I’ve heard quite a bit about forgiveness recently which made me start to think about how much I forgive and how much I don’t. Forgiveness is not one of those clear-cut, black and white emotions. For example, I can be quick to forgive my close friends for actions or words but not be able to do the same for someone I just met. Instead of laughing off a sarcastic comment from a friend, a stranger’s words might spur hurt feelings. Why is it I can quickly forgive my friends but it is harder for strangers? Does it matter the severity of the hurt – words or actions? Let’s explore this topic a little.
In my opinion, I can forgive my friends quicker because of longevity. Quite simply I’ve known them longer. We have history and a relationship that builds a bond of trust. It is that bond of trust that keeps words from stinging or actions from hurting more than they should. It also means I can extend the hand of forgiveness quickly, sometimes without even thinking. With an established relationship, there is trust. Once again, trust leads to the strength of all interactions. However, I submit that the severity of the hurt also plays a part in the ability to forgive. Let’s say that a long-time friend forgets my birthday. Honestly, I wouldn’t even think twice about that. But if that long-time friend spreads a vicious rumor about me, that may take longer to forgive, maybe because the bonds of trust have been stretched or broken.
Then I question – what is forgiveness? Merriam Webster says that forgiveness is a noun meaning “the act of forgiving someone or something”. That doesn’t help because what does it mean to forgive? Back to the dictionary I go. To forgive is a verb meaning “to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong); to stop blaming (someone)”. Okay – now we are getting somewhere. When we look at the definition of ‘forgive’, it is entirely personal. It means that I must stop feeling anger outwards, not that someone else must act. It is internal for me to forgive and for me to calm my own emotions. No one can do that for me and I cannot do that for someone else. A much bigger and much deeper question is how do we forgive? That is a great question but one that I am totally unqualified to answer. I will share that I struggle with forgiveness. I can easily move past wrongs from certain people and not others. Notice my choice of words – move past and not forget.
I don’t remember every single time I’ve needed forgiveness or forgiven others but there are those deep hurts that I’ve chosen to let go. I probably will not be able to ever forget them but I can do my best to let go of the anger. I also admit that deep hurts may be forgiven, not forgotten, and therefore shape my relationship with that person in the future. I may continue to have a friendship with someone but for deep hurts, I’ll do my best to never allow that situation to happen again – good or bad, right or wrong. There are a lot of questions about forgiveness so this may come up again. I’d like to share how motivation and intent play into forgiveness, or some ways it has been hard for me to forgive. Those thoughts are for another time.