“I forgive you.”
Three little words so easy to desire, so hard to give away at times.
Three little words that could have prevented wars, healed broken hearts and homes, and paved the way for a happy tomorrow for nearly everyone on the planet.
Three little words that ask so much of someone who has been hurt, and yet give peace and pardon to someone who has crossed a line.
Just what is forgiveness? And why is it a topic of conversation on a stress blog?
Whenever there is something to be forgiven, there has been stress. Stress when the act was committed. Stress looking back at the event. Stress trying to move forward from the event. Stress trying to forget it ever happened. Stress seeing the person who hurt you.
And on the other side, stress during the offense and cover up. Stress during discovery. Stress trying to explain and share. Stress being around the person you hurt. Stress looking back at the event. Stress trying to move forward from the event. Stress trying to forgive yourself for what you did- often to someone you care about very much.
Offender or victim: stress happens to both parties.
Regardless of whether the offense was big or small, stress and forgiveness are intertwined.
- Your friend didn't understand what you were trying to say, even after years of friendship. How can you forgive them for not understanding and responding to your pain?
- You were fired by those you considered friends. How can you show your face again? How can you ever open up in a work place after that? How can you forgive your self for not working hard enough?
- Your spouse cheated on you. How did you overlook the signs? What did you do wrong to make them stray? How can you ever restore that trust again?
- Your parents weren't there for you when you needed them. Why can't you belong in a normal family like everyone else? Why do you respond to their needs, even when they choose to ignore yours?
- Your son broke an antique family heirloom. How can you stop replaying the special when moment your grandmother gave you that priceless crystal vase that her mother had owned? How can you stop pouting at what was an accident?
- Your dog had an accident. On the rug. And it was runny diarrhea. How can you erase the painful look from your dog after you yelled at him for being sick? He couldn't help it. How will you ever forgive yourself for your outburst?
So just what is forgiveness? There's a clip from the movie Sex and the City that comes to mind:
This past week, someone asked me what the difference was between the words “forgive,” “forgiven,” and “forgiveness.” So I started thinking, and for a week, we're going to take a closer look at all kinds of aspects of forgiveness.
Today, we're going to focus on the word, “forgive.”
Our good ‘ole friend Webster says:
forgive: transitive verb
1. a. to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>
b. to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>
2. to cease to feel resentment against (an offender): pardon <forgive one's enemies>
I add to what Webster says:
To forgive someone is a process. It takes place over time. That time span is different for every person and for every situation. Even two people who have both experienced a break-up from the same guy or who have both survived sexual abuse will forgive and heal at different rates than the other.
Forgiving someone isn't instantaneous for big offenses. Instant forgiveness is easier with smaller things, like eating the last Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Milano cookie or not DVR'ing Grey's Anatomy. Forgiving yourself may be the hardest of them all.
To forgive someone is to embark on the process to heal and to grieve. Tomorrow, we'll talk more about that process.