- stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
- cancel (a debt)
Forgiveness is a concept that is easier said than done. I have always struggled with the textbook definitions of forgiveness. To cancel a debt. To stop feeling angry or resentful. These definitions seem so…….definite. Final. And this leads most of us to think, “But what about my pain? My hurt?” The residue remains. Like a sting or a burn, although you are healing, the pain can still dwell underneath the bandage. Often a scar still remains long after you’ve been hurt and serves as a reminder of the pain. The scars and inability to forget are often the ties that bind us; not allowing us to move forward and experience the freedom that forgiveness can bring. Life (and my faith) have taught me that while forgiveness can be difficult, sometimes gut-wrenching, it is necessary and is the key to your peace.
Why Forgiveness Can Be Difficult
I think it has to do with those textbook definitions and how we weigh our offenses and the pain they cause. We all experience different levels of pain from time to time. When you reflect on your own pain, it can seem insurmountable. Sometimes we indeed have tragic offenses to overcome, and sometimes we can make mountains out of molehills. However, one of the hardest realizations is that regardless of the magnitude of the mistake or pain, forgiveness is important.
I’ve always known better. That forgiving was not about the other person or the hurt, but so that I could move forward. Nonetheless, I have a habit of letting my feelings win when I know that my feelings have zero power to move the needle of change. Usually, the other person (or persons) have moved along far better than we have. We find that we are left standing with the baggage and the poison of unforgiveness… continuing to re-injure ourselves for the sake of feeling justified.
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Develop and maintain the capacity. I think that’s where I am. Learning that forgiveness is not always a quick action or choice, but a journey. Often, I have beat myself up for not forgiving fast enough. While this is a goal of mine, because I want to be quick to forgive (as I’d also like the same mercy), in reality, this is not always the case. Sometimes it takes us longer to develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. Sometimes the hurt is so great and the offense is miles deep. However, I always want to keep a heart that works towards forgiveness no matter how heavy the load.
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that
has crushed it. – Mark Twain
I’ve always heard that forgiveness is one of the greatest acts of love. Honestly, while I am sure it may be, I tend to not be able to help myself….thinking of all the reasons why I shouldn’t have to forgive. I mean, after all, I’m the one that was hurt, right? Nonetheless, the more I am on my own journey, the more I realize that forgiveness is not so much about the other person. I used to vehemently reject that truth because it seemed like the person (or persons) won. You hurt me AND I didn’t hold it against you. You’re off scot-free…….NOT. SO. FAST. No, none of us are off scot-free. We may think we are, but Newton’s Law would even tell us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Whether we’re aware of it or not, every act, even the decision to not forgive has a consequence….good or bad….and it’s often bad.
Because forgiveness is like this: a room can be dark because you have closed the windows, you’ve closed the curtains. But the sun is shining outside, and the air is fresh outside. In order to get that fresh air, you have to get up and open the window and draw the curtains apart. -Desmond Tutu
What if forgiveness is not about who wins?
What if the greatest act of love in forgiveness was self love? Loving yourself enough not to be bound by the past and decisions of another?
What if forgiveness was the key to your happiness? Your health? Your freedom? Your…..life?
What if all of the excuses, reasons, and negative thoughts you have about forgiveness are more chains? More weight that is preventing you from having the peace you need and want?
I would suggest that these what-ifs are actually truisms. Things we already know to be true but aren’t always ready to see. I get it. I’m always on a journey to fully realize all of the above. Each time we’re faced with a situation, a circumstance, an uncomfortable place, a traumatic event…..we have a choice. We always have a choice.
When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.
Forgiveness is necessary to our well-being. We may think we are just fine because we’re functional; however, it’s a facade that we just become accustomed to. When you still think of the offense and are riddled with anger, pain, and turmoil, you haven’t reached the shores of forgiveness just yet. If you’re playing the record of pain over and over in your mind, you haven’t reached the shores of forgiveness just yet. If you still envision the person or persons with anguish, you haven’t reached the shores of forgiveness just yet. Guess what? That’s ok. It’s ok to not be at a certain place before you’re ready. The point of the journey is to never stop traveling. Keep traveling. Keep pushing. Keep striving to reach that shore. CHOOSE YOU. Let the greatest act of love be that you loved yourself enough to forgive another. I am striving for success on this journey because I know, I too, am a mess. I have knowingly and unknowingly hurt others. I too, have desired and needed forgiveness from time to time. I am an imperfect human who is constantly allowing myself to be pruned. Growth hurts. Growth is uncomfortable and learning to forgive is part of growth. I think the speed in which we forgive improves over time. Like anything that requires conditioning and constant exercise, forgiveness is not any different. However, speed is not the initial goal. Running the race well is the goal. Speed simply helps you get there at a faster pace. Don’t bemoan your pace, girl. Just run the race as well as you can in the space that you’re in.
Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of the reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. – Anonymous