I was at a small group for church recently and the topic of forgiveness came up. This is a topic I feel like is brought up frequently in church circles. It is one of those topics that I could probably teach you what the church will tell you about it. A few of the bullets on the outline for that teaching would be:
- You must forgive AND forget
- Forgiveness has no boundaries
- Forgiveness is an act of loving like Jesus
- Forgiveness will lead to reconciliation
- God has forgiven, so why can’t you?
- Forgiveness must be given freely
I wish I could agree 100% with all of those things. Here’s my honest truth, at this very moment: I think forgiveness, at times, is bogus! I know, not at all what the church teaches and people are likely really uncomfortable right now. But it’s my honest truth.
I think the part that I have the hardest time with is forgiving when the person needing the forgiveness will likely never admit, or even know, that they need forgiveness. When they don’t understand that what they did was not right. When they are people who we don’t EVER want to be reconciled with. When lack of boundaries is what caused the pain leading to the need for forgiveness. When it doesn’t feel free at all to give forgiveness. When the memories are so painful that you can’t sleep at night because of it. When not a day goes by that you don’t think of the person and shutter in fear over the thought of them.
So, with all that said, what’s one supposed to do with it all? How are you supposed to move on in life? I know the following is absolutely true:
- Forgiving others will help relieve the burden upon yourself
- We will one day be held accountable for our actions
- God desires us to forgive in order to live in abundance & joy
- Lack of forgiveness holds us in bondage
But, even knowing all of these things in my head, I have a really hard time helping them move to my heart. I really struggle with the thought of it. I feel like if I forgive, I am, in a sense, saying that what happened was acceptable…and that’s not at all anything I ever want to say.
In a deep, long conversation with a dear soul sister on Monday, I had a chance to process a lot of this. Something that came through this conversation was the thought that forgiveness does not have to ever equal relationship reconciliation. Reconciliation may simply be individually based for yourself. I have learned that I have to reconcile with my own mistakes and, in a sense, forgive myself for struggling.
We also discussed the fact that it’s not about forgiving and forgetting (in fact, there’s no where in the scriptures that it says one must forgive and forget). Instead, in my personal opinion, it’s about learning to manage the memories. We have to learn how we can function in our daily lives with the memories still present.
Someone recently shared a great quote with me:
“I have always imagines forgiveness as a garden. A serene landscape with perfect paths and soft lighting, not a leaf out of place. But forgiveness cannot merely be an assemble of lovely things or the act of meandering pass. It must be the mud also. It must be the weeds and the mosquitoes and the hundreds of miles it took you to walk there. It has to be showing up, finally, sweaty and sore, only to realize you went to the wrong fucking garden.”
It’s so true. I believe that forgiveness is truly a process. I don’t think it’s something we will ever truly “achieve” in our lifetime. I think it’s something that we will go to our graves trying to work toward. I believe it’s a task that there is no perfect completion to on this side of life.
Do I think forgiveness is worth working toward? Heck yes!
Do I think it’s miserably difficult? More than you know!
Do I think people are worthy of forgiveness? Some, yes. Others? I’m not so sure yet.
Do I know how to forgive? NOT AT ALL!
Do I hope to one day learn/figure it out? For sure.
I guess what I’m saying is that you’re not alone as you walk this forgiveness journey. It’s a hard, dark, messy road that I don’t think has a map or GPS capabilities. But I think we are all worth working toward it!