July 15

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Forgive or Die?

I’VE BEEN TOLD that I can be “too forgiving,” and I always wonder what that really means. Usually when people say this, they’re referring to my (hopefully past) inability to stand up for myself and tendency to put myself in dangerous situations, but neither of those things really have anything to do with forgiveness. So what is forgiveness, and why does that word have so many different connotations to different people?

 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean restoring trust in someone after they’ve wronged you. It doesn’t mean excusing what someone did or repairing a relationship. Forgiveness isn’t about absolving someone of responsibility for their actions or forgetting and going on like nothing happened. The other person doesn’t even need to know you forgave them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you can’t still be angry. Forgiveness is about letting go of needing an admission of guilt, of needing an apology, of needing the person who hurt you to understand and feel what they did to you. It’s about accepting that people do really horrible things to other people, and it’s probably because other people did really horrible things to them. All the bad things that can happen to a person are bigger than just the actions of “bad individuals,” and placing all your hate on a person or persons is like focusing the sun with a magnifying glass—shit might catch fire but nothing will really change.

 

Forgiveness is making a decision to try to be kind other people, to understand where they’re coming from, to try to contribute more good to the world than bad. People who hurt other people need help, not to be eradicated from society. I welcome hope that people who do bad things can change to do more good.

 

I will never forget the person who destroyed my life, and I hate what he did to me, but I do not hate him as a person. I did hate him for almost 10 years though, and while I don’t regret the time I spent hating him, I can honestly say that finally moving on and “forgiving” him (I really am starting to hate that word) has brought me the most peace and freedom I have ever experienced. When I had so much hate for this man—I wished bad things for him, I wished he was dead, I visualized myself stabbing him in the face 10,000 times, and I vowed to never let go of that hate because that was the only thing that was going to protect me from going through that again—it completely consumed my life in a way that killed every good thing within me. I didn’t make a conscious decision to forgive this person, but I did make a decision to accept that fact that, while someone else destroyed my life through no fault of my own, it was still my responsibility to clean up the mess.  And somehow over several years, I realized that instead of wishing he was dead, I hoped he could somehow redeem himself to live a peaceful life so he can stop hurting other people and start making the world a better place. And, for me, that is forgiveness.

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