Is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive? When asked this question, I pause, feel uncomfortable, and then realize I am not able to answer right away. There isn’t just one person, there is a list. A list of people that I haven’t forgiven. A list that makes me realize that is an actual choice to not forgive. Choice. When you forgive someone, a conscious decision is made. Do I forgive and move on? Or do I choose to not forgive, and stew and fester, and sit, wallow, and enable bitterness and resentment to set in? Then maybe even decide it isn’t even worth it to forgive?
I have been forgiven a ridiculous amount of times in my life. I am a faulty human who makes mistakes and bad decisions daily. I choose what I think is right, what will make me happy, what I think with bring me joy or fulfillment only to find that my self centered, me focused lifestyle doesn’t benefit me or anyone else. Still, forgiveness is extended to me. When I deliver a harsh judgement or mean words to my children, they still curl up with me for cuddles and love. When I scoff at my husband for not doing something the way I would, he still asks me if I want to choose the show to watch or game to play each evening. When I say something in the presence of friends that is ill received, an invitation for coffee is still extend for later in the week. These chosen acts of forgiveness are extended to me silently. I usually haven’t even asked for someone to forgive me. But my children, my husband, my friends, make the conscious choice to forgive without a conversation or verbal acknowledgement of forgiveness being offered. The act forgiveness is a gift. They choose to let the grievance go, and move forward.
The act of forgiveness says more about the person who chooses to forgive than the action or behavior of the person that has committed the offense. When you choose to forgive someone, you are saying, You mean a lot to me. I treasure our relationship. I forgive what you did/said/how you acted. Let’s move forward from here. The person’s actions/words/ behavior could have wounded you. Mentally, even physically. Those actions may have broken you. sometimes immediate forgiveness is something that won’t occur. Sometimes, the heart needs to heal, the memory of the grievance needs to soften, and the act of forgiveness isn’t about to be displayed until healing has taken place.
Juliette forgave me in 2nd grade when I stole her waterfalls pocket folder.
Sarah forgave me when I went to the teacher in 5th grade and reported what she told me was happening at home.
Mr. Georgi forgave me when I climbed out a window and attempted to make it look like I was participating in an activity all along when I chose to stay indoors.
Nate, I hope forgave me when I stopped writing to him after we went to Space Camp.
My mom forgave me all of the times I yelled at her growing up. When I disregarded her wishes and did what I wanted.
My dad forgave me when I bought a fruit roll up with his money and tried to make it appear that the person at the cash register didn’t give me the correct amount of cash.
Nathan forgave me when I broke up with him blamed him and his choices for the downfall of our new relationship, when I was already seeing someone else.
Jay forgave me when I chose to date to his brother after he told me he liked me.
My son forgave me when I went to grab his shoulder to protect him from walking into traffic and my thumb nail caused a huge gash in his ear lobe that bled for days and was so painful.
My friends have forgiven me for my inability to commit to invitations time and time again when I am unable to find child care or know that my son won’t do well in a certain environment. They continue to forgive me when I don’t respond to text messages or emails in a timely fashion. They understand my road as a special needs parents will look a bit different than their parenting track.
My husband forgives me daily when I am unable get my act together and accomplish everything that I need to do to keep our family functioning.
And then I think of all of those times silent forgiveness has been extended to me. Those times I have done or said things that have hurt and offended others. Sometimes I have hurt others without even being aware that I have done so. They choose to forgive my words and actions even when I haven’t acknowledged my wrong doing. No, I am not responsible for the thoughts and feelings of other people. I am responsible for being a decent person. A person who cares about others. A person who learns to put others wants and needs before mine. A person who focuses on loving others well, knowing that it may not be returned. But most of all, I need to be the person who keeps my words and behavior in check. This isn’t about being socially acceptable or having a moral compass. It is what is true and what is real as an outpouring of my heart. Either I am sorry or I am not. There is no grey area.
It seems so much easier to grant someone forgiveness when they acknowledge the wrongdoing, take responsibility for their actions, change their behavior and even show remorse. If negative, sometimes offensive actions and behavior are continued, and either directed at me or I observe that others are experiencing the same wrath, I often become agitated and feel the need to withhold forgiveness. What happens to me then? The one that withholds forgiveness. That is when resentment and bitterness set in. Resentment and bitterness often fester and those feelings erode every aspect of our lives. It surely doesn’t benefit me when I refuse to forgive someone as punishment for their actions. I end up punishing myself in return.
Why then, am I able to identify a list of My Unforgiven? If my lack of forgiveness says more about me than the other person, why do I have even one name on that list? Was the grievance so heinous that it is merited for me to hold a grudge? My list shows that I have been wounded. That I was hurt and in some instances, and still hurt today. My heart feels broken. As if shattered, duct taped back together and I am still carrying the pieces I couldn’t mend in my handbag. Every day. I carry those pieces, that lack of forgiveness around with me. What? As a reminder? Those people don’t know that I do this. I am not punishing them. The heft, the weight of the hurt only taxes me. My mind, my body, my heart. It only hurts me.
Those on my list. 4. 4 people. 4 people that I have chosen to not forgive. I don’t want this list. I don’t want to add to it. But I also don’t want to check the box and act like I have extended forgiveness when I have not. Today I will start. Operation Forgiveness has begun. Does this person know what they have done? Do I need to talk with them about it? Does this person play an active current role in my life and is my lack of forgiveness affecting our relationship? Is forgiveness essential yet do I need to remove this person from my life? Do I need to stop analyzing the situation and just forgive? The answer is yes. Yes. Just forgive. Extend forgiveness. Let it go. Move forward. Because that weight has been carried long enough. That weight has bent me at the waist for far too long. That weight was never meant to be carried by me.