“You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.” – Louise Smith

 

What does it mean to forgive?

I’m stubborn, people who know me will tell you that. So as a stubborn person I fear that forgiveness means I choose to wipe the slate clean and pretend it never happened. But I believe the offense tells a lot about the person who committed it. There is no way that I could forget it. Instead, I find my ways to continue punishing the offenders.

But that’s not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness does not erase the past. The offense is a lesson learned. Forgiveness is to say, I have learned from this experience and I choose to move on from it without bitterness or a sense of vengeance.

I can tell you, as a stubborn person, that I hold on to my anger and bitterness for a very long time. It’s only with writing this article that I truly recognize what a millstone it is. It’s self-imprisonment. Holding on to grudges does me more harm than the person who hurt me.

When someone I was in love with disappeared years ago without explanation, I was heartbroken and angry. To this day, I still don’t know why. I’ve had to come up with my own explanation to cope and move on (he was a coward). After years of staying bitter, I finally came to the realization that my anger wasn’t accomplishing anything except my own unhappiness and it certainly wasn’t going to bring him back.

My divorce was finalized early in June. At no point have I regretted the decision to end my marriage. Indeed, it’s generally a sense of relief when I think about it. Life feels better. My home no longer feels like a black hole that I have to return to. I don’t feel emotionally drained anymore. I’ve mostly kept to myself as many of you have noticed but I haven’t forgotten your concern and appreciate all the words of comfort and encouragement that many of you have given. Thank you.

My parents and I have kept our distance, I think because my parents realize that’s what I want and need from them. Big thanks to my brother for helping with that. But they still aren’t coping well with my divorce. True to form, they remain the unsupportive parents whom they have always been.

Proper parenthood requires unconditional love.   My parents, though, have said through their actions that keeping up appearances will always matter more than showing that they can and will support us even if they disagree with our choices.

For my parents, my forgiveness means that I will not allow myself to remain bitter towards them. But their repeated offenses have taught me that my life is better without them in it. Their world of insecurities is not the planet I want to be living on.

But I wonder if I wrongly assume that because my parents have repeatedly made the same mistakes, so too will others who offend me?

I raise this question mainly because there’s someone in my life now who leaves no room for error. Get it right the first time or I’m going to talk to you like you’re an idiot. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the situation and it raised a lot of questions:

Why can’t he cut people some slack? Why is it so hard for him to forgive? What has he experienced in his past that made him this way? He must be like this in all areas of his life and without forgiveness there can be no love.

When my blood pressure was rising because of this perfectionist I finally found myself asking, “Hey, wait a minute, isn’t that what I do? Am I being a hypocrite?”

Someone upset me, hasn’t apologized and I’ve been angry and bitter about it. I’m stubborn and I’m scared. I’m scared that if I forgive the offense, the person will think the behavior is now acceptable. But the truth is that I don’t have enough information to know that yet. I may just be transferring my parents’ mistakes onto everyone else.

I can’t expect this person in my life to forgive my mistakes if I’m not able to do the same for others. His inability to forgive keeps us all stagnant instead of moving forward to a better place. Imagine: a healthy, happy and productive environment!

I’ve beaten myself up, I’ve stressed myself out and I’ve allowed myself to feel worthless because this weak person can’t forgive me. But have I in turn made someone else feel the same?

Apologizing goes a long way. It requires admitting the mistake and asking how to make things right. Sometimes all it takes to make things right is: “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.” Not everyone gets an apology, though. Sometimes we just have to accept an apology that we never got and sometimes we have to give apologies to people who don’t deserve them. But we don’t do it for others; we do it for ourselves so that we may have peace.

To be very honest, I’ve been unhappy for a while now because I’ve refused to forgive. I don’t want to be unhappy anymore and I certainly don’t want to end up like this guy (no one does!).

Forgiveness isn’t easy, it’s definitely outside my comfort zone and I’m going to need baby steps. But God, I don’t want to be like him, I don’t want to stay stuck and I don’t want to push people away anymore.

Let’s move forward.

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