There is nothing fair about forgiving someone. They did or said something to us that was painful. They stole our dignity, our sense of value, our rights. They should have to pay for that.
Unfortunately, no matter if they groveled at our feet in sincere sorrow – which usually does not happen – the clock cannot be rolled back, the deed cannot be undone, the words erased as if they were never spoken. It is, as they say, “water under the bridge.” That really stinks.
For most of us, there is a specific person who has come to mind as you read this. For some, it brings a flood of painful memories and its accompanying anger. If you knew what they did to me, you would understand why I can’t forgive them, you’re thinking right now.
Better than most, I do understand. If we were face-to-face, we could exchange horror stories and work one another into quite a frenzy.
When we finished, what would have changed?
I’ve been asking this question a lot lately.
There are people in my past whom I’ve refused to forgive. They owe me. The problem is that their debt is humanly impossible to repay. They are as powerless as I to go back and do things differently. Some of them wouldn’t change a thing if they had it to do over.
Therefore, day after day I dredge them up, rehearse what was done or said, lament at the consequences I’ve had to pay, the wounds I’ve had to bear, the effect their actions have had on my life. What could have been a pleasant day turns into a tornado of whirling thoughts, full of the broken wreckage that once was my heart.
Meanwhile, my offenders are off living life, enjoying themselves, going on as if nothing had happened.
It isn’t fair!
Once upon a time, they stole from me. Today, I’ve left all the windows open, the front door wide ajar, and, in fact, am throwing more of my heart out into the street for them, and anyone else, to run over. I’ve become an accomplice to the thieves. That’s just bizarre. Why would I do such a thing?
The hardest thing to understand about forgiveness is that it is for my benefit – not theirs. I mean, day after day I drag them around with me like an old, dead corpse. They stink up my life and taint many decisions that I make – Can I trust you? Dare I risk being open with this person? I shouldn’t try that, they said I’ll only fail. They’re probably right.
They also affect how I react to different people. The minute I encounter an angry person, for instance, I shut down. Criticism does the same thing, as do those *fun* cutting remarks, which I’ve affectionately termed sitcom humor.
In addition, there are the wounds. So long as I keep picking at them, that’s all they’ll ever be – wounds. You only have a scar after healing comes.
Attempts by these people to move closer to me after they’ve sincerely apologized are rebuffed. They may have apologized, but they haven’t paid for what they did. As if they could.
Meanwhile, there’s a wall between us that’s a mile high and growing by the minute.
I realized today that I’m as close to these people as I want to be. Some of them are close friends and family. I’ve blamed them for the shallowness of our relationship in the past. Now I see that I’ve only given them a wading pool in which to meet me. The lack of intimacy is on my part, not theirs. They’ve tried to make amends, but it’s never enough.
Until I’m willing to bear the marks of their sin in my body (allow wounds to heal and become scars), and release them from the debt they owe (extend forgiveness), I will ever be a prisoner to my past. Relationships that should be thriving will be stunted in growth – and so will I…just a dinky bonsai instead of the towering palm tree I was created to be.
You see, when we build walls, we always forget to put in windows or a door. We wake up one day to realize that what was once a heart-high barricade has become a prison from which we can’t escape. It’s cold, dark, and lonely in that place.
All the while, my offender is walking around free. What’s wrong with that picture?
It is NOT FAIR.
Well, what am we going to do about that? There’s no way to ever make it fair while we’re alive. You do realize that, don’t you? It’s impossible to change the past.
Shall we continue to give them our future as well? What would be fair about that?
Not a cotton-picking thing! It’s time to throw off the shackles of unforgiveness, drop that old dead corpse right here and now, stand tall, take a deep breath, and step into life with a clean slate.
It’s not fair – but it’s freedom!
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