With so much being said about forgiveness, have you ever wondered what forgiveness is not? Could you be struggling with unforgiveness because you don’t know the difference between forgiveness and lack of it? I may not be an expert on matters forgiveness but I know for sure that forgiveness is not any of the following:
- Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness
In our world today, revenge is revered and embodied in most aspects of our lives. Just think about the movies, series and TV programs that you like. Doesn’t it give you a kick when your heroes hit back at the villains? Am sure it does. We have been born and bred in a society that believes letting go or simply walking away without striking back is a sign of weakness.
What we don’t understand is, it takes great strength of character to say, “I’m letting you off the hook not because I can’t crush your windpipe but because it’s not worth it”. And as Mahatma Gandhi’s once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” You have to be strong to bestow the gift of forgiveness.
- Forgiveness is not righting the wrong
Forgiveness is not righting the wrong but rather acknowledging it and getting past the comfort of holding a grudge. It is graciously accepting the lessons learned from the hurt so that the pain does not go to waste. Forgiveness is letting the transgressor go, not because he deserves it or what he did does not matter but because you want to move forward with your life. It’s not condoning the wrong but rather refusing to permit the hurt to sting you further.
- Forgiveness is not reconciliation
Most people associate forgiveness with reconciliation. This is a misconception that is so far from the truth. Whereas forgiveness can be immediate and within your control, reconciliation is not. Reconciliation requires restoration of friendship and mending fences of the broken relationships.
As a person, you have the capacity to forgive irrespective of whether an apology has been made. Reconciliation, on the other hand, requires cooperation and trust. And trust takes time to build. Always remember, forgiveness takes one but a reunion requires two. Just because you forgave someone it doesn’t mean they are back in your good graces. Trust me, some people are best loved from a distance.
- Forgiveness is not an event
Forgiveness is not an event, it’s not an end but a means to an end. Forgiveness is not a destination but rather a journey. It’s not a single decision but a process that takes will, resolve, endurance and lots of time. It’s a constant attitude because as long as you are interacting with people, they will always cross the line with you and you will need to forgive them.
- Forgiveness is not for the transgressor’s benefit
Forgiveness is for your benefit and not your transgressor’s. Forgiveness is not about ignoring the pain or pretending that it did not happen. It’s acknowledging its sting and the crookedness of its inflictor and refusing to be held hostage by his intentions. You forgive your adversary not because he deserves it but because of your own desperation for emotional healing and restoration. Forgiveness is motivated by our need to redeem our souls and deliver ourselves from misery and not the actions of others.
- Forgiving is not forgetting
As Lewis B. Mendes famously said, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future”. To forgive is not to forget but rather to deprive your pain and hurt the right to master and control your life and destiny.
- Forgiving is not easy
Do you find yourself resenting people who make forgiving look so easy? Then you are in the right company. I’m in agreement with Sue Monk Kidd when she says, “People, in general, would rather die than forgive. It’s that hard. If God said in plain language. “I’m giving you a choice, forgive or die,” a lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin”.
I believe that there is no power in the world like the liberating power of forgiveness. It sets you free and gives you the ability to remember the folks who have hurt you not with bitterness but with gratitude for the lessons learned. Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Yes. And it is worth every effort and morsel of strength you can muster.