To Err Is Human…To Forgive, Sublime…
I used to write a lot about forgiveness. I think I wrote about it because I kept having arguments with friends about what it means to forgive.
It’s an odd thing for me to write about because, in many ways, forgiveness is something Christians talk about all the time and you know us lapsed Catholics…we try very hard to stay out of religious conversations.
What does it mean to forgive? And, for that matter, what does it mean to be forgiven?
Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave. Indira Gandhi.
Am I brave because I can forgive people I love? I’m never sure. I’ve struggled with this over the past few years. Okay, decades. Does forgiving make me weak?
What I’ve learned is that being able to say to someone you truly love that you accept them for who they were yesterday, who they are today, and who they will be tomorrow takes a lot of strength. You have to be willing to admit that they may hurt you – but that while you’ll suffer in the moment, one day you’ll wake up and be fine enough to believe they truly didn’t mean to hurt you.
Maybe I’m going to be that 100 year old woman shouting to the unconverted about people and how no one really wants to hurt anyone else. Or maybe I’ll be the last woman standing because it’s true – most people go through life hoping to be the best possible version of themselves and their intentions aren’t to do damage to others.
If I didn’t believe that I would have given up a long time ago.
The thing that gets in the way is fear. Fear makes us try to do our worst to people sometimes, because we’re really trying to do the worst to ourselves. No one gets out alive when that happens.
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. Mark Twain
What makes me write about forgiveness now? I’m not even sure. Part of it is timing. Mother’s Day is approaching and my sister says she always misses my mom the most around this time of year. I miss my mom in July. For anyone who has spent any time with me and my blog, you know my mom and I had a tumultuous relationship until she died in 2004 but I still loved her as only children can love.
When I was just about to turn 30, she called me and asked if I could forgive her for the years and years of physical and mental abuse. We both started crying and I knew how hard it was for her to ask me that. My answer was that I forgave her years ago – honestly, I forgave her after each slap or punch or bloody nose. I forgave the bruises and the scars and I even forgave the threats she poured out whenever she was too tired and too angry to hit me. Nothing my mother did could make me stop loving her – it only made me realize I had to keep my distance or risk not making it out alive after one beating or another. Back then, all I wanted was an apology. Then, A came along and I realized it was time to forgive myself.
Yes, myself. I had to forgive myself to constantly thinking I deserved the things my mother did – I didn’t . I was too young to have created the anger inside of her. Once I stopped wanting an apology my life seemed to change directions. There have been times in my life when I’ve forgotten how it feels to let go and it’s those times that I wish I could undo or at least change.
Maybe that type of thinking does take strength. I’m never sure.
Forgiveness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr.
That’s what I believe. Forgiveness is something I can offer, but it has to be accepted and, more important, it has to be believed.
My words mean little if they don’t reach inside and make you know that sometimes, life deals certain hands – we make mistakes – we forget what we really want for ourselves and others – love and forgiveness seem like things we don’t deserve.
And that’s exactly the moment we probably deserve them most.
Forgiveness. Perfectly timed to Easter. See, I remember all of my years of Catholic education and A’s, too.
To believe the story of Christ means I have to believe someone loved me enough to die for my mistakes – and believing in his resurrection also means I have to believe in forgiveness and the power to start over.
Two words in a recent comment and I had this immediate feeling of ‘I know this person’ even though I wasn’t sure. But I was right. And I had to think about what it means to say I forgive versus actually forgiving.
Thankfully, I gave myself the answer I knew was there all along.
To forgive is easy. To accept…
That’s pretty sublime.