Such a tough gig. My sense of vengeance and desire for fairness and justice, make getting to forgiveness difficult. I don’t want to cross that river.
I want to be right. And angry.
The trouble is, there’s no peace in being right.
Even if I am on the side of truth, justice, and ‘the American Way’ (which is lost in a hell of incessant suffering right now, so it can hardly be held up as a worthy example), I am still not at peace.
What if I don’t want to forgive?
What if I like being mad as hell?
What if I want things to be right before I offer forgiveness?
Well, I might have to wait a long time.
Things might never be right or whole. They may never return to the way they were before.
And maybe that’s as it should be.
Maybe the lesson and the gift come from the act of forgiving.
Maybe offering mercy where none is deserved or expected will broaden my life and open my heart.
Maybe I should offer forgiveness because I’ve done things that were unforgivable. Often, in the past, I was blessed with forgiveness from someone who certainly could have made another choice. And maybe because that happened, I thought more carefully about my actions after that. Or maybe I developed empathy. Or maybe I found a sense of peace and I slowed down and considered how the actions I take in my life ripple out into the world.
So, how do I forgive?
I start where I am: angry, self-righteous, infuriated by injustice/stupidity/mistakes.
I take a breath and then another.
I slow the burn inside to a simmer by turning down the heat. I head outside to sit in a grove of trees in my backyard; I watch a pair of hawks ride the wind. I remember that I can transform my outrage into activism and my despair into action. I sit silently. I remember: we’re all in this lifeboat together.
None of us will get out of here alive.
So, I forgive the frackers and poachers and greedy-whack-job-CEOs running amok in the world. I forgive my own complacency. I forgive the slowness of my awakening. I forgive the men who’ve broken my heart. I forgive my father for his affairs and serial polygamy. I forgive my mom for her imperfection and worries. I forgive the girls who bullied me forty years ago every time I needed to use the school restroom. I forgive the man who killed my dog with his pickup truck when I was seven and the doctor who did my grandmother’s mastectomy when he was drunk. I forgive those who seek to bomb and maim; those who mistreat women and children and other sentient beings everywhere around the globe.
I recognize that anytime someone is hurting, they are better served by love, than retaliation or repudiation. It’s tough, but the only way to change the anger and fear is by walking through forgiveness.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean I condone what was done.
It doesn’t mean I forget (though I am working on it).
It simply means I let myself off the hook, and in doing so, I let you off the hook, too.
© 2016 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
Please feel free to comment.
I’d love to hear your stories about forgiveness.