Things I've Learned About Forgiveness
I was raised by a wonderful man who stepped up in ways most men could never. In fact, had it not been for my biological grandfather, every-other weekend visits and summer vacations in Palm Bay I never would have known about my other dad and family.
The man that helped create me has never been around. One day, decades ago, he up and left and that's the story. Something like that creates baggage in a little girl who steps into the world he left behind and constantly feels like an outsider. The family, his family, that did their best to embrace me could somehow never shake off the big invisible "other" I was branded with.
There came a point where my other-ness became too much. It was sometime in middle school after I hadn't been invited to yet another family event and something in me snapped. In a quiet twist of irony, I cut off ties to the only thing connecting me to the blood in my veins. The truth is, I was tired of being an other in a place I so desperately wanted to belong. So I just stopped.
Recently, I reached out via letter to explain things that the little girl couldn't. And per usual, airing out the truth is more offensive than leaving the skeletons in the closet. The feathers I'd ruffled resulted in a barrage of opinions that I didn't ask for; because when it's someone else's mess to sort out somehow the answers are always clear.
I walked away from a conversation with an uncle about forgiveness more vindicated than I have felt in a long time. Somehow, being forced to defend my position validated it within me. Your forgiveness and healing is custom tailored to the curves of your struggle. It is for you to uncover and define.
Your forgiveness and healing is custom tailored to the curves of your struggle. It is for you to uncover and define.
That encounter forced me to revisit my own journey. Here's what I've learned about forgiveness.
It is a calling
Forgiveness is a calling in two ways.
Sometimes it will take a minute before you are up for the task. You have to be called (re: ready) to address whatever it is that needs forgiving because it's usually tied to a larger pain. I would personally love to be someone who could forgive with the snap of a finger like Jesus, but that hasn't worked out thus far. Some wounds are deep and it'll take a while before you get to the root of the problem. It took me years to even conceptualize the depth of the baggage I carried and months to grow the balls to address it.
If you're following Jesus, He's calling you to forgive. There's no getting around this one believe me, I've tried. I think my hang up lied in the notion that forgiveness means forgetting everything that happened and going right back.
No. Forgiveness and reconciliation are mutually exclusive. It is indeed possible to be in a good place with someone without being best friends
Romans 12:18 - If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Forgiveness means finding your peace with the person's who's hurt you. So, while you can't really avoid forgiving them, you can (sort of) set the terms for what that looks like.
It is a verb
Every day you're going to have to wake up and choose to forgive as if you already have even if you're not there yet.
You'll have to curb your thoughts and quell your anger. You'll have to be nice when you feel like lashing out. You'll have to move forward and leave transgressions in the past.
Every day, forgiveness will be yet another thing you're working at until one day, you're not.
It is counter-intuitive
In Diary of a Mad Black Woman, when Myrtle tells Helen to: "forgive him for you", I almost always rolled my eyes. Every single time. Because seriously I just didn't get it.
What makes forgiveness counter-intuitive is that it's so much easier to repress and go about your business. We feel like we're giving the other person what they deserve while also not having to deal with the pain they've caused in its entirety. Win-win, right?
Sorry, not true.
The act of forgiveness forces you to unpack your pain and actually do something productive with it. Buried pain doesn't disappear, it manifests as something else. So forgive them for you.
There's no blanket rule-book to forgiveness and if you're trying it at all, then you're already doing it right. Remember to embark on the journey prayerfully and when you're ready, work at it intentionally and forgive even when it feels wrong.