Forgiveness does not simply mean that we forget. We’ve heard the term “forgive and forget”, but this is not always realistic, nor is it safe. We were built with the gift of memory, which often serves as our defense mechanism. At an early age, my daughter learned not to put her hand on the iron because the first time she tried it, it was hot and the blister that popped up on her little finger was not something that she wished to experience again. In the same sense, our memory serves us well so that we don’t re-blister our fingers, or walk back into the same hurtful situations we found ourselves in before. Thus, it is unrealistic and sometimes not in our best interests to “forgive and forget,” especially when the forgetting is done recklessly.
Yet, we are still called to forgive. Forgiveness means that we choose to carry no ill thoughts about the other person involved in the incident, regardless of whether or not they are sorry or remorseful. This is where the idea of forgiving for one’s own peace of mind and ability to move forward comes in. In some cases, we may never hear an apology from the other party. In fact, we may never even see the other person again. This is why we cannot base our decision to forgive on the behaviors or mindset of the other person. We may never get an apology or a confession, but we still need to release the baggage and free ourselves of the pain. This is what forgiveness is all about.
The baggage we carry will hold us back from living a life of joy, peace and fulfillment. We have to let it go, and this means releasing any ill thoughts or feelings that we may hold against another individual. But it doesn’t stop there. The ill feelings must be replaced with a sincere hope for well wishes upon the life and heart of the other person. Yes, well wishes! When we truly forgive, we want the other person to experience joy and peace as well, by repenting from their ways, through a life-changing experience, or simply through an eye-opening revelation. How the other person finds that joy and peace is not up to us, but it is up to us to wish them well. What we don’t want is for that person to remain in a state of bitterness or darkness (if that is, indeed, where they are). As long as they remain in this mindset, and as long as they continue to experience defeat through hardships, they are likely to continue to hurt others, as they did you. The last thing you want is for this person to be worse off than they were when you had the privilege of encountering them. Thus, it is clear that forgiveness has an interesting way of touching the lives of many – including yourself, the perpetrator, and anyone the perpetrator may encounter after you. You never know when your act of forgiveness was the one gesture needed to change someone’s life.
That said, let us not fool ourselves. Forgiveness, as with kindness and patience, does not always reap its rewards instantly, nor are the rewards always visible. The most important and visible reward you may see is the way your own life will begin to change as you gradually drop each and every one of those bags that you have been clutching for so long. You will feel the liberation, the freedom, the weight lifted. And that alone is worth the everyday practice of forgiveness.
This Hopeful Romantic