10. I have forgiven those who once hurt me.
I am happy to say that this is something I've made a LOT of progress on this year. I'm not saying I've cornered the market on the ability to forgive. In some areas, I still have a long way to go. But I really feel like I've made a lot of headway over the past few months and that fills me with a tremendous amount of relief.
I think that sometimes we operate under this mistaken assumption that it's the people we're mad at who need our forgiveness, like it's something we dole out if we are feeling particularly kind and accommodating that day. But, I think I've come to realize that it really isn't about them at all. Sure, there will be people who just can't operate until they've heard an "I forgive you" when they've apologized for something. But, forgiveness really isn't for the people you're forgiving. It's for you.
Here's the thing about forgiving... I think we have to get rid of the idea that there are conditions on it. "If Alexis does this, THEN I can forgive her for what she did." Let me give you a vague example. I recently was in a situation where I told someone that I was mad at them, that I had been very hurt by them. This is something that had been going on for a really, really long time... something that I kept shoving under the rug because I didn't want the confrontation. But I had the way it was going to go built up in my head. I was going to explain my hurt. They were going to apologize. And then I was going to forgive them. The bolded part is important. My forgiveness was totally dependent on that apology. I had convinced myself that I could absolutely forgive them, but only if the apology was forthcoming.
Part 1 went more-or-less okay. Hurt was explained, and then-- Apology was...not what I expected. It wasn't what I wanted to hear. It wasn't what I thought I needed to hear, and I felt really deflated. There was disappointment that they couldn't give me that one thing... but there was also a big sense of "Well, now what?" My condition for forgiveness was really not met the way I had laid out. Could I still forgive?
As it turned out, the answer I eventually came to was "yes." But, let's be clear on what forgiveness is. It's not about saying that whatever they did to hurt you is no big deal. It IS a big deal. It's okay to feel that it's a big deal because it is. Forgiveness isn't about laying yourself back down in front of them and letting them walk over you again. Forgiveness isn't about laughing goodnaturedly and saying "Oh, that spear you shoved through my heart didn't hurt at all, it's okay. Don't worry about it..."
It's not that. But it is saying "That hurt a lot... and that's not okay. But, I'm going to choose not to harbor hate and anger toward you over it all the time." That's what's left when we refuse to forgive. Something has to fill up that hole that once held love. And when we choose to not forgive, the things that end up in that hole are hatred and anger and self-righteousness and a desire to stab back. Why do we do that to ourselves? The only person that really hurts is US.
And so, too, the choice to forgive is really about us. It's about choosing to boot that anger out of our hearts and fill it back up with love. Maybe that forgiveness means that you can walk out a continued friendship with the person you've forgiven. Maybe that forgiveness means that you can finally walk AWAY from that friendship, and just not dwell on it anymore, stuck in the hurt and the what-ifs. But, mostly, that forgiveness means that you can stop harboring hurt, you can stop harboring anger, you can stop wanting to inflict pain back.
You can finally say, "That sucked. But I'm not going to let it drown me anymore," and walk on. I'm walking that out in a number of places, and the love that fills back in the holes is pretty nice.