Exploring Forgiveness (3 part series)
This is part two of a three-part series about forgiveness. This article will explore what is possible when we forgive in an authentic way. And why it’s an important choice to consider. Join me on my “journey” through forgiveness.
Part 2 (freedom and heroes)
In my previous article (HERE), I shared some examples of situations where I had a difficult time finding ANY reason to forgive. If I can’t find any logical reason that someone deserves forgiveness, why forgive?
FOR OURSELVES! I would shamelessly argue this is one of the primary healthy motivators for us to consider choosing a life of forgiveness. Each of us has a capacity to carry a limited amount of emotions in our hearts. You can carry happiness, love, vengeance, anger, resentment and many other variations of those emotions. It is quite natural for us to have feelings of anger and prioritize this emotion when we have been hurt. Unfortunately, this can get in the way of emotions that would make us much happier. It’s up to you what kind of emotions you will choose to carry in your heart each day.
If your capacity to “feel” is being occupied with seeking “justice” from people who have hurt or offended you, this doesn’t leave much room for more enjoyable emotions like love, joy happiness. Also, it becomes quite difficult to heal from a wound when you continue to carry the blade of justice. It’s possible to carry both positive and negative emotions toward someone at the same moment. This balancing act is tiresome and can create resentment. Good emotions that we previously had towards another are slowly eaten away by unforgiveness. The wound will become infected if left untreated. Eventually, it will lead to the death of trust and warmth in that relationship.
*NOTE There is a large difference between “forgiving” someone and being reconciled to them. There is also a huge difference between forgiveness and minimizing the offense. See the paragraph at the end of the article for a short explanation.
When we forgive others we release them from their “debts”. Justice becomes 2nd to grace. In certain cases, the guilty individual who became cold, unkind, distant or depressed can be freed from these things when we choose forgiveness. There is not always a Hollywood ending when you tell someone you forgive them. Sometimes it reignites a conflict that the offender was hoping to forget, never to be confronted with it again. Of course, when we tell someone we forgive them for specific offenses, it indirectly implies they have done something wrong. For these situations, being forgiven feels the same as admitting guilt. When we are offered forgiveness, our pride is on the front lines as a defense. Pride becomes one of the first casualties when we accept forgiveness.
Did you ever notice when we watch movies or read stories the person we find ourselves really intrigued with and attracted to is the one who faced some large challenge but managed to rise above it? Usually, this is through some amazing virtue or character trait. Courage, honesty (when it really counted) humility or graciousness are all character traits (virtues) we can have built in ourselves.
There is an old saying that asks “When is a thief, not a thief”? If he stops stealing, is this enough to NOT be a thief? No! Rather, when he has paid back all he had stolen previously and no longer steals. Only then he is NOT a thief. Think of how this applies to forgiveness. Being gracious or forgiving (as a character trait)doesn’t only mean no longer seeking to punish the offender or bring them to justice. No, it means more than that. Choosing to actively express and communicate grace in words and action.
“it becomes quite difficult to heal from a wound while you continue to carry the blade of justice.”
Most faiths advocate for forgiveness in one form or another. In historic Christianity, there is a text where Jesus teaches how much forgiveness should be granted to the same individual. “You should forgive someone 70×7”. An exaggeration to prove a point. If you are wondering if this was meant to imply only people who are sorry for their wrong, probably not. In another verse, Jesus teaches “love your enemies and pray for them”. Enemies are not often apologizing. I defined these teachings as “historic Christianity”. There seems to be a large canyon between this and much of what I see people who call themselves “Christians” following and believing.
There are many positive consequences of making the choice to freely forgive, for both the offended and offender. We also have a choice of what kind of life and legacy we leave. Each person has the freedom to do what they want. Justice may permit us to seek re-payment for our losses. I am not interested in spending a lifetime trying to collect what I may never receive.
I mentioned that there is a large difference between forgiving and reconciling. “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud contains an excellent chapter on forgiveness. And the differences between the two. You can see a short excerpt here.
I will publish one last article about some ways you may decide to put your lifestyle of forgiveness into practice. I’d love to hear what motivates you to forgive. You can leave your comments below.