Forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t happen immediately, and the greater the perceived injustice, often the longer the process can take. Forgiveness is also a choice, for no process can be initiated without the choice to engage.
I believe we are all hurt humans hurting humans, and as such, opportunities to ask for and offer forgiveness abound. We tend to want justice when we are wronged and grace when we wrong another. Why is it that our natural tendencies so often have things backward? What if we naturally offered grace instead of reacting with our habituated response of anger, malice, or desire for vengeance?
My father and my sister haven’t spoken in twenty years. I can’t even tell you the specifics of the rift between them, or more accurately, the final straw of the accumulation of slights that they each felt from the other. Despite the best intended efforts of relatives close to both, neither has made the choice to offer grace to the other or attempted to repair the relationship. My now 86-year-old father
, and my soon-to-be 60-year-old sister haven’t spoken in two decades; this is truly a relationship that has dried up. Not only has their relationship withered, but my father’s relationship with two of his grandchildren and my sister’s relationship with her aunt and two cousins has also deteriorated as people have chosen sides and the tally of perceived injustices has continued to rise. They have both done a tremendous job collecting and holding onto the stones they imagine have been cast by the other side. While they both have deep relationships with others, the relationship they once shared has flatlined.
I believe it is our self-centeredness that has us withholding our forgiveness. We imagine that by holding onto the pain of our injustice we are hurting the person who perpetrated it. We imagine that they are thinking of us, and the way in which they have harmed us, and wish that we would grant them grace. The truth is we are only the center of our own universe, and those who have offended us are off living their lives, focusing on themselves. As Marianne Williamson said, “unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.”
Forgiveness is a process, a choice you must make over and over, every day until you’re free of the hurt. Can’t find the grace to forgive? How about showing some grace for yourself and using forgiveness as a way to find peace?
Love doesn’t keep score. Forgiveness is a choice to forget the score. Forgiveness is the choice to choose love. Who can you choose to forgive today?