A friend of mine posted a provocative commentary on Facebook today that was intended to elicit a thoughtful and philosophical response. He and I have been making these types of posts lately and engaging in some very interesting discussions. His post today had to do with forgiveness for your own sake and not for the sake of the one that committed the offense. I have been thinking about this discussion all afternoon today and I felt like I would expand my thoughts on the subject here.
Unforgiveness has no boundaries. It does not respect race, color, religion, sex, or disability. No one is immune to being offended, hurt, mistreated, humiliated, disrespected, or any other hurtful actions from someone else. We are humans, after all, and we often do things that cause emotional or physical harm to others.
When I was 12 years old, a person whom I loved and trusted very much did something to me. The specific offense is irrelevant but I carried that offense in unforgiveness until I was 35 years old. It hit me one day that this person isn't even aware that they have left this lasting pain in my life. They moved beyond it, forgot about it, and went on to live their life. I relived it and gave it power in my life to control me and my emotional state. When I was 35, I let it go. Just like that. I forgave them for me and not for them.
Today's conversation with my friend reminded me of this memory from my past. Forgiveness isn't for the offender, it's for the offended. Too often times in our lives, we feel like that if we forgive someone, that means that we are agreeing with that person or somehow validating them and what they did to us. The truth is, we forgive so that we can move on in life and let go of the pain.
We know a couple that, in the first few months of their marriage, the husband said something very hurtful to the wife, in a sexual context. The husband passed away 20 years later and the wife had never moved beyond that offense. They never recovered!
In marriage, forgiveness is crucially important to a healthy relationship. You will offend and/or hurt each other from time to time. Most of the time, it will be out of complete and total ignorance. The offending spouse may not even know the extent to which they have hurt the one that they love. This is why it is so important for couples to have good communication and trust in their relationship. The saddest things that I can imagine is leaving this world and my loved ones still be harboring unforgiveness in their life that I caused.
Make the decision today to forgive. I don't care what has happened to you. Forgive for your own sake and get about this business of living a better life. Unforgiveness is like an anchor in your life that drags you down. Forgive and break the chains that it has over your life. I know that it will be hard. It will be painful. What I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that it will free you from the weight and burden of something that you could not control and did not chose for yourself. Let it go and live!