Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Art of Forgiveness

I have to say that forgiving someone for something that they do to you has to be one of the most unfair things in life we are called upon to do. This has been something I have really struggled with in my life, and honestly, I still do at times. It's so hard to experience such pain and hurt and then be expected to forgive the very person that caused the pain and hurt. When I was reading my homework for the MFT program, I came across some great text that really hit home with me. It says, "Forgiveness is an altruistic act, an act of doing a nice thing that the other person does not deserve, helping the other person have the gift of gratitude. Forgiveness is where justice and mercy come together. Forgiveness does not excuse or minimize the hurtfulness of the other person's act.....forgiveness is then acting mercifully and saying, I choose not to hold that against you. I forgive you." (This is from Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling by Everett L. Worthington, Jr.)
There is SO much to digest in that little excerpt. I have to admit that as I have read this book, I find the concepts actually help me really deal with things in my own life! I realize the text is written from the perspective of couples' counseling, but I think it is information that pertains to every aspect of our lives. I guess I struggle with forgiving others because I felt that it meant their negative actions have to be forgotten and I have to say, "All is well!" But rather, I think forgiveness is just as much about finding a way to break the bondage of the situation on our hearts as it is an extension of our love and compassion to those who have hurt us.
I got a different perspective of forgiveness today. I was talking with someone who is going through a lot of hurt and pain in her life. She recognizes that the pain is something that she is responsible for. She struggles with it daily. Yet, I think what really hurts her the most is the aftermath. People make mistakes. Every single one of us. Yet, it's in the aftermath of those mistakes that we learn about character. She struggles most with the way people have treated her and their judgment of her. As I listened to her, I realized how much she is hurting and is truly remorseful. I think that the times when we have falling outs with various people in our lives, it is very easy to forget the human behind the situation. I think it is easier a lot of times to ostracize the person that caused the hurt. Honestly, it's a defense mechanism--and rightfully so. But I think it is at those times, that these people need us the most. What would've happened if Jesus had left us? I would hate to think about life without his forgiveness, grace, and mercy. It's in that situation that I realize I need to be merciful as well.
With that said, I certainly understand that forgiveness does not need to equal forgetting. I don't think we should forget the hurt and pain we experienced. I think it is there for a lot of reasons. First, there is a lot to learn from the pain. It is in our darkest moments that we have the most opportunity for growth. Secondly, I think the pain should serve as a reminder. I don't think we have to continue to put ourselves in harms way and the only way to keep that from happening is to not forget the pain and hurt we experienced.
But forgiving someone does not mean we have to forget--it merely means we as humans show compassion to one another. We never know when we will be on the other side of the hurt and will long for forgiveness.

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