“I forgive you.”
What exactly does that mean anyway? Does that mean that I think it is “ok” that you did whatever you did to hurt me?
I’ve been wondering. I’ve been wondering for a very long time. I have drawn some conclusions. After I drew my conclusions, I did some research. Of course, I have a tendency to do things backward—in case you haven’t noticed.
At first, I really thought forgiving someone was about understanding the how’s and why’s behind whatever it was they did. I thought after forgiveness occurred, then the relationship automatically resumed with an “all clear and all forgotten” clause. I thought forgiveness was a free pass to the offender for what they had done. I thought it meant, “You were not responsible for the hurt you inflicted upon me.”
These misconceptions kept me away from even an inkling of forgiveness for a very long time.
In my personal journey, I’ve discovered that not one of those thoughts hold truth.
As a matter of fact, forgiveness has little to do with the person that hurt you but much to do with yourself or the person who was hurt.
I also thought that forgiveness was a onetime thing. I forgive you for…whatever. Done. But, it isn’t! Forgiveness is an ongoing laborious process that involves a lot of work from the person who is planning to forgive someone. It can also involve a lot of work from the person who committed the offense but not necessarily.
See, the other person may never feel that they have done anything wrong to you. Or, they may know they did something to you but could not care less. Maybe they believe you deserved what happened. Maybe they felt justified in their actions. Maybe they are just a jerk.
The offender’s participation in forgiveness is actually dependent on their relationship with you (if any) and their cognizance of what happened.
Let’s say Jack cut off your right arm. He did it on purpose. He’s not sorry. And, here you are..stuck with one arm. Having only one arm has affected you since it happened. It has completely changed how you function in life. You have to eat and write with your left hand. You had to give up your dream of ever becoming an Olympic swimmer. It affected how others reacted to you. That one event that took maybe an hour or so to occur effectively shaped your future.
Needless to say, you are mad at Jack. And, I don’t blame you. But, you go for years and years being mad at Jack. You curse him under your breath each time you unconsciously try to do something with your right arm that is no longer there. Then, you realize, you have given this one hour with Jack not only power over your body but your mind, your emotions and your life!
What has to happen to stop in order to stop this is you have to forgive Jack. But, how do you let him know that you are over it and ready to move on. Jack doesn’t care. He lives in Zimbabwe now with his new wife and probably wouldn’t even recognize you if you passed him on the street.
Then, you realize, how fair is that? Jack walks around unaffected and you are influenced by this every dang day! How is it that happens? You didn’t do anything to deserve your arm getting lopped off? Why can’t you move forward?
Here’s where the power switch comes in. The ability (or power) to move forward lies entirely in your hands (or hand, if you were the victim of Jack). This person who hurt you holds all the power only while you allow them too. They continue to affect your life only for the duration that you dictate. Once you realize that, you have just crossed the first threshold to moving on.
Moving on is hard, though. It involves change. You are used to being mad at Jack and blaming him for absolutely everything that has happened to you since he cut off your arm. But, in doing so, you are relinquishing your own power in the situation and giving it all to him. So, stop that already.
You don’t even have to let Jack know you forgive him. Let him go about his life in Zimbabwe and you just keep on keeping on like nothing ever happened. Forgiveness is for you.
And, you might have to forgive for the same situation more than once. Feelings of resentment, anger and the like are just like any habit. It takes practice, diligence and motivation to kick them. So, you might be fine for a day or so and then one day go to scratch your nose with your right arm and get mad all over again.
That’s ok. You are human and we have tendency to backslide. Just start over. Forgive again. Keep moving forward and the stumbles will occur less and less. Plus, you’ll be carrying a lot less baggage. Your overall life quality will improve. You will feel lighter and freer---because you WILL BE lighter and freer. That will motivate you to put it behind you even more.
I ran across a quote while researching this topic. There were several quotes and many of them came from the Bible which speaks a great deal on forgiveness and its importance. This particular quote, however, was from the Mahabharata.
"There is one only defect in forgiving persons and not another; that defect is that people take a forgiving person to be weak. That defect, however, should not be taken into consideration, for forgiveness is a great power. Forgiveness is a virtue of the weak and an ornament of the strong. Forgiveness subdues all in this world; what is there that forgiveness cannot achieve? What can a wicked person do unto him who carries the sabre of forgiveness in his hand? Fire falling on the grassless ground is extinguished of itself. "
From this I came to the understanding that forgiveness says, “You cannot hurt me unless I allow it. I no longer allow it. This makes me the strong one who is free to go forward in my life.”
The definition I found for forgiveness says, “it is the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as the result of a perceived offence, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing demand, punishment or restitution.”
It is the act of you letting go. It is the act of you giving yourself permission to move forward with your life. It is the act of you letting this void created by the previous pain to become filled with whatever you choose. Life no longer has to be dictated to you from this hurt. It is about you and healing. It may be scary. But, be hopeful because you are brave and strong. This is obvious or would not be reading this. Now, would you?