Forgiveness, a lifelong project…….
“Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace” — Unknown
I’d like to thank whoever it was that came up with this, as it’s still the best reason I can see for forgiving someone. My own ‘forgiveness project’ started almost ten years ago, with the onset of a serious illness within my family. I wrote about my experiences with it back in 2012 and remember asking myself then, ‘what does it mean to really forgives someone?’
I’ve come a long way since then, though I still do need to remind myself from time to time, just how exhausting and destructive it can be to remain in a state of non-forgiveness. It can drain away energy, time and focus, resources that could perhaps be more usefully applied, elsewhere. Unforgiveness, costs you and I decided that it was too high a price for me to pay. Once I realised this, I made the conscious decision to ‘let it go’ and ‘move on’. My pragmatism on this made a difficult and painful family situation, just a little easier to bear.
At the time I read that the act of forgiveness is like ‘removing your hands from around someone’s throat’. Ten years on, my experience and belief, is that I’ve removed their hands from around my throat. Enabling me to move on, feeling ‘lighter’ and more at ease both emotionally and psychologically. It helped to discover through my research, that I wasn’t expected to idly forget about everything that had happened or take unnecessary chances or risks. It was enough to take the first step.
Forgiveness isn’t about a ‘rush of blood to the head’ or a sudden change of personality, but it is for me about trusting that at some point justice and right will be served. I no longer need to put myself in the seat of judge, jury and executioner. It’s been a liberating experience, which I’ve come to accept, will always be a ‘work in progress’. And to be totally honest, without my ‘spark’ — I would most likely have stayed stuck in the same place of ‘non-forgiveness’.
Today I am still committed to this path and its subsequent actions.
R.T. Kendall’s book, Total Forgiveness, is helpful where he cites Michelle Nelson’s degrees or categories of forgiveness:
1) Detached forgiveness — described as being a reduction in negative feelings, towards the offender. But no reconciliation.
2) Limited forgiveness — this involves both a reduction in negative feelings and a partial relationship with the offender.
3) Full forgiveness — a total cessation in negative feelings and the relationship with the offender is fully restored and grows.
Applying this model to my project, I am still hovering around two, but during the ten years I have taken greater strides towards category three.
I found it interesting that RT Kendall, then also discusses ‘Total Forgiveness’. A forgiveness that is complete and full, even if there is no reconciliation. Something that happens in the heart. A helpful definition that removes another barrier to forgiveness in that you don’t have to have a relationship with the person that you forgive. For some people reconciliation just may not be practically possible or safe.
I am some way from Total or Full forgiveness, but as long, as I keep working at it, I’ll keep making progress. Like everything else, it takes work. Consistent, focused and hard bloody work. Ten years on, it helps to remind myself, why I am doing this and whose memory I am honouring.
So, there you have it, until next time.
R.T. Kendall: — Total Forgiveness, Achieving God’s Greatest Challenge