“Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering – remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.” – Desmond Tutu
Several years ago, while settling in to listen to a respected pastor give his Sunday morning sermon, I never imagined how it would help me understand a word so fundamentally basic.
As young children we’re taught that if we do something wrong we should immediately apologize, and in turn the person we’ve wronged will forgive us. While it sounds like an easy enough concept in theory, as we grow into adults we quickly learn that the act of forgiving charters a more complicated path.
For starters our interactions with others on a professional, emotional and even physical level become much more complicated. Our words and our actions more deeply wound the heart and spirit of those around us, rightfully so, and sometimes the words “I’m sorry” aren’t enough to simply forgive.
But as I said, that Sunday morning I was truly enlightened. After years of struggling with myself to try and understand how I could possibly forgive someone who so blatantly wronged me, it finally became clear.
C.R. Strahan once said, “Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim – letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.”
We do not need to forgive someone face-to-face with words of sincerity often found on the inside of Hallmark cards in order to be absolved.
What we need to do is finally relieve ourselves of the burden clinging to that pain ultimately causes. It haunts our relationships, lessens our self-worth and only propagates the negative feelings of the initial occurrence.
Look deep inside your heart and replace the burden with the words, “I forgive you.” As the Sunday sermon taught me, forgiveness is not for the benefit of the person who has wronged you, but rather for the person who has been wronged.
Don’t allow the hurt others have inflicted upon your life to rob you of the life you still have to live.