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Hope Through Authenticity

What Is Forgiveness?

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about Grudge Holding. A great friend [let’s call her Amy], who is always so supportive, responded to me via email. With her permission, I wanted to share some sections.

“I think holding grudges is tied to my tendency to not forgive, and sometimes I wish I could forgive more easily. But to your question, I do not believe everyone deserves forgiveness. In deciding if forgiveness is warranted, I consider many factors:  does the person recognize the behavior is wrong?, was the conduct intentional?, was the behavior part of a pattern?, was a sincerely and timely apology offered?, and so forth.”

Where is the line between forgiveness and simply deciding someone is no longer healthy for me?

Amy went on to say: “It was this kind of thought process that led me to finally cut ties with my youngest sister. As painful and challenging as the decision was, she had wounded me too many times, and I saw no hope of her behavior changing. Each time she lied, stole or otherwise wronged me, she would apologize and then repeat. On balance, my life is better without her than with her.”

I think she has forgiven her sister. I think Amy sees that there is something fundamentally broken in her sister and wishes that wasn’t so. I think my friend did an AMAZINGLY BRAVE thing by cutting those ties. We are pressured to allow family members a place in our lives no matter their behavior and it took tremendous courage to stop allowing her sister to abuse her.

Cutting ties is not synonymous with unforgiveness. It hurts Amy to think of her sister and all that’s lost between them. That pain is proof forgiveness has occurred. She has forgiven but she will never trust. There’s a significant difference between unforgiveness and broken trust. I can forgive and never trust.

If we truly truly truly forgive, does that require a new trust? Are forgiveness and trust synonymous?

Maybe I’m totally wrong.

Maybe the pain Amy feels IS the PAIN OF UNFORGIVENESS. When I think of the one person I have no intention of forgiving, it is a physical pain. A clutching of the heart, a tightness. But mostly a wave of anger. That’s what I think unforgiveness feels like.

I have a couple of other friends who declare, “I have forgiven her, but I never want to see her again.” Is that what forgiveness looks like?

If we’ve been significantly wounded by another, is forgiveness possible? Reasonable?

In my past religious life, I learned that forgiveness is God-ordained and modeled by Jesus – the turn-the-other-cheek lesson (Matthew 5:22-24, among others). I also learned that forgiveness is FOR ME more than for the offender.

What I was NEVER taught was how to offer this forgiveness.

Back to Amy … I believe the fact that she wishes forgiveness was possible means she has actually forgiven.

When our hearts hurt because someone can no longer be allowed in our life, then we have forgiven. When our hearts don’t wish it were different, we haven’t forgiven.

Let me make this clearer: 

  • I have not forgiven “her”.
  • I have no intention of forgiving her.
  • I don’t hurt that she’s not in my life. It’s a profound relief.
  • I’m actively glad she’s not in my life.
  • This is what unforgiveness looks like (for me).
  • Does this hurt her? Nope. Not at all.
  • Does it hurt me? I have no idea.

Thank you, “Amy”, for always hearing me, for accepting what I need to say, for challenging my beliefs. Thank you for being brave.

Click HERE for the Journaling Activity that accompanies this blog.

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    In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....

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