LAST WEEK, IN TWO different places, I read about the concept of forgiveness. (Yes, this is the F-word I'm referring to. All you weirdos out there can exit now. Ha, ha.)
The first was while reading Marion Witte's book, LITTLE MADHOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. As you might recall, I reviewed this book on my previous post.
The second was while reading Jennifer Lauck's blog.
The subject of forgiveness has always been a little bit hairy for me. Although I believe it is a valid part of a person's emotional well-being, I have trouble with the peripheral associations that often go with it.
In religious or Biblical milieus, forgiveness is often given as a mandate in order to be "right" with God. It is one of the Ten Commandments, after all. Jesus forgave when humanity wronged him, therefore we should forgive those who wrong us. I get this.
Oftentimes for someone who is already wounded by humanity, being told they're sinning by not forgiving their offender can be like adding salt to an already stinging wound.
In other words, counseling a person who is still raw that they "need" to forgive their offender, is not going to help. It's going to make the wound even more tender.
On the opposite side of the pendulum are those who say, "I'll never forgive him for what he did!" They usually say it with an angry tone. I wouldn't advocate this attitude either, for obvious reasons.
So what is forgiveness? And how do we do it?
I agree with Marion Witte's definition of forgiveness. It is simply to not retaliate. Even when you're justified, you don't repay evil for evil. You decide to not wish (or perform) bad things on those who have hurt you. This doesn't mean you have to be best buddies with an abusive parent. It just means you're not going to harm them. You're not going to perpetuate the violence. You're going to stop the cycle. Simple but difficult.
On Jennifer's blog, a reader asked her how to forgive. Jennifer quoted the book WOMEN WHO RUN WITH WOLVES by saying forgiveness comes in stages and it's a process, not just a do-it-once-and-be done kind of thing. In my own experience, this has been very true.
What I've come to believe is that everyone who is truly seeking healing and desires to live without the bleeding wounds of trauma will at some point forgive.
Notice I didn't say "will need to forgive."
They will forgive.
In other words, I believe it is a natural progression in the healing process.
It's not something a church pastor or therapist or any other well-meaning person can insist upon. In fact I believe this is counterproductive.
When the time is right for the person who is truly seeking wholeness, forgiveness will come. Naturally, just like a scab.
Jennifer tells her reader to "forgive when you are ready. When YOU are ready." I wish someone would have told me this years ago when I struggled to forgive. What I know now, is that I didn't need to struggle. I just needed to wait for the wound to get to that point. Just like a scab.
Can you relate to this? Do you have a definition of forgiveness? Do you mind sharing where you are in the process?