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Saturday, July 30, 2005
The Art of Forgiveness
Have you ever harboured anger so tightly, so covertly, that you felt singed by its intensity? Where each flame of anger remains seared on your heart? You hold onto the anger, unwilling to release it, as it is often the only fragment you have left to prove your case. In our society, we are often told to “Forgive and Forget”. Outwardly, we may agree. Anger and hurt feelings are pushed aside, so that we may “get passed it” and “move on”. Often the offending party needs only to say they are sorry, and forgiveness is expected. Leaving the ball in your court. If you haven’t forgiven them, that is again your fault. After all, they apologized.

In our lives, we have all needed to forgive someone. Shouts of hate, demeaning comments, acts of violence, acts of indifference. We have all sought forgiveness. The friend you betrayed, the word spoken in anger, the lie you told. When you realize that you are wrong, you apologize. Must you spend the remainder of your days continuing to apologize and seek absolution? After all, you said you were sorry.

I believe we can find a middle ground.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” It takes a great and courageous heart to forgive someone. To give them another chance at your friendship and love. Yet it is not for them that you must forgive. It is for you. To hold onto your anger shackles and binds your spirit. So much energy is spent on feeding the fire of resentment, that there is little left for yourself. Gradually, like the oxygen in a room of fire, your energy is consumed. It takes strength of spirit to douse the flames.

To forget, however, is entirely different. Shall we forget the smallest offence? How could we forget the largest? The answer is that we should not. It would be obtuse to simply put the offence out of our mind forever and blindly return to life. I once worked with a woman whom I considered a friend. As we got to know each other, we shared lunches, coffee breaks, and each other’s lives. One afternoon, when our department had been under a great deal of stress, she discovered a mistake I had made on a relatively unimportant document. Her reaction was to snap and bark at me. Coated with sarcasm and disdain, she questioned my work ethic and waved the paper in my face. I looked her in the eye, smiled, and offered to fix the mistake. I thanked her for catching it and bringing it to my attention. After all, I would hate to repeat the mistake. She declined and strode back to her desk, taken aback by my refusal to either defend myself, or fall on my knees in an attempt to seek forgiveness. Was I offended? Definitely, I had caught several of her mistakes in the past, and not once had I insinuated intent on her part to commit them. Did I forgive her? By the end of the day. Did I forget? No. I learned from it. She did not handle pressure well. She could get “nasty” with friends. She felt that the mistake had been above her level of competence, therefore, she did not have a good grasp on the work she was really producing. In her mind, at that moment, I was fallible and she was not. We continue our friendship to this day; she did not apologize. An apology is not a factor in whether or not you forgive someone. It is a factor only in determining how the relationship will progress and grow from that moment on.

“To understand is to forgive, even oneself.” Alexander Chase. When you understand the reasons behind why someone acts the way they do, you are on the path to forgiving them. This includes the person you see each morning in the mirror. Know your faults and spend time understanding them. Do not hold them against yourself! Just know them, do not forget them. An addict cannot simply forget what it is they are addicted to. They must remember.

You must remember what your faults and flaws are. Back in the file in your mind, remember what they are. And each morning, tell yourself that they are forgiven. Go ask for a pardon for the wrongs you commit and while you seek forgiveness, remember to forgive yourself.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

St. Francis of Assisi
  The Writing Mother
  posted at 9:04 AM

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

{I'm hoping I followed the right link from Faster Than Kudzu... and I'm sorry this doesn't have anything to do with your post} Joshilyn's interview is at 5pm Mountain STANDARD time. 6pm if you're somewhere that does Daylight Savings Time. When I was in Arizona for a conference last May, I just finally decided to think of it as being in the Pacific time zone so my brain didn't explode (I've never lived somewhere that didn't do DST).

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this post to be so enlightening, refreshing, & true. I've been put in that awkward position of apologizing to people before, and no matter how much I meant it or how often I said it or how sincere I was, they still didn't forgive me.

Your perspective on this is very wise. Saying "I'm sorry" a trillion times doesn't work with some folks, they only get madder & more contemptuous. It takes a truly mature, big-hearted person to forgive. I don't believe in "forgive & forget"...but I do believe in learning to forgive and moving forward. My ex-boyfriend is one of those people, unfortunately, who does not believe in the concept of forgiveness. He has betrayed my trust in the past by sleeping with other girls & catching gonorrhea. I was hurt and furious at this, but I decided to be the bigger person, forgive him, & let him win back my trust.

Two years later he finds out that I slept with somebody else & he dumps me...but not before playing cruel psychological & emotional games. He says all is forgiven but I see no evidence of this. We were both dishonest, we both cheated, but at least I gave him a chance and forgave him. I accepted what I did wrong and apologized for it, but he still denies having ever cheated on me with another girl. I'm still in love with him, although I realized a lot of his shortcomings that I've been blind to...his marijuana habit, his mom not liking me because I'm white, his immaturity, his need to blame me for whatever went wrong in our relationship without ever accepting his own faults, etc.

Forgiveness really does have the power to change a lot of things, though. Even if the other person doesn't accept your apology or (vice versa) if they don't feel they need your forgiveness, at least you've attempted to find closure.


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