The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. – Mahatma Gandhi
Exactly one week after my ex and I split, I was laid off work. I was devastated, not because I was laid off, but because of the timing of it all. That morning when I walked into the office, I knew something wasn’t right. I felt it deep within my gut. The tension in the office was thick, and I easily could have carved a design in it with a knife. I also noticed that people couldn’t look at me in the eye. What was going on?
Then I was asked to come into the boardroom for a ‘talk.’ Oh boy, I knew what was coming and there was nothing that could be done about it, so I listened quietly and bawled my eyes out. I was scared, I didn’t know how I would pay my bills, support my child etc. I wasn’t angry, just scared. I accepted everything with grace and decided to move on with my life.
I told a friend that I would be having lunch with my ex-bosses and I was asked why I would keep in touch with such people? She told me that I should be pissed with them, and felt the need to remind me that I had been laid off, as if it’s something that I could have forgotten. But I hadn’t forgotten. I understand that it was nothing personal, and that it was the cost of doing business. I forgave them, but not for their sake, but for my own. As Lewis B. Smedes says “It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited.” I enjoyed my time there, met so many wonderful people, and formed great relationships which I will treasure. I was able to see past the act of being laid off, and remember all the good times, all the kindness and support which I received. And I appreciate the difficultness of the decision which had to be made. If I wasn’t able to forgive, then I would have missed out on the opportunity of having lunch with them, being in great company and all the other good things to come.
The same holds true for any situation where you have felt yourself hurt – being betrayed by a love one, being victim to injustice or abuse, being left out – the list is endless. But forgiving doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened. It’s about setting yourself free, not holding yourself prisoner. Not forgiving is consuming, and very hard work, it’s draining, degrading and just downright nasty. “Forgiveness is the economy of the heart…forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of the spirits.” – Hanna More. Think back to the time when you severely felt hurt by someone. I remember when I was, and I remember how I felt completed out of control, like I was a spin top heading towards the edge of the table. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and was not happy, no matter what I tried to do. My anger was eating me alive. All my thoughts were dedicated to this person who I was desperately trying to free myself from – like a bad love song.
It just didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t commit the ‘crime’ so to say, but I felt that I was the one that was suffering. Why was I the one to do the time? It felt as if the other person was in the wrong, but they were free to live their life. They went along their merry way, and I was left behind holding the baggage – the anger, the resentment, the turmoil, the hatred.
As I began working on myself, rebuilding my life, I started to love again. I learned that you cannot love without forgiveness. BUT you also cannot forgive without love. It doesn’t mean that you have to love the person who hurt you. It means that until you can love yourself, you cannot forgive. I didn’t know how to forgive. I didn’t want to erase the ‘crime’ which took place, that wouldn’t be right, but I did not want to continue to be victim to it either, and I sure wanted this person to pay for it. It’s a lot of work learning to forgive. And most times I feel as if I’m being a wimp, being taken advantage of, being a doormat. I have to keep reminding myself that the forgiveness is about me, not the other person. I’m sure that half the time the other person won’t even care if they have been forgiven or not, or may not even know what they did to be forgiven for. Lewis B. Smedes is sure smart, and knows a lot about forgiveness. He says “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.” I think I’ve reached that point. It’s a weird place to be. To wish the other person well, despite all that was done to you. Wow. That’s deep.
One vital aspect to forgiveness is leaving the past in the past. You cannot truly forgive, release yourself and the other person, move forward if you constantly refer back to it. Leave it there. As Sydney Harris says “There’s no point in burying the hatchet if you’re going to put up a marker on the site.” So true!
And another thing: “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” hahaha. Oscar Wilde is awesome.