Tuesday, March 3, 2009


"forgiving - allowing room for error or weakness"(Merriam Webster Online)

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:13-15, New International Version)

I think tonight is the first time I actually looked up the definition of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a big subject in my life right now. It seems like it should be something simple. Someone harms you in some way and you make a choice to forgive them. Pretty easy, right? RIGHT? Wrong!

Want to know why I don't think the concept of forgiveness is simple? Well, here it is. Too many people confuse other things with forgiveness. So I want to do what I can to clarify what we are talking about here before we discuss anything else. Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. Being willfully forgetful does not qualify in my estimation as forgiveness. Pretending to forget is not forgiveness either. If Joe borrows $500 from you knowing that you need that money to pay your rent, promising that he will surely pay you next Tuesday and he doesn't, choosing not to remember what a jerk he was for getting you evicted is not forgiveness. Neither is "letting things go." If Sally was your girl, and you made plans to marry and you found out that she was dating someone else the whole time you were planning your wedding, choosing not to fight about it and to focus on the future is not forgiving her either. Not if it means that you can't open your heart to her again. If your heart shuts down, even a little, you haven't forgiven her.

I am so tempted to write about this in an academic fashion. To compare the sacrifice Christ made for us despite the fact that we did not deserve his sacrifice with your relationship with Sally. But I stop short of doing that. Why? Because I am not fully convinced that humans are truly capable of forgiving. To forgive, or to "allow room for error or weakness," implies that you are above that error or weakness yourself. In my humble opinion, none of us are above the possibility of the same error or weakness we hold against our friend/lover/sibling/parent. Only Christ is capable. Not only is he capable, but he has a track record. He made the ultimate sacrifice even though he knew what we were/are. He knew/knows what we are capable of in our blackest moments. He knows this of individuals and he knows this of humanity as a race. Christ knew there would be Attila the Hun, Hitler, and Saddam Hussein. He knew that there would be you and me. But he still was willing to hang on that bloody tree for humanity.

So I get the whole "He died for our sins" idea. What I don't get is how I am supposed to forgive someone that I feel has wronged me? Not because what they did was so horrible...I mean, if you compare the hurts I have suffered against what people who have endured the Holocaust have for instance, my suffering is nothing. My trouble lies in the fact that in order to be able to "allow" for weakness or error you must first be sure it IS either weakness or error and second you must be able to open your heart up to being wronged again. Otherwise you are allowing for nothing. Choosing not to spend energy thinking about something is not the same as allowing for.

Let's chew on that for a while. I'm going to bed...hopefully to sleep, but maybe to think about how to forgive others in my life who I have felt wronged by. Hopefully I am forgiven for my wrongdoings.

My five things:

1.) I am grateful that Christ has made the sacrifice he did for the sake of forgiveness
2.) I am grateful that I have a brain and a heart to contemplate the meaning of forgiveness
3.) I am grateful that I can type
4.) I am grateful for friends and family who love me and want to help me embrace the idea of forgiveness
5.) I am grateful Monday is over

My bucket list:

1.) I want to learn how to truly forgive others
2.) I want to learn how to humbly accept forgiveness
3.) I want to feel less need to forgive
4.) I want to show my children more grace
5.) I want to go to a Jimmy Buffett concert


Anonymous said...

I've heard 2 definitions of forgiveness that I think might apply:
- "Forgiveness means giving up your right to retribution or retaliation"
- "Forgiveness means abandonning all hope for a better yesterday"
- kg

Anonymous said...

I believe forgiveness is a gift you give yourslef.