Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Forgiveness, Part I

Forgiveness is a funny thing. It's a quality most people would like to think they possess, but true forgiveness seems curiously lacking in many—and even in myself on occasion, truth be told. When we've been harmed or wronged, to forgive seems the proper thing, and we think our ability--our willingness--to do this says something about us as a person. But sometimes we become so preoccupied with being wronged that true forgiveness can't happen. Tennyson captured a common attitude toward forgiveness: Forgive! How many will say “forgive” and find a sort of absolution in the sound to hate a little longer? Truly, words of forgiveness are nothing without truth behind them.

What prompted my contemplations on forgiveness? Two things: A very precious and dear friend of mine has been terribly betrayed by her husband, and has remained both strong and truly forgiving; and I just finished an amazing book about the best and worst of humanity, the undefeatable human spirit in the darkest of times, and the power of forgiveness.

Through both, I'm reminded that forgiveness is not a self-righteous, self-sacrificing gift I bestow upon another, as though I'm generously offering something out of a superior heart. Rather, it's a releasing of wrongs and their attendant feelings in myself. It's as though I'm forever relinquishing my right to hurt someone for hurting me. True forgiveness is an act of self-healing not tied to another's changing, apologizing or acknowledging that they've caused me pain. In fact, it requires no response on their part at all. It's giving up the possibility of a better past, and facing the future with hope, courage, and love. I'm inspired by my best friend's example, as well as by an incredible book, which I'll post about tomorrow.

23 comments:

Poetikat said...

Yes. Forgiveness is often a difficult thing to do. I think Tennyson has captured it perfectly - that by saying those words, you've exonerated yourself, but in reality, you hold on to the grudge or the hatred just a little bit. I think true forgiveness can only come with help in the form of prayer to a higher power.

Kat

Sydney said...

This is one of the toughest topics I think we ever face as human beings. I am just letting all you wrote sink in. It is something we all can use, need to learn or hear again. I am looking forward to tomorrow.

willow said...

This was a beautiful post.

Meri Arnett-Kremian said...

Insightful and meaningful post. Please tell your friend that I will be holding her in care with my thoughts, for betrayal by a husband is an insidious form of attempted soul murder and it takes concentrated effort to recover from such crimes against the heart.

Wendy said...

What a great post and good observations about forgiveness. I think true forgiveness is empowering. It takes a huge amount of strength and acceptance to overcome ourselves enough to forgive the big things and to not give any part of ourselves up. You've written about it beautifully!

TheWritersPorch said...

Wonderful post Peggy, very thought provoking! I'm anxious to hear about the book tomorrow but dread having to add another to my TBR stack! LOL

Bee said...

I'm so glad that you are going to write more about the book.

Forgiving a spouse is so very difficult, but it is the essence of love. This post really struck me.

jeannette St.G. said...

I agree with you - true forgiveness does not depend on the behavior or change of the other - which makes it super, super hard. I still could grow a lot in this area:)

Glad you had a good time with your
7-year old!

Joanne said...

What an important post you've written. I have a question for you though, that I've often wondered in listening to people talk about forgiveness. If the wrongdoer isn't seeking forgiveness, do we still forgive? And is this forgiveness actually, or something else then?

Delwyn said...

A friend once said to me that "you can never forgive any one else their actions you can only forgive yourself." And I think what she meant was that, as you have written, we are the ones holding on to those chains that bind us to the other in unforgivingness of anger, resentment, hurt and fear. And therefore it is up to us to loosen the chains and let ourselves free, the other person can be oblivious to the whole process and unchanged by it. But we can change. The act of forgiving can set us free.
Forgiving is only another platitude unless we act on it.
Some people think that if we forgive then the offender gets let off scott free. I think that when we forgive we get on with living, but that doesn't mean that we have to ever forget, because to forget would be do run the risk of not learning anything from the experience and falling into the same trap again.

sizzie said...

Peggy wrote:True forgiveness is an act of self-healing not tied to another's changing, apologizing or acknowledging that they've caused me pain.
***

I think that is the essence of it and you captured it in one sentence.

I see 'forgiveness' as being the result of a problem being 'fixed' somehow in our heart and our mind. Maybe a marriage or a relationship is still broken...that isn't the kind of 'fixing' I mean. Betrayal, for example, is a process. It begins when we first find out about it and progresses through stages. Forgiveness is the finish line that most of us never reach.

High Desert Diva said...

True, so very true.

Derrick said...

Hello Peggy,

As a Scorpio I'm supposed to be able to forgive but never forget!

If you forgive someone, is it possible for them to be oblivious to that fact? And if nothing changes in the other party does your forgiving simply become a continual process?

This is a hard subject!

Sherri said...

I find forgiveness far easier when I am forgiving a wrong to myself, them forgiving a wrong to someone I love...

dancing doc design said...

such a magnificent post, so well said- an open heart, I myself have to work on sensing it right there within the memory of the heart- have you read The Heart's Code ?
salut du midi

Alexandre Fabbri said...

Good one, Peggy. Kieslowski's films from the Polish era of 'The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety' come to mind.

neetzy said...

Love and peace to you and your dear friend. I think if she has recently been betrayed, she needs to work out her pain before she jumps to the burden of forgiveness. She shouldn't feel she is the guilty one. Deep wounds leave deep scars. If they are not treated properly, the infection can be worse than the wound.

Peggy said...

Kat, I agree with you 100%. To forgive AND forget require help.

Sydney, this is a subject that really tests our mettle, isn't it?

Meri, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful sentiments. I've passed on your words to my friend.

Wendy, I so agree with you. Rather than looking at forgiveness as a weak thing, it is so empowering.

Peggy said...

Carol, I know what you mean by that stack of to-be-read books!

Bee, I think forgiving a spouse must be the hardest of all. It's so personal.

Jeannette, thanks for stopping in! I think we can all grow in this area. :)

Willow, it's great to see you again!

Delwyn, beautifully put! The 'forgetting' part is interesting, though. Do we remember the wrong or the lesson behind it? If we remember the wrong, aren't we holding onto the very thing we've forgiven and released? Hmmm... that's food for thought.

Peggy said...

Sizzie, insightful thoughts. Thank you for sharing. Personally, I don't look at forgiveness as a finish line as much as the journey itself. But you're so right about the fact that none of us do this perfectly.

Diva, LOVE your new avatar! :-)

Sherri, this is a tough subject. I can justify so much in myself (not something I'm proud of), but I cry out for justice when someone does something to me. We're all works in process, aren't we?!

Peggy said...

Dancing Doc, I've not read The Heart's Code, but it's on my list now! Thanks for the referral!

Mr. Fabbri, you've introduced me to Kieslowski's films, and I've filled up my Netflix queue with them. :-)

Neety, it's wonderful to see you! Thank you for your thoughts. My point, though, with this post, was to share that I don't beleive forgiveness is about assigning blame and guilt. It's about letting go and releasing the poison so I can change/heal.

Peggy said...

Joanne, I can always rely on you to go a little deeper! When someone does not ask forgiveness, are we bound to forgive them. No. But when we hold onto hatred and the assignation of blame, it's like drinking a glass of poison and waiting for the "guilty" party to die. It hurts us.

Somewhere, sometime, somehow, the term forgiveness took on such weight and acquired such additional meaning that the basic process has become confused. I'm trying to think of it as simply 'letting it go', releasing it, giving it up and not holding onto it any longer.

Peggy said...

Derrick, it IS a difficult subject. The idea of forgiveness I'm trying to convery here is that to truly forgive, to truly let something go, isn't about the other person doing anything at all. It's about a choice and action on your part.

Now, after forgiving someone close to me for something, it would be foolish to continually put myself in a position to be repeatedly hurt.