Monday, June 14, 2021

What Forgiveness Really Is

I had a big issue with forgiveness, mainly because of the phrase 'forgive and forget.' Was I supposed to forget everything that was done to me by this person and just let them hurt me repeatedly? If that was forgiveness, then I wanted none of it!

Years ago, I met a woman at a writers' conference that changed my perspective on forgiveness. I can't tell you exactly what she said (my memory fails me), but the heart of the lesson went deep into my soul. I was so angry at someone that it was blackening the spirit within me, and this womans' words made me decide it was time to forgive.

I'm not going to lie. I cried—a lot. The person I needed to forgive was toxic. They were mentally abusive. They tore holes in my heart with every guilt-ridden, angry word spoken. But I needed to forgive them; otherwise, I'd never grow in God's love.

So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is letting go of your anger towards the person you need to forgive. You try to see the heart behind the behavior and find compassion for them. You try to understand why they act the way they do and give your anger to God- He'll be happy to take it off your hands.

Does that mean you forget everything they did? Absolutely not! Once the anger is gone, you need to decide for yourself if you want to reconcile with this person or not. Even if they are your best friend. Even if they are family. Even if they are your spouse.

Reconciliation is not forgiveness. Reconciliation means you decide if and how often this person is going to be in your life. 

You also don't forget what has happened. Letting go of the anger blunts the pain of the memory, but you don't let go of the memory itself. Our brains won't let us.

Forgive, yes. Forget? No. You learn best from past experiences, and sometimes the best thing is to let those people go.

Even if they were your best friend, family, or spouse.

But what if, once you forgive them, you're unable to let them go entirely? Most times, you can. Best friends aren't 'best' friends if they're constantly causing you grief. Spouses can be divorced. You can distance yourself from family members- even toxic ones. It stinks, but the truth of the matter is, forgiveness doesn't make you a doormat. Instead, forgiveness means you move forward over the bridge to a more peaceful life. 

Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay 

You get to decide who goes over that bridge with you.

I forgave several people. Most wanted reconciliation, and one didn't. 

The person that didn't forgive me was indignant because I forgave them. How dare I forgive them when I was the one clearly in the wrong? So I gently asked for their forgiveness again, and they refused. 

I moved on. Guess which one of us had a lighter heart afterward?  

Want to know something else? One person I reconciled with was toxic. But I had to have a relationship with them. They were close family, and I was all they had at the time. So I distanced myself, did what I could for them with love, and refused to get into any toxic arguments. 

That person passed away a few years later, and I'm so glad I forgave them. I'm so glad I had that conversation with my writer friend. I never realized how burdened my heart was until I released all that negativity through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is remembering without hatred.

Free your heart of anger, hate, and fear. Forgive that person. Even if that person has passed on, you can still forgive them- and yourself- and move forward with a happier heart. 

Talk with the person you want to forgive. If that isn't possible (even dangerous), God understands. So tell God that you forgive them. And if you're the one that needs forgiving, go to the person and ask for forgiveness. 

Your spirit will thank you for it.