Forgiveness has been thematic in my life lately. It’s been the subject of no fewer than three homilies at church over the last several weeks. It’s on countless Facebook memes, and there’s a new Matthew West song that’s not so subtly titled, “Forgiveness” getting a lot of play on the radio right now. (That song just started right now as I finish up posting this.)
I like that. I am so on board with not carrying around anger and hatred in your heart. Forgive! Move on! Choose Love! Whooohooo.Sooo easy for me to say. I have never experienced the loss of a loved one through someone else’s negligence. I’ve never experienced betrayal in my marriage. I’ve never been abused by someone who was supposed to love me, or experienced violence at the hands of another. When bad things happen to me it’s usually along the lines of rude driving or poor customer service. Yup. Super easy for me to forgive the transgressions that happen to your average…boring…suburban mom. (Thank goodness!)
But then again this is my blog, so indulge me a little introspection.I got REALLY mad a few weeks ago. (Details not significant.) So super mad that I was crying and shaking - quite frankly I scared the crap out of myself. Fast forward 12 hours to me swallowing my pride and sending a sincere note of apology to the person I was mad at. (Not gonna lie, it was kind of hard to do. I was embarrassed. And probably still a little mad.) Immediate reply, they were sorry too. The huge wave of relief that swept over me made me start thinking about the other times in my life that I have felt justifiably angry, and whether or not I have experienced that same release of anger and forgiveness that I forced myself to experience this time.
I would love to say yes. And in a lot of ways I think that’s totally true. I don’t hold grudges. I can’t think of a single person that I feel anger toward right at this moment.But here’s where I think I’ve created a little golden loophole for myself. Forgive? Yes. Forget? Nope.
I firmly believe that if someone shows you who they really are, you should believe them. We would never encourage a victim of sexual abuse to invite their abuser over for brunch. Even if that person was rehabilitated and sorry for the horror and havoc they wrecked in the victims life. Which, incidentally, isn’t really a requirement for forgiveness. We’re called to forgive even those who don’t deserve it.So it’s perfectly acceptable to forgive someone, let go of the anger, move on, and still have NOTHING to do with that person ever again. It’s not only acceptable, sometimes that’s the smart and healthy way to approach things. Maybe it's not that drastic. Maybe you just keep that person at arms length. Forgiveness doesn't have to come with a full access pass to your heart.
What I’m wondering, is if maybe there are a couple of instances in my life where I’ve created this self preservation situation to get around the whole forgiveness thing.So what’s the litmus test? I’ve tried to conjure up someone specific to be the poster child for my quest for true forgiveness. So I’ve dredged up some painful adolescent memories. Mean girl crap. I’ve got a face I can put on all that. (Unfortunately.) When I picture this person I don’t feel anger or hatred, or even dislike. I don’t feel like I want anything but the best for her. I am absolutely focused on how everyone grows up and changes, and maybe that person had horrible things happening in her life that caused her to act like that, etc. etc. etc. Or maybe not. Maybe she grew up to be an angry, bitter, entitled, nasty human. Either way, I carry no ill will. She is forgiven. And if we never ever ever ever ever run into each other on the street for as long as we live, that’s totally cool with me! J
So. Um. What does that mean?
This is the Matthew West song, just in case you need to hear that right now. :)