I was chatting to a friend yesterday about forgiveness. We were talking about people who we felt had wronged us and as we both laughed, kissed our teeth and occasionally admitted to still feeling hurt, I thought about the process of forgiveness.
You will never really know how unforgiving you are until someone does something to you that makes you feel morally superior. It’s a lot easier to forgive the things that we could see ourselves doing.
For example, I’m chronically late. As in, I’ve actually googled whether my lateness, general forgetfulness and my complete lack of any sense of geographical direction is a genuine psychiatric condition and not just another one of my many flaws. (I have self diagnosed with a combination of low level dyspraxia and adult ADHD, but my Mum just thinks I’m scatty, despite the fact that dyspraxia and adult ADHD are vastly underdiagnosed.) Needless to say I’m VERY sympathetic to other people who are late, forgetful and easily get lost. Keep me waiting for 30 minutes and I’ll likely be extremely forgiving and warmly accept your apology, if by some freak chance I’m not 30 minutes late myself.
But what about but when someone you care about says unthinkable things about you behind your back? You’d never do that. Or your best friend goes out on a date with the guy you’ve had a crush on since 1973 (and you weren’t even born then)? Or THAT woman at work who also happens to be your boss, promotes the other team member who does half the work, half as well as you do? What about when he breaks your heart into so many little pieces you feel like Frodo from Lord of The Rings, journeying to all four corners of the earth to pick up the pieces? What then? What about the Father who walked out on you and your Mum without looking back? You would never dream of doing that – how do you forgive?
There will be some people that tell you you must forgive in order to move on. They make forgiveness sound like a life changing event that will, at that moment, birth you into a state of enlightenment. But I don’t believe forgiveness is a single act – “You must forgive this person”. No, you must be a forgiving person.
Because sometimes, you forgive and then weeks, months, years down the line, you are reminded of the hurt. And another seed of bitterness crops up. Or the person hurts you again. Or you find out another piece of the puzzle that only adds to the sense of pain and betrayal.
Then you must forgive again. Then the garden must be cultivated and the new crops of bitterness uprooted and daily, we are reaching a state where forgiveness is as natural as taking a second breath. Where the recognition of our own failure and flaws lends us a continual atmosphere of humility that recognises that at our worst, in our most unforgivable state, the love of God surrounds us and calls us back into relationship with Him. And that love and light can give us the power to extend grace to others.
So today, I am allowing myself the honesty that my process of forgiveness is not over. The honesty that this day, I am at peace with others, but tomorrow that peace may become unsettled.I am learning to dig into the source of forgiveness each time I become unsteady, and grounding myself in the knowledge that I will always be a student in the school of forgiveness. And I am slowly getting better at it.
“We are not forgiven because we forgive, but as we forgive. The ground of all forgiveness is found in the unmerited love of God, but by our attitude toward others we show whether we have made that love our own.” – Ellen White
Who do you need to forgive?