“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you”. -- Unknown
Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a bitter past. It is the path of redemption where life can move forward from the present moment; where the past fades with memory and we have the internal space to accept the daily ugly imperfections of life.
It is a true forgetting, this forgiveness that frees the victim as deeply as the perpetrator. The relationship is new, starting afresh, without the burden of selective memory.
Forgiveness does not come easily and for many it is an unknown emotion. The most ironical part of forgiving is that one must fully feel the injury and acknowledge it before anything can be forgiven.
This is why so many families never heal. The children don’t have the language and emotional maturity to express themselves.
The parents, often suffering with their own unresolved childhood pains, have little insight into the damage they have done. Not forgiving now means killing the future.
As a practicing Christian, I have been taught that forgiveness is the final form of love. As I struggle to do that, I realize that I haven’t had the heart to love the most broken places in me that are so loudly mirrored every time I can’t really forgive. Forgiveness is an action verb.
As Peter Ustinov wrote, “love is an act of endless forgiveness”. If love is a verb, than forgiveness is the action verb. It is the highest form of love and the single behavior that most distinguishes our human potential.
Before Christ was born, Marcus Aurelius said “our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us”.
Looking at the emotional events at Amahoro stadium a few evenings ago, the Middle East kept running through my mind. Anyone you would ask, on any street on either side, would tell you that they want the shooting, the bombing, the killing to end, and yet probably each and every one would also tell you why it must continue... for the cousin, the brother, the lover, the parent or the child who was maimed, butchered , forever injured.
Every person living in that region has a story to be forgiven and a heart so heavy with grief that the courage to open to the pain and loss is often more than they can bear.
Recently I was reading somewhere that forgiveness is an act of the imagination. It embraces like the child’s heart which is always ready to risk for a better moment and give up the hurt of the last one.
Forgiveness is an innocent place where your hurt and pain does not have the final word. Yet there is little wisdom or strength that has more power to transform the world than the courage to bear witness to your pain and let go of it.
To err is human and oh, how human we are. Yet to forgive in this process is divine and the only way to stay together. I think that forgiveness is timelessly important.
Yes, I probably don’t truly understand the situation of those that are mourning their family and friends who departed in 1994, but to carry the anger, disappointment, bitterness or overall poison for the offending person is simply a way to relive the pain over and over again - which seems pretty pointless and self destructive.
So, am I saying that you should forgive and forget? No! Forgive and remember -all the time.
When you consider the burden of forgiveness, it starts to be easier to understand why so many people choose to hold a grudge. It cannot be forced but it is a way of thinking that has to be chosen. This is not a path that we command; it is one that we must strive to achieve.
In the long run, it’s not a question of whether they deserve to be forgiven. You’re not forgiving them for their sake. You’re doing it for yourself. For your own health and well-being, forgiveness is simply the most energy-efficient option.
It frees you from the incredibly toxic and debilitating drain of holding a grudge. Don’t let these people live rent free in your head. If they hurt you before, why let them keep doing it year after year in your mind? It’s not worth it but it takes an effort to stop it.
You can muster that ‘heart power’ to forgive as a way of looking out for yourself. It’s one thing you can be totally selfish about.
Some are able to release grief far more quickly than others. However long it takes, it is always the re-connection with the power of the heart that moves you past grief.
When the heart is enlivened again, it feels like the sun coming out after weeks of stormy days. Hope in the heart that chases the clouds away. Hope is a higher power and as you begin to reconnect with your own heart, hope is waiting to show you new possibilities and arrest any downward spiral of grief and loneliness.