Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To forgive..

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes

Yesterday, one of my friends sent me a Facebook message that really got me thinking. It was about forgiveness and this is what she asked me:

Forgiveness. Literally, honestly, HOW do you do it?

I sat there, staring at the screen for a few minutes. How? How do I forgive? No one had ever asked me that before. My friend went on to mention that when you are a kid, your parents teach you about the importance of saying "I'm sorry" but no one ever really teaches you how to forgive someone. How do you accept "I'm sorry"? What if there never is an "I'm sorry"?

I didn't have a lot of detail about why she was asking, so what I came up with might not work in her case. Because I assumed she wasn't talking about the every day argument with the husband or disagreement with a friend. I tried to pull from my own experience and the only thing I could think of was my relationship with my Dad.

For many years I was very mad at my Dad. I couldn't forgive him for just up and leaving the state. I wanted to know why; Why would he chose to leave us? I wanted to know how; How could he? My Mom, who was quicker to forgive than I was, tried to explain but I didn't want to hear it. I wanted to hear, but I didn't want to hear..it was all a wasteful, viscous cycle.

I'm not sure what changed, inside of me. Maybe it's wisdom that comes with age, I don't really know. But eventually I was able to let go of the anger. I finally came to the understanding that what happened was in the past. No one could go back and un-do it. No one could get that time back. No matter how much explaining my Dad might do it wouldn't change any of what happened. How could I stay mad at him for something that he couldn't go back and change?

Also, what I came to learn is that I have control of the NOW. This is a lesson I learned very well. No one can hurt me if I don't allow them to. I have control over how involved my Dad is in my life. I have accepted that he is how he is, and he is never going to change, and he will always have his reasons for doing what he did. But I have control over how much he affects me NOW, which turns out to be not very much. I love my Dad, he is my Dad. But he will probably never be a very large part of my life. And I'm ok with that, because it's on my terms...not his.

I take these two parts of forgiveness, my own formula for forgiveness, and use it all the time. If someone hurts me, I have to let it go because it can't be changed. But I can make sure that they never hurt me again. This doesn't mean that I cut them out. It doesn't mean that I ignore them. That I can't be friends with them anymore. It just means that I have control over how involved they are in my life, or how involved I am in their life. It's what works for me.

I don't know if I helped my friend at all. I hope I did. But it really did make me think. So, I want to ask y'all. How do you forgive?

1 comment:

  1. This is something I struggle with too. There have only been two times in my life when I have found it VERY difficult to forgive.

    The first was when the guy I thought was THE ONE broke it off with me, and it was in how he put the blame for our relationship not continuing all on me. I hated him for that, and it took quite a number of years to forgive. I'm no longer in touch with him, but in this case, I came to realize that yes, I needed to own my share in why our relationship didn't last. It wasn't the same reasons he gave, but the truth was that I did need to bear some of the blame. He was my Lenten penance. A couple of years back, I wrote this long letter, told him how much I'd hated what happened, and how and why I was at fault. I sealed the letter in an envelope and burned it. Best thing I ever did for myself. And now I'm even at the point where if I ran into him, I could be perfectly cordial, truly wish him well, and not think about what could have been.

    The second one I'm still not over. Once I have that one figured out, I could write a book! :D