Some days choosing the task of forgiving can be almost too heavy to carry.
I am not an expert at forgiveness by any means. I think I have had a lot of practice at it. You probably have too.
I’ve chosen to forgive others.
I’ve chosen to forgive myself.
I’ve chosen to forgive circumstances.
I’ve chosen to ask for forgiveness.
But this is one pursuit that as much as you practice, it is never perfect. I am having one of those really imperfect days. It is heavy. It is anxiety inducing. It is exhausting. Thinking about choosing the task of forgiving, yet again in this one part of my life feels huge today. It feels like I have to step into this same event – this forgiveness event over, and over, and over…
But here’s the thing I sometimes forget. Maybe you forget it too.
Forgiveness is not an event. It is a lifestyle.
Forgiveness is not a one and done choice. As women, we are conditioned to forgive and forget. We are told carry on as if the action or event never happened, and not create demands on the perpetrator because that might hurt their feelings. Things are justified by ourselves or others with the statement, “that’s just who I am” or “that’s just who they are.” You may even find yourself accommodating forgiveness because that’s just what you’re supposed to do. – If you find yourself saying it’s OK instead of I accept your apology or I forgive you when someone apologizes you may be accommodating. DAMMIT WOMAN! IT IS NOT OK FOR SOMEONE TO HURT YOU! It was not OK for the hurt that happened in my life to happen either.
Forgiveness is something you choose to do and then live out in daily actions. It’s making the choice to separate the action that caused pain from the person who took that action, while at the same time NEVER making EXCUSES for the pain that was caused. It is acknowledging the hurt you feel but showing compassion toward the other person, not by sweeping the action under the rug, but by realizing they are broken. It is choosing to create healthy relationship habits with the person or event that harmed you; knowing that sometimes that healthy new habit will mean that you step out of the relationship. It is choosing to not let anger control your thoughts and emotions. It is not allowing the person or event to define you, but choosing how you let it be a part of your story. It is also placing the expectation that the action that needs to be forgiven will not happen again. These are things you have to work on every day.
This all may sound one sided – that forgiveness is all about what benefits you. (And truly, forgiveness DOES benefit you!) But it’s not. If a person or dynamic is such that it produces hurt and pain, it is dysfunctional. By setting healthy boundaries and expectations of yourself and others in your life, you are looking out for your emotional and physical well-being. But you are also looking out for theirs. Creating boundaries is one of the most loving and forgiving things you can do. It allows for the other person to know how to be in relationship with you. And then, the ball is in their court. It also helps them to see why perhaps they can’t be in relationship with you. Stepping out of a dynamic or event that is not working in a healthy way disrupts system, and hopefully resets it. But if it doesn’t you are not obligated to return to it because you have done your part to try and fix it.
Clearly, forgiveness is not limited to what I’ve written here. It is complex, complicated and mottled, as were the actions that caused you pain. No one can tell you exactly how to forgive. Though many tried, no one could tell me either. And though I know what I need to do, it is tough to do it.
What I do know, is that life has shown me that this is a way I must strive to live. Even if I don’t get forgiveness right, I must make the choice daily to not let the anger, the pain, the hurt, and the frustration consume me. I must work daily to release it even when it the task feels heavy, like today. Otherwise, forgiveness will never be in my reach.