Over the past few months, the topic of forgiveness has cropped up several times. That prompted me to write a post about that particular topic. Time and again, I have started the post only to come to a complete halt about one paragraph into it. All my life, I have heard about forgiveness and the peace that comes when forgiveness is given. I looked up quotations about forgiveness and found some good ones. The Bible often iterates the need for forgiveness particularly for one’s sins, literature often discusses forgiveness, and some say that true love cannot exist without forgiveness.
A personal favorite was from Lewis Smedes who said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Smedes was a renowned Christian author, theologian, and ethicist who taught for twenty-five years at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. and wrote many books on the subject. Early in my twenties, I recognized that carrying around hate or anger for another person required a lot of mental and emotional work to keep those emotions active. It also readily became apparent that there was a huge investment of time and energy needed to keep those feelings alive. There just wasn’t time to handle the hate and anger so I would let it go and move on.
When I read Smedes quote, it struck home that while my system worked for me it wasn’t true forgiveness. Perhaps, my life would have been a lot easier if I had learned how to forgive and forget. Perhaps, I would have maintained an openness to people instead of cringing when meeting someone new. The fear of the possibility of them hurting me as others had in the past became almost crippling. Perhaps forgiveness would have ameliorated the fear and allowed me to live up to my full potential. We’ll never know since there are no redo’s in life.
Forgiveness isn’t a concept, but rather a necessary part of life for everyone and a gift when given. True forgiveness would be like having a shower after playing in the mud. It would cleanse the soul and heart allowing you to have a fresh start each day. In retrospect, I find it easy to forgive others for being human while not giving myself that same grace. Being human and striving for personal perfection is an oxymoronic, but necessary, status of living. My mother-in-law once told me, “Perfection…hmpt….you can spend a lot of time being perfect when you are dead. Living your life is all about imperfection.” Those words so kindly offered stuck with me all these years and help me modify my constant push for perfection. My struggle on resolving this issue will continue until my dying breath. Forgive me.