Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

Sometimes forgiveness is easy. You say, "I'm sorry." You kiss and make up. Or maybe you just hug.

But sometimes it's more complicated. Sometimes you realize a relationship will never be mended. You're hurt and angry, and you simply move on. There's no closure. There's no kissing and making up. There's only an echo of hard feelings and the fear that you will run into the offender(s) someday and won't know what to do. Should you say hello? Should you pretend not to notice them? Should you give them a piece of your mind and maybe a slap across the face? Or should you go overboard showing them how much better off you are now?

Of course none of those choices are good because they all give too much weight to the relationship that is supposed to be over. If you can't forgive, you will always have to fear those awkward occasions, and you will always carry that weight. But what if forgiveness looks different? What if it's not about sorry and making up? What if it looks like this:

The realization that the past has made you who you are today.
The belief that you like the person you've become.
The recognition that the person or people who hurt you did the best they could at that time in their lives.

I've struggled to forgive some people in my community. But I was picturing the easy kind of kiss-and-make-up forgiveness. I imagined calling them or bumping into them in the grocery store and saying, "Hey, I forgive you. Everything is great now. It all worked out for the best." I never did that because honestly, I never wanted to kiss and make up, and also they've never asked for my forgiveness. I really am better off without these particular people in my life. Yet the awkwardness and the weight of the past has persisted.

I realize now that forgiveness isn't about making up. I don't need to say anything at all. But I do forgive them. Just knowing this makes me feel lighter already.

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