The topic of forgiveness has been brought to my attention several times within the past couple of weeks. It seems everyone is talking about what it is, how to do it or quickly give it but very few people talk about what makes it so hard. Of course, fear is one of the things that makes forgiveness hard, the fear of this thing happening again or worse yet, the fear that your extension of forgiveness means that what was done to you was ok. While those concerns are significant, I think addressing them can be made simple. After offering forgiveness we can still be clear and diligent about doing our best to ensure that the offencce(s) aren’t repeated because it’s not ok! But here is the part that most people don’t talk about, the part we fear the most… before we can truly offer forgiveness, the hard work of recognizing what we are forgiving must be done. This is the hardest part!
If forgiveness is the mapped out path toward healing, then recognizing the impact of the offence(s) is our big red “you are here” sign. My wonderful advice is, look beyond the offensive action and consider how you’ve been impacted. This is where you ask yourself, What was the worst part about this experience? What did I lose? What was taken from me? What was so disappointing or hurtful about this thing? How has my life been changed? Doesn’t that sound like something you want to run towards??? Not at all. In fact, most of us run in the opposite direction. Some of us even throw out a quick, “I forgive you” as we take off. Before you race off in the direction that looks better and brighter, let’s consider the benefit of asking ourselves these kinds of questions.
Several years ago, I made an attempt to address several concerns with someone that I looked up to. I hoped that my well articulated and impassioned concern would be met with agreement and understanding or at the very least, consideration. Instead, it was met with disdain and was dismissed. I moved on. I worked through the anger, the bitterness and thought that I had forgiven, until I really considered how deeply disappointed I was. I once thought that ALL leaders in the community, particularly the religious community, would jump at the chance to right wrongs, take responsibility and care for those most in need. I was disappointed to learn that this was not the mission of every leader. After facing my disappointment, the worst part actually turned out to be the best part; the shattering of the image I once held made way for a more accurate view of people and leaders in particular. It also gave me a clear sense of the kind of person I wanted to be. The fact that my passion for people survived this experience affirmed that I have what it takes to offer the understanding and compassionate support that I believe people need. It took years to get here, but I am glad that I couldn’t and didn’t just give that forgiveness away. The process took me beyond the hurt and equipped me with what I needed for the next steps of the journey.
The truth is, you matter. What happened was significant. Take the time to really heal so that the journey forward can be one of strength and wholeness. It may come in phases and may take time, but whether you ask these questions in the privacy of your home or in the safety of a friend or counselor, when it comes to significant hurts, don’t miss out on the process of forgiveness by simply giving it away.
Take care and have a great day!