I’m not great at forgiveness.
I wrote that like I am kind of good at it, and that might be a slight exaggeration.
I have lived enough life to experience people being mean to me, saying hurtful things to me and doing and saying hurtful things to people I love. I know what you’re thinking…”What? To her? But she’s so sweet! Who would ever be mean to her?” and you are right to think that, but here’s the deal with living on this earth: people can be jerks.
We are all so caught up in the ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality, that it is easy to use people’s toes as a stepping stone in the race to the top. I am usually pretty good at pretending I don’t have feelings, but thoughtless words and thoughtless actions can hurt! A majority of the time, when my feelings get hurt, I can pretty quickly come to terms with the fact that whatever wrong was done, really was not about me. Again, we are self-centered little beings. Someone will say something that feels a bit like a kick in the gut and then go about their business as if nothing happened, and to them, it really didn’t, because they were too busy thinking about themselves to hear what an ass they just made of themselves. Most of the time, I think that we go to our corner, hurt and licking our wounds, without saying a thing and the other person would be mortified to know they hurt our feelings.
Being a sarcastic person, I have to be very careful to not aim my sarcasm at others, but at myself, so as to avoid this problem.
Some of these kinds of hurts are pretty easy to bounce back from. If you don’t forgive them fairly quickly, you’ve forgotten them in a short while. But what about the hurts that happen that are intentional? The attacks that are personal? The words that are deliberately cruel? Those are more difficult because it is hard to separate viciousness of the act from your very soul. It’s difficult o remember that the purposeful act is again, not about you. How can it not be when such attacks are directed with laser focus at you? You can make yourself crazy looking for answers to that question.
Forgiving such personal attacks brings about a different kind of challenge, and I have had a few people wrong me in this kind of way, so I know.
It used to be that not forgiving made me feel strong. I was so righteous and justified in my anger and hurt. No one would argue that these acts were wrong. I could wear them, almost like medals. Me, the girl who hates unnecessary reward systems, could flaunt my wounds with self-obsessed pride. That whole, “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die” thing? Yeah, bring on the poison. I’ll take a double dose on the rocks. But waiting for someone to die can take longer than expected, as can waiting for revenge or karma to catch up to them. I’ve actually had people say, “Oh, don’t worry, karma will take care of them”, to me, but that just sounds too neat, and not nearly painful enough for the justice I’d like served up. Besides, “I’d like to be there to see karma strike,” I’d think. I am so kind.
Then there was a period of time where I realized that God would sort out all of the judgements and this made me feel a little bit better, because if anyone can serve up judgement better than me, it would be God. I liked the idea of these people stammering at God’s feet. Begging for mercy and forgiveness, and of course he would say, “To Hell with you!” Literally. Yes, this picture suited my sense of fairness, but who ever said life was fair?
I realized that I might have it all wrong when I read The Shack, by Philip P Young. If you have not read it, it really is a great book and I would definitely suggest that you read it, however, if you are comfortable with your own ideas of forgiveness, you may not want to. In this book, something horrible happens and a man finds himself at the scene of the crime and he meets God, only he doesn’t know that it’s God at first. When this man demands justice from God, for the horrible thing that was done, God says, and I paraphrase, “You have three children who have all done things that are wrong. Which one would you condemn?”
GAWD. I hate it when this happens. When something just makes sense and feels ‘right’, even if I really don’t want it to be. It’s not like I had a light bulb moment. No Alexander Wallace, instant epiphany. I was too busy trying to deny what I was reading and what I was feeling for an epiphany. It rubbed at me for weeks, much like rubbing sandpaper against your skin. Not comfortable, not enjoyable. It was actually painful. It was horribly unfair. This simple passage from this stupid book that I never should have started reading was telling me that as I was God’s child, so were the people who have wronged me so badly. They were God’s children too, and God wanted a restored relationship with them. How sick is that? To want a relationship with your kid who has done something to hurt someone else? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to drop kick them off a cliff? Yeah. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m a momma, and I know a little something about loving my kids, even when their choices suck. Even when they’ve done something stupid, or something horrible. Intentional or not. And I’m not even God, who is capable of loving so much more that I ever could.
This resonated with truth, in every fiber of my being, and eventually, I came to accept it. It does not mean it is easy for me. Some days are harder than others. Forgiveness is a practice. It is not perfect, at least not for me. There are days when I get angry all over again and want to lay on the floor like a two year old, pounding my fists and yelling, “It’s not fair!” And it’s not. That is the beautiful truth of God’s love for us. We can be horrible, awful, disgusting people, and, unfairly, God still loves us and chooses us.
When this really sinks into your soul, you will look at other people differently, after all, you will realize that you are related to all of them, and you will possibly do what I have done to pacify my panicked thoughts about being related to these people; Remember that every family has at least one black sheep, so that might explain everything.