Monday, July 16, 2007

More Thoughts on Forgiveness

One of my good friends asked me if I think it's okay to forgive people for things they’ve done, but still sometimes have angry feelings toward them. Now, for anyone who knows me, you know that I sometimes have issues with forgiveness. But for what it's worth, here's what I think.

I think if someone does something to hurt you, it’s acceptable, and probably healthy, too, to forgive that person, but still have strong feelings about whatever happened.

For example, let’s say your girlfriend borrows your car and gets into an accident. You can know deep down that it was an accident—you know she didn’t purposely do it—and you can be incredibly relieved that nobody was hurt. Of course you have it in you to forgive your friend! Why? Because she’s your friend! But two days later, when you’re standing at a bus stop in the rain because your car needs a few more repairs and your insurance doesn’t pay for a rental, you’re probably going to have some angry feelings toward your friend. And if you say you don’t have angry feelings, you’re either lying or a saint. And I hope you’re a saint, because I have yet to meet one in person!

That being said, I would guess that you’re not talking about someone who got into a fender-bender with your car. Maybe you're talking about someone who has deeply hurt you. Something more along the lines of an abusive parent, a cheating spouse, a rapist—someone who has done long-term, maybe even permanent damage to your psyche and self-esteem.

I think I’ll stand by my original opinion. I think it’s noble and healing to forgive that person. I also think it’s normal and healthy to feel occasional anger. I've been asked how I can say that. My thought is that forgiving a person doesn’t erase the memory of what actually happened.

It’s important to remember, too, that forgiving people doesn’t mean that what they did was okay, nor does it mean that what they did doesn’t matter. What it really means is no longer allowing that person to have control over your feelings. By forgiving people—even those who don’t want your forgiveness—you’re one step closer to regaining control of your life. In the long run, forgiveness is probably most important for you.

Now, if only I could bring myself to do the things that I actually believe about forgiveness…

Why do I have trouble forgiving the people who’ve hurt me? Because they’re not sorry. And I know it shouldn’t matter, but it’s something I continue to struggle with, pretty much on a daily basis.

Just remember that often times, the biggest obstacle to healing is you. Here’s to hoping that your path to healing is easier than mine has been…


jAMiE said...

I'm enjoying your blog...and i find it hard to forgive...but i'm working on it...thanks for your post!

Margaret said...

You are soooooo my sister! Forgiving DOESN'T have to mean forgetting, and it doesn't mean that whatever happened was okay.