I’ve been thinking a little about forgiveness lately, particularly when the subject turns towards grudges, and refusing to forgive.
Maybe we ought to start with what forgiveness is, lest we get lost in the weeds pointing fingers and moving the proverbial goal posts.
When I reflect on what it means to forgive, when I blow off the dust and dig way deep down I find that forgiveness is less about the words we say, and much more about our perceptions and the narratives we play for ourselves. Forgiveness can become a sort of book burner, or at least it should be.
Forgiveness is really about acknowledging that the person who harmed you is, in fact, human. They’ve admitted their failings to you, and they feel remorse. Or Maybe they haven’t gotten to that point. Maybe you’re looking to move past the pain they caused you at somepoint, and so you offer your forgiveness. You accept that they’re human, and that they have failed you in some way.
The act of forgiveness doesn’t erase the past. That misdeed cannot be undone, nor can it be forgotten. Forgiveness acknowledges the fact that the transgression has occurred, it doesn’t attempt to cover it up. So why then is it so hard to forgive?
We humans love our stories, and we love for things to be black and white, good and bad, Rebel and Galactic Empire. But life is so much more gray than that. When we forgive, we have to admit that the person has done wrong, and we have to move past that. That’s the hard part. We have to write a new story that involves letting ourselves be okay with the person we’ve forgiven, even while we know they’ve done that bad deed. And we don’t like new stories, do we? Because it seems like we may have to admit that we were wrong about the person we’ve forgiven, that they aren’t all bad, they aren’t all evil, that there’s still an Anakin underneath all that Vader. We have to give up a little bit of the reality we’ve created for ourselves in order to forgive. And that’s hard sometimes.