Monday, October 08, 2012

On Forgiveness

Recently my friend Laurie shared a quote with me that she heard on the radio regarding forgiveness.

"Forgiveness means giving up the hope that the past could be any different. Forgiving is giving up the hope that it could have been any other way than it actually was. Forgiveness does not mean that what happened was OK."
(I tried to find a source, but have found it attributed to multiple people including Anne Lamott, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Jack Kornfield)

I have been thinking a lot about this quote. Specifically, I've thought about how the places in my life where I am tempted to harbor unforgiveness involve circumstances that have already happened and cannot effectively be undone. Yet, something about forgiving seems to indicate that I am alright with what has occurred.

Perhaps my greatest downfall is my prideful desire for everything to 'teach someone a lesson.' I want life to matter. I want to be reflective and circumspect--to learn from mistakes so we can move forward better for them. A lesson seems like a sort of redemption, but I can't control what happens in other people's hearts and minds.

And what if the lesson God really wants me to teach in a given situation is His otherwise inexplicable grace and love? It is a lot to ponder.

Tonight as I was reading I was struck by this quote:

"Spoken forgiveness, no matter how heartfelt, works best when we do not demand the response we want. I mean that when we tell people we forgive them, we must leave them free to respond to our good news however they are inclined. If the response is not what we hoped for, we can go home and enjoy our own healing in private." -Lewis B. Smedes

I am praying that God will help next time I am hurt to ask myself honestly what I expect from a person to 'prove' they are sorry.

Of course, wise words from C.S. Lewis on the subject put the whole matter in eternal perspective:

"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life - to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son - how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it means to refuse God's mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says." -C.S. Lewis

This does not come naturally. Oh, how I need Him.

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