Monday, December 14, 2009

The Freedom of Forgiveness

The topic of forgiveness has, understandably given the circumstances of this summer, haunted me for the last few months, and resulted in my writing Friday's post.  I've received a number of comments in response to that post, and they have prompted me to think about another experience I had with forgiveness not that long ago.

Without going into details, there came a time a few years ago when I needed to deal with and let go of some long-standing painful baggage, an accumulation of hurts that I'd experienced in connection with someone I loved.  For a long time, I had carried with me the weight of those hurts and they had begun to influence my outlook on life.  It felt like I was becoming that bitter person I didn't want to be.  I wanted desperately to be able to move on, even to forgive, but I just couldn't do it.  I even tried speaking the words out loud on a few occasions and I was unable to get them out; it was like they were stuck in my throat.  But really, it wasn't the words that were stuck there - it was more that the anger and resentment were adhered to my heart.  I worked deliberately towards a place of forgiveness.

What happened was something a little different than I'd expected.  Before I felt quite prepared in my heart to let things go entirely, I was able to finally speak the words of forgiveness that I needed to speak...and so I spoke them.  The first surprise was that, despite not feeling entirely ready to forgive, when I did, some of the load lifted off immediately; I felt relief and did not begrudge the words.  In the following days, when I felt the habitual old anger creeping in, I forced myself to remember that I had chosen to forgive.  The second surprise was that it didn't even take more than a few days before those reminders were rendered obsolete - because I was free of the burden my anger had imposed on me.  It was, for me, the ability to utter the words that enabled them to become truth in my heart and in my life.

It has been a few years now since I experienced the power of forgiving someone who'd hurt me.  I have had one further surprise:  I have forgotten many of the details of those hurts that I used to be pre-occupied by.  Those things that I do remember I can think about objectively, without any of the pain that used to chaperone the memories.  My hope is that, when it comes to choosing to forgive those involved with the Imagine fiasco, I will also eventually be able to put behind me the pain that it brought.

As I mentioned in Friday's post, I have also experienced the transformational power of being forgiven by someone whom I have hurt deeply.  But perhaps the greatest surprise of all is how equally potent an experience it is to be the Forgiver.

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