Forgiveness? Why We Can and Why We Can't
|Forgiveness begins in the heart.|
C. S. Lewis writes, "Everyone says that forgiveness is a good idea ... until they have something to forgive." I would add that forgiveness is a good idea ... UNTIL one needs to be forgiven." The last few days, I've been reminded of the need to forgive as part of the steps towards healing and reconciliation. These thoughts about forgiveness came subtlety. Yesterday's sermon included an admonition that the trials of the last few weeks must include forgiveness before we can work on coming back in fellowship with one another. And today, walking a little slower, hurting a little bit (okay, a lot), after a long and wonderful weekend, a friend prayed for me. She prayed that I learn to forgive so that my healing might be complete. It resonated deep in my very being, and as my tears flowed, I realized that I've been holding on to my anger and that is not healthy. But forgive? I don't think I'm ready.
Much has happened over the last few weeks and I've been sad and angry, sometimes both at the same time. That is why, first, I would ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness for holding on to this hurt and my failure to recognize the harm it does to the body and the spirit. There are probably several people from whom I should ask forgiveness, even as I might not know exactly why I've offended them, but often because I do know why. As I ponder on my need to be forgiven, I've learned that in order to be forgiven, know why. I get why someone might be put out with me, and I recognize how I might have done something differently in response to those situations I'm thinking of, but I'm human after all. Still, I need to ask for forgiveness in order to give forgiveness to others who have wronged me. How magnanimous must I think I am to walk around forgiving people while needing to be forgiven myself. Just who do I think I am?
I'm not perfect. I've never claimed to be, but arrogance has a way of conveying the message that while not perfect, I might consider myself as least more perfect than you. That you being anyone who does not agree with me, who I believe could have done something differently, and who I judge to have known better makes it hard to consider that I have to forgive, too. If I judge their actions malicious, when it is something else, I'm the one who should ask for forgiveness. But, whether malicious or innocuous, I should forgive because it is a standard for the rest of the work. It is not impossible to do, but the heart must be willing first and foremost, and the person must know that forgiveness, for all intents and purposes, is a gift you give yourself.
So, the prayer for me was anything but subtle. It hit the nail on the head. Okay, let's be honest. It hit me on the head, waking me up. And you know what? I felt better physically because I named my pain. As I said, I first ask for forgiveness, because when you don't recognize those things that hold you back, when you fail to name those problems that hamper your ability to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, we continue the spiral of discontent and it manifests in ways that affect the body, mind, and spirit.
So, here's to prayers answered and it is my hope that you have forgiven me as I commit to making forgiveness a permanent attitude. So be it.