Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Big Exhale is Always Good

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

Kerry and I got into a discussion last night that led to more talk about forgiveness. I won't rehash all of that because frankly I'd have to write a novel to explain it. And this is a blog. But I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness and how I deal with it.

I'd love to say that it's easy for me to forgive. I know forgiving is the right thing to do. But it's just easier to be mad. We do have a rule in our house that if it's an argument that has been argued in the past, it can't be revisited. That certainly cuts down on the grudge factor when it comes to forgiveness! (It's served us well most of the time. Feel free to use it...)

When something has been done to me personally, I think I'm relatively good about it. Typically, you can do something to me - I get mad - then get over it. There's no special book kept to record every single wrong that's been done to me. And yet I find that I can't forgive wrongs that have been done to those I love. I practically have a gilded journal for those.  I could sit down and list out every single thing that has been done to my loved ones right now. 

As a young(er) adult, I definitely learned that forgiveness set me free. I quit lugging the giant tote with all the things my parents did that hurt me. (We kids of divorce in the 70's carried a lot of baggage around. Some founded. Some not.) I quit blaming my hurt feelings on those around me and began to see that sometimes I needed to step out and include myself instead of wanting someone to beg me to join. I even forgave myself for not being all that I thought I'd be when I achieved adulthood. My focus stopped being on all the grudges I could hold. Life is too short for that.

But forgiveness isn't easy, is it?

I asked Billy about his take on forgiveness - because goodness knows the list of people who hurt him is extensive. If anyone reserves the right to keep a log, it's any child from an abusive background. And bless his heart, his response was so wise beyond his years. 

"I used to think forgiveness meant forgetting. But now I realize it's remembering and still being able to let it go. "

That struck such a chord with me. My brother and I have a very tumultuous relationship. He has crossed too many lines to count. In fact, I no longer speak to him because I refuse to be pulled back into the pit. However, I do love him. And I care about him. I have forgiven him for all the things he's done. But that doesn't mean I have to engage in communication with him. Just like Billy said, I still remember. There was forgiveness. But I'm done. I harbor no ill feelings. I just set tighter boundaries.

Forgiveness is complicated. And sometimes messy. But in the long run it's the best choice. You don't have to like what happened or the person who did it. You don't even have to mend fences and play together anymore. But your best bet is to forgive.

Those you hold dearest to you - spouse, child, parent, etc. If you have any hope of keeping those relationships intact, you must believe that your love will cover it all. Love is bigger than grudges. 

How about THAT for a lecture? Sorry...maybe I'm trying to convince myself. After all....I had to forgive the mailman that threatened to mace my dog when I was 9 months pregnant...and I know he had to forgive me for shouting obscenities at him.

But that story is best told another day.....

Forgive me? ;)


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