As  part of their assignment in a social sciences project, a teacher told each of her students to bring a clear plastic bag and a sack of potatoes to class. They were to select one potato for each person they have refused to forgive, write a name and date on it, and put it in their plastic bag. They were told to carry this bag with them everywhere for one week, putting it beside their bed at night, on the bus or in the car seat when driving, and next to their desk.

Some and of the bags were quite heavy. It was a hassle carrying them around and keeping track of them. What was worse, they began to take on a nasty smell as the days passed. They were constantly on the students’ minds... literally disrupting their peace with feelings of uneasiness, disgust and concern. As others questioned their purpose, the bags became a distracting embarrassment.

Failure to forgive those who have harmed us is like carrying around a smelly, heavy sack of potatoes. We may hang on to it for hours, days, years or perhaps our entire life. As we replay the offense over and over in our minds, bitterness and anger tend to grow within us. As a result, this burden robs our spirit of peace and causes physical harm to our bodies. We may attempt to walk around as though it isn’t there, yet its weight is a constant reminder to us that all is not right with our world.

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” 

– Nelson Mandela

Nevertheless, it can be so very difficult to forgive when the wounds are deep. However, until we forgive we continue to do more harm – again not just to our offenders, but to ourselves as well. So take inventory of those who have hurt you in the past or are continuing to do so. Say a prayer for them, forgive them and release them – just as you would remove each rotten potato from that stinky, burdensome bag. I guarantee you your step and your heart will be a great deal lighter!