On Forgiveness

Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and/or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.”  Wikipedia

I am a person who when interested in something pursues it with obsessive fascination.  I like black and white, facts, statistics, conclusions. I do not like the abstract, vague, undefined. Little in life, however, is black and white.

One of my readers asked me to write about forgiveness. My first thought is I have little expertise to discuss forgiveness. From an ecumenical standpoint; from any standpoint. I don’t know if I understand forgiveness. I am not qualified to discuss it.  So I set about researching it that I might comment with some degree of credibility. Even now, I am still very unqualified to render anything meaningful other than how I am personally processing it.  Rightly or wrongly.

I forgave my husband everything while he was alive. Although he never once apologized for anything. Never once said he was sorry. Never once seemed at all remorseful at the hurt he inflicted by his words, his actions and inactions. He was always adamant that whatever he did I was the cause, reason, or motivation; and later adding the children into the blame mix. Even so, my forgiveness wasn’t incumbent upon his repentance. It seemed a given at the time. I viewed his actions as just that, his actions. Forgiveness was not something I gave him. It was something that I needed to bridge a gulf between us.

In retrospect all those times may have had an enabling effect because he had little consequence to his actions.  It allowed him to continue his mistreatment of me and the children. I failed to grasp that despite my forgiveness the damage still remained, accumlating over time with his escalating abuse. It allowed me to continue in an unhealthy relationship that the gulf, unbridged and full of anger, resentment and indignation, might have prompted me to leave sooner.

Now that he is gone it is though it is unraveling; I am decompressing and it all seems so new and raw some days. Perhaps now it is finally safe to allow myself to feel?  I move from forgiving one day, to angry and unforgiving the next. I can only conclude that forgiveness is not static. Not final. Not a one time and it’s done. I leave the pain behind, and then it seems to be in front of me again. Forgiveness ebbs and flows. It is here, it is gone again. It seems quite slippery. Just when I think I have a firm grip, I open up to find it missing. Maybe this is why Jesus suggests we forgive not seven, but seventy-seven times.

It seems easier to forgive the man whose final acts were shooting me, threatening his children, taking his own life. Whereas I struggle and find my own forgiveness most difficult. Forgiving myself for allowing him to treat us the way he did, for emotionally checking out of the turmoil, in turn losing myself; for losing hope and staying, fully aware our lives and well being were being whittled away daily. It is that acceptance of so many mistakes and lapses in judgement – it is that forgiveness which is most challenging to me and makes me question my progress towards being healthy.

For today I have to trust time and patience will quell my internal struggle with forgiveness.  On this uncharted course, for today, I need to just be where I am.

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

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2 Responses to On Forgiveness

  1. Lynne says:

    “I need to just be where I am”. Yes, being in the present moment is the best – the past and all of its attachments only cause pain – the future does not exist – only in the mind.

    “Fully aware our lives and well being were being whittled away daily”. I believe this full awareness came only after a moment of awakening from unconsciousness to being conscious. I remember in the days after when I came to see you at the hospital. I will never forget your eyes. They were wide open and deep – sharp and clear- and completely receiving. You were reborn.

    If you can fit it in somehow, someway. I really and truly feel that if you read some Eckhardt Tolle books or watch some his DVDs you will really benefit from it and move out of that quagmire. It talks about mind and ego and how thinking dominates our true essence and keeps us suffering. The truth is our true essence (which you may have come in acquaintance with when you still your mind and focus on your breath or just moments in between your thinking. It is pure and good and the Divine within us. It is really the only thing that matters in the large scheme of things – we and our troubles (mind/ego, our stories (mind/ego) are just a little blip in the universe and really won’t matter much in the end of our material world. When we know this truth within us – the fiction and egos and stories around us don’t have the effect they used to.

  2. Dar says:

    I like learning about healthy boundaries — what they are, what they look like, how they function in our lives.

    Love without boundaries (i.e., “forsaking all others”) is not a healthy love. Likewise, I think forgiveness without boundaries is not healthy for us either. It helps to know what forgiveness IS, and what it is NOT (i.e., excusing, tolerating, condoning, etc.).

    Forgiveness is, indeed, a process. But forgiveness is not forgetting and acting as if it never happened. And it’s good to know that I don’t have to allow a person back into my life even though I’ve forgiven them. If they are not good for my soul, then I can wish them well and maintain my boundaries, and no longer be a “doormat” to them. They can be forgiven, but still not worthy of my trust.

    A good book on this that I would heartily recommend is: Forgive & Forget — Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve by Lewis B. Smedes.

    Good books on boundaries and safe people have been for me by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend:Boundaries, Boundaries in Dating, Boundaries in Marriage, Safe People

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