We eagerly seek out websites and shops to buy gifts for each other, especially during special occasions. If only we would search our hearts for the gift of forgiveness instead, how different our lives and world would be.
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
– Catherine Ponder
I remember resenting someone so much that seeing that person laugh made me seethe. What right had she got to be happy when I was still suffering from the wrong she did me? I felt like a puppet – any movement she made pulled on my strings and my emotions got jerked around uncontrollably.
In ancient Aramaic, ‘forgiveness’ means to untie or let loose. By giving that person the gift of forgiveness, I untied the puppet strings and was no longer prisoner to someone else’s actions.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
– Lewis B Smedes
How to Forgive?
“True forgiveness is not an action after the fact, it is an attitude with which you enter each moment.”
– David Ridge
The gift of forgiveness is impossible when you are filled with anger and resentment. So I stopped pursuing the “how” of forgiveness, and started work on the “who.” Instead of DOING forgiveness, I worked on BEING a forgiving person. Just as kindness comes more naturally to kind people, forgiveness comes easier to forgiving people.
What kind of person is naturally forgiving? Probably a highly evolved person. Think about Jesus Christ, Buddha, Nelson Mandela, that cheerful old lady down the street. Forgiveness is a big task. Trying to forgive when we’re less evolved is like a sapling bending under the weight of a treehouse. A mature oak will much more easily bear that weight. So we just have to keep at the slow process of growing.
“It is only imperfection that complains of what is imperfect. The more perfect we are, the more gentle and quiet we become towards the defects of others.”
– Joseph Addison
When to forgive?
“I worry about fast forgivers. They tend to forgive quickly in order to avoid their pain. Or they forgive fast in order to gain an advantage over the people they forgive. And their instant forgiving only makes things worse… People who have been wronged badly and wounded deeply should give themselves time and space before they forgive… There is a right moment to forgive.”
– Lewis B Smedes
We feel guilty when we cannot forgive, because forgiveness feels like a moral obligation. If you’re like me, you need lots of space when I’m hurt or angry, and don’t want to see or talk to the other person. I used to feel bad about this, until I learnt to honour my emotional make-up. And I’ve learnt that if the friendship was true, that person will still be there when I’m ready with my gift of forgiveness.
I’ve found that there is usually a crystal clear moment when I know forgiveness is ripe for giving. I might suddenly imagine dying in my sleep that night without telling him I cared; or feel sad because I would love to attend a function with her except that we weren’t talking… At this point I feel a distinct change in the energy between myself and the person from a repelling force to one of attraction.
“You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”
– Lewis B Smedes
Who to Forgive?
“The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbour as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves… are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves… forgive others when we forgive ourselves.”
– Eric Hoffer
As an angst-filled teenager I planned to write an entire book about all those who had wronged me. As a young adult I narrowed it down to just a list of awful people. I now realise that there’s only one person on that list – me.
You see, I didn’t need to forgive that person who publicly called me a bossy person; I needed to forgive myself for not being the sweet demure person I’d like to be but am not. Similarly, I didn’t need to forgive that ex-boyfriend who cheated on me; I needed to forgive myself for poor judgment and not seeing the signs. It was never about them; it was always about me. And once I accepted and forgave myself, there was nothing left to do. I had forgiven them in the same act of forgiving myself.
“With a little time, and a little more insight, we begin to see both ourselves and our enemies in humbler profiles. We are not really as innocent as we felt when we were first hurt. And we usually do not have a gigantic monster to forgive; we have a weak, needy, and somewhat stupid human being. When you see your enemy and yourself in the weakness and silliness of the humanity you share, you will make the miracle of forgiving a little easier.”
– Lewis B Smedes
More gifts of forgiveness
This post was part of a project with other bloggers. Here are the links to the other blogs:
Albert Foong at Urbanmonk.net – Our Innate Innocence – Reflections on Forgiveness
Takuin at Life Beyond The Image – The Wound of Forgiveness