I’ve been thinking long and hard about forgiveness lately.
What is it, exactly?
If I forgive then must I also forget? If I forgive then must I also allow unfettered access into my life? If I forgive then do I have to pretend the wounds inflicted by the offense don’t still hurt?
Here’s what I have so far:
- Forgiveness means letting go of the feelings surrounding the offense. It means no longer expecting an apology, restitution, repentance, restoration. It means trusting that whatever work needs to take place in the heart and life of the one who has injured me will have to be done in and through them by the power of God, not by me holding their feet to the fire.
- Forgiveness means extricating my own heart from the bonds of expectation regarding the other person. We start fresh. Clean slate. I lay down my hopes for how that person should/will/might treat me. It’s a way of liberating myself regardless of whether they choose to remain in bondage to bad habits, a bad temper or unfruitful relationships.
- Forgiveness means I have stopped looking to the other person for healing. I must tend my own wounds, work my own field of feelings, deal with my own shortcomings, poor choices and habitual sins. I can no longer use another person’s action or inaction as an excuse for my own delayed healing.
- Forgiveness means that I can and should erect appropriate boundaries. Every relationship is not a mission field. I am not required to lay down my life to enable another person’s bad behavior. If the person I forgive chooses not to change hurtful behavior, then I do not have to give them access to my heart and life. I can be kind, receptive and compassionate but I do not have to hug them close just to make it easier for them to hurt me again.
- Forgiveness means that I don’t use my injury at the hands of that person to malign his or her reputation. If I have released that person from obligation to me through forgiveness, then I must choose to lay down the offense and not mention it to others. (This, to me, is a good test of whether or not I’ve forgiven someone.)
- Forgiveness is an act of my will regardless of the other person’s response to my choice. Love, kindness and forgiveness are in essence the proffered hand. If the person to whom it is extended slaps it away, then it’s on them. I may be ready for a sea change, but the other person may still be resisting
Some people are easy to forgive!
They recognize how their actions or words have wounded my heart and they ask for forgiveness.
Others are much harder!
They either choose to ignore or are unable to see that they have hurt me.
But I am called to forgive regardless because I have been forgiven.