov. 21:19 KJV). An angry, bitter, unforgiving woman is one of the most undesirable kinds of people in the world.

When someone offends us, our feminine tendency is to pout, sulk, and act moody and sullen in order to send the message that they’ve really messed up, or to say critical and cutting things about them to others. For some reason, our flesh convinces us that being bitter toward those who hurt us is our God-given right. But the opposite is true. Christ spoke in no uncertain terms about the necessity of forgiving (see Matt. 18:21-35).

Forgiveness is an essential part of the Christ-life. It’s not optional. We cannot have a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ if we hold resentment and bitterness in our hearts. In fact, Christ goes as far as to say we will not receive forgiveness from our Heavenly Father if we do not forgive those who have wronged us (see Matt. 6:15).

To be a gracious, forgiving woman is not easy. In fact, it’s not even possible without the supernatural, enabling power of God’s Spirit. But our Lord promises to give us all things that we need for life and godliness (see 2 Peter 1:3), and that includes the power to forgive.

Forgiveness is not primarily a matter of feeling, but a matter of choice; a decision to obey. When we simply say, “Lord, I choose to let this go, and give this offense to You instead of carrying it,” God supplies the willingness, the love, and the compassion needed to practically live it out. When it comes to a decision of whether or not to forgive, we must remember that we ourselves have been forgiven and delivered from an eternity in hell. We did not deserve Christ’s unconditional love, but He gave it anyway. And He asks us to do the same in return – to forgive even those who are undeserving.

Here are some practical ways to put this nobility into practice, starting today:

Keep Your Accounts Short

Someone once said that your humility can be measured by how quickly you admit you are wrong. Though it is uncomfortable and damaging to your pride, if you ask forgiveness from someone the moment you realize you have wronged them, you keep accounts short, rather than allowing a case to be built up against you. You honor the other person by showing that your relationship with them is even more valuable than your pride.

Similarly, the moment you recognize that someone has hurt you, immediately stop, pray, and give the offense back to God. The more you mull over it, think about it, and go over the scene in your mind, the more it has opportunity to take root within your soul and plant deep seeds of bitterness. But if you are quick to forgive, you keep your heart and conscience clean before God. Even if the other person never comes to you and asks your forgiveness, remember that forgiveness is first and foremost an issue between you and God. It is not your job to force someone to a place of repentance. That is between them and God. Your only job is to love them as Christ loves you, and to demonstrate His noble love no matter how they act in return.

Even after seventeen years of marriage, Eric and I don’t carry around bitterness and resentment toward each other for past hurts. This isn’t because we never hurt each other – far from it. Rather, our marriage slate is kept clean because we deal with issues as soon as they arise. It’s a conflict habit we developed when we were first married, and it has made an incredible difference in our relationship. Never once have we gone to bed angry with each other – even if it meant we had to stay up all night talking it out and making things right. We kill the seeds of bitterness before they have a chance to grow. We wake up each morning knowing that things are right between us.

Give a Gentle Answer

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When someone speaks rudely or says something insensitive to us, the way we respond is critical. There might not be anything more challenging to our flesh than to live out this principle of selflessness, unconditional love, and forgiveness; to bite our tongue when a harsh reply wants to burst out, and instead take a deep breath and pray for the other person. To exude the nature of Christ in the face of rudeness, insensitivity, or cruelty is a supernatural ability that His Spirit gives, not something that we can muster up in our own strength.

A woman who has been transformed by the selfless love of Christ is not easily angered. She does not fly off the handle. She is not a slave to tumultuous emotions. She is not concerned with protecting her right to be treated a certain way. She is far more interested in the eternal souls of those around her than in her own feelings.

As women, we’ve often been trained to believe that we are slaves to our emotions; that we can’t help it when our feelings overcome us, controlling what we say and how we act. But contrary to popular belief, outbursts of anger, tears of self-pity, overwhelming feelings of hurt, and even hormonal ups and downs, can all be conquered by God’s Spirit overtaking our inner being. His love and life is far more powerful than our most intense emotions. And we are not to be controlled by anything but His Spirit.

One of the things that helps me most when it comes to giving a gentle answer is to remember stories of persecuted Christians throughout the ages. Betsy ten Boom was able to see her vicious, murderous prison guards with eyes of compassion instead of hate. Sabina Wurmbrand was able to sincerely love the pastor whose betrayal of her husband caused him years of torture and imprisonment. Elisabeth Elliot was able to forgive and serve her husband’s killers. Vibia Perpetua was able to intercede for the salvation of those who tortured her, humiliated her, and took her life. If these women could receive grace and strength to love even the cruelest of men, can we not trust God for the power to overlook the much smaller offenses we encounter every day?

Give Bitterness to God

Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking carefully . . . lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Whenever we have been deeply wounded, we often feel it is our right to cling to those offenses, to nurse anger and bitterness in our hearts toward the guilty person; to see them as a monstrous enemy rather than a person to love and show mercy to. But when we allow a root of bitterness to grow within our hearts, as Hebrews says, our inner life becomes distorted and defiled. It’s impossible to showcase the beauty of Jesus Christ when we are hosting resentment in our hearts. We must let go of our bitterness before it destroys us.

Do not allow the enemy to gain even more victory from a wound by making room in your heart for bitterness. Take your pain and hurt to Jesus. Lay it at the foot of His cross. Just as Corrie ten Boom took the hand of her sister’s killer, in a step of sheer obedience to God, take that first step of letting go of the offense. Trust God to supply the love, mercy, compassion, and grace needed to walk in true forgiveness from this point forward. Sometimes the old feelings might try to creep back in. But when they do, simply call on the name of Jesus and ask Him to cleanse them away from your heart, as far away as the east is from the west. It’s a prayer He is always faithful to answer.

Life is too short to spend it wallowing in bitterness. Even if there are people in your life who seem impossible to forgive, remember that you do not need to accomplish this in your own strength. Everything you need to find complete freedom from resentment, and sincere love for those who have hurt you, can be found at the foot of the cross.

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A woman with noble beauty is gracious and forgiving, tender-hearted and compassionate, and does not keep record of wrongs. If you feel far from such an attitude, ask God to transform you from the inside out. Remember how much He has forgiven you, and ask Him for the grace to show the same mercy toward others. When you habitually forgive and love instead of resent and hold grudges, you’ll glow with a softness and feminine grace that cannot be manufactured any other way.*

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