Thought for the Day:
“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”
Johnathan Lockwood Huie
Question for the Day:
Is it hard for you to forgive?
I’m not going to take up too much of you guys’ time tonight because a little birdie told me that I write too much. (Well, maybe some folks just read too little) Now what? Lol! Anyway, just know that my big mouth is hard to contain whether I’m talking or writing, so forgive me. Sorry (Not Sorry): Rehab for the Apology Addict
Since we’re talking about forgiveness, I thought I’d take a second to clarify what I believe a workable definition of forgiveness should be. As a therapist, many of my clients are struggling to manage anger and resentment that often dates back to early childhood. Usually, the anger is directed towards a parent, sibling or some other trusted person who should have loved, guided, and protected you as a vulnerable child in their life. Perhaps the anger is directed towards an unfaithful partner or an absent baby mother or father who should be with you in the trenches while you’re struggling to raise your child. Though the anger is justified, holding on to it will never help a person reach their highest potential.
What typically happens is that the victim or hurt person will spend the majority of their life frustrated, mistrustful, skeptical, bitter, or enraged over the behavior of someone who is usually completely oblivious to their pain. Toxic, abusive, neglectful, and selfish people generally don’t lose sleep over the anguish people they’ve offended might feel. This makes the situation even more infuriating when the hurt person has to watch their abuser “live their best life” while they’re left holding a fistful of tears. People left carrying this type of emotional baggage will usually struggle to maintain healthy relationships and are generally lonely, unfulfilled and depressed which is where most of my clients are when I first meet them in therapy.
As therapy progresses, they’ll have no problem recalling all of the harm the bullies and abusers in their lives have subjected them to. They can talk for hours about how bad the other person was and how things should have been better. Yet, when we get to the part of treatment where I must challenge them to forgive in order to move on, I typically get the screwface.
Though I understand the reaction, this is when I introduce them to an alternative version of forgiveness that I’ll call Forgiveness 2.0.
We’ve all been raised to believe that to “forgive” someone means that you are no longer upset over what happened and that you have “forgotten” the offense. If you’re raised under Christian theology like myself, you might even believe that forgiving someone means their transgression is wiped clean and that you are now obligated to love them unconditionally like it never happened. I might even be required to smile at the offender if I pass them on the street or possibly even help them out if they’re in trouble. After all, isn’t that the Christian thing to do? (sips tea)
It’s no wonder so many of us struggle with forgiveness if this is the working definition. If I was raped, molested, physically assaulted or abandoned, wouldn’t it be kind of nuts to smile at my abuser and act like it never happened? But this is why God is God, and I’m just CC.
In my “sanctified imagination” as my pastor says, I imagine that God knew that we had limits as people which is why it’s HIS forgiveness that we all must ultimately seek. Yet, even when God forgives, it doesn’t mean that there will be no consequences or judgement for our sins. God never calls sin “okay” and expects us to turn away from it. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for a person to practice forgiveness and still turn away from a sinful person. But beyond that, I don’t believe forgiveness is about forgetting, saying it was “okay” or not holding people accountable. I believe it’s about the release of unrealistic expectations.
If I put a five year old behind the wheel of my car and expect him to drive me to Wal-Mart and we crash, who’s responsible? I would be the one to answer for it because I placed an unfair expectation on someone who was not equipped to fulfill my need. Yet, isn’t this what we do with the broken, lost, confused, mentally ill, and dysfunctional people who have hurt us? Though we know they probably don’t know any better, never had a positive example to draw from, and weren’t raised well themselves, we expect them to be all healed up and ready to love us properly.
Even though we can see how badly we struggle with relationships as a result of our hurts, we expect that our absent fathers, abusive mothers, perverted uncles, and no count baby fathers should have gotten it right from jump. No, I AM NOT SAYING THE OFFENSE SHOULD BE EXCUSED. Instead, I’m suggesting that true forgiveness is releasing the expectation that someone could or should have been capable of doing more for you than they did. Some people simply don’t have what it takes to be a benefit to someone else. Sadly, many people don’t have the capacity to love, respect, protect and nurture us to the degree we deserve. We would save a whole lot of time and energy if we just stopped going through life with our hands out expecting to get from people what we’re owed. I can keep asking a broke person to pay me all day, but the reality is, they can’t afford to pay me what I’m due. So instead of going through life picking empty pockets, I encourage my clients to withdraw their hand, let go of those unrequited expectations and start finding healthy ways to meet their own needs. This is when healing can finally begin.
Even God understood that we as sinful human beings would never reach His standard of perfection. He knew that we were broken, unhealed, hurting, and ill-equipped to do everything He requires of us. Yet, He freely offers us forgiveness that doesn’t demand that we get it right first. If we could just commit to doing the same, we can stop waiting on the 5 year old to grow up, learn to drive, get licensed and take us where we need to go. Ain’t nobody got time for that! It’s much easier to just accept that they’re not up for the job, forgive them, and get ourselves where we need to be.
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”