10 April 2012

Forgiveness


Mara and I are so grateful for the responses we received in the survey.  So many of you took a great deal of time to provide wonderful feedback and encouragement.  This post is in response to something I saw on the survey.  When we asked what things people would be most interested in learning more about, one of the topics that received a lot of votes was Forgiveness.

Surprisingly, I don't think Mara and I have dedicated a post to this topic, despite the fact that both of us feel it is truly one of the most important virtues/concepts for us to understand & we talk about it all the time.   In fact, it is something we meant to write about in great detail from the very beginning (and I think we have written about it quite a bit, though mostly indirectly as it is sprinkled through so many other posts).  Perhaps it is because it is so important to us and the way we try to live, we kept putting off writing about it until we felt we could do it justice.  I'm not sure that time has arrived, though I suppose it's time to stop delaying and just start talking.

I'll begin with some quotes from a book that has been on my mind for a few months now:

"When we are hurt, deeply or slightly, physically or emotionally, and we lie awake at night replaying angry scenes in our minds, staring at the ceiling, rehearsing what we will say and do next:  thinking, worrying, planning...we are enslaved and imprisoned by that over which we obsess.  Removing that obsession, "forgiving" it, has nothing to do with an apology extended or received; it has nothing to do with the other person at all.  And [Jesus] is telling us it has nothing to do with God either.  From God's point of view, we are always forgiven - seventy times seven - but that's only half the equation.  We are the other half.

"Forgiveness is the surrender of our victimhood--taking back the power of full personhood that was stripped from us by another or ourselves.  Either we find our way to let go of the victimhood of unforgiveness or we don't.  Either we stop thinking, planning, worrying about it and become free from it and delivered from it, or we don't.  God won't do it for us.  Until we forgive [and] set ourselves free, we are not forgiven [or] set free."

He then speaks of a time in his life where he experienced significant betrayal.  He talks about the sleepless nights, the constant worrying, the plotting and planning that I imagine all of us are familiar with to some degree or another when we hang onto the pain we've suffered at the hands of another (or our own for that matter).  That negativity surrounded him until the day he finally chose to let it go.  Interestingly, he recalls that the feeling of release and deliverance and forgiveness happened "without and apology offered or accepted, without any face-to-face contact at all."

A few pages later he makes this important statement: "The evidence of true forgiveness is the freedom to continue to act lovingly despite the hurts and tragedies we endure."  I couldn't possibly agree more.

What about you?  Can you relate to David Brisbin's definition of forgiveness?  Do you believe in forgiveness without apologies offered or accepted?  As we begin to tackle this most important topic of forgiveness, feel free to let us know what you struggle with or would like addressed in the future.

                                                                                                      (photo credit via Maiko)

30 comments:

  1. Oooooh! I love this post! Thank you so much! I remember once, between two looong telephone calls with someone who had hurt me, I was in a pause, crying (of emotional fatigue and frustration that he just didn't get the overwhelming situation he had put us through) and my brother entered the room and talked to me for some minutes. And he said: " You have to forgive him, because maybe he can't understand it, maybe he won't understand it in this life time, but while your sense of worth, recognition or even happiness depends on his accknowledging it, you are the slave of it. Forgive him, it's not about him wanting to be forgiven, or even understand it, but forgiving him will set you free." And it did. And many years later I was completely capable of loving this person and having lots of compassion towards him....

    By the way, I have already answered the survey, but I just thought about something... Maybe you could do give aways with these wonderful books you talk about once in a while... It would be such a treat! I have already bought some of them and would like to thank you for it! Vicktor Frankl...oh my, oh my!!! Thank you!

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  2. David's description of forgiveness is spot on! Thanks for sharing that.

    I realized yesterday that I had forgiven someone enough that I'd forgotten how she'd yelled at me. The sting in my heart was gone.

    The freedom given by forgiveness is sweet.

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  3. Forgiveness has been on my mind so much lately. I've realized that forgiveness is not just about "you" forgiving the person who has hurt you so you can "surrender of our victimhood--taking back the power of full personhood that was stripped from us by another or ourselves. Either we find our way to let go of the victimhood of unforgiveness or we don't. Either we stop thinking, planning, worrying about it and become free from it and delivered from it, or we don't. God won't do it for us. Until we forgive [and] set ourselves free, we are not forgiven [or] set free."

    I recently started thinking a lot about the people who ask for forgiveness, instead of the ones trying to forgive! This has soften my heart in the whole forgiveness process in general. Asking for forgiveness is also a way for the person who has done something "wrong" to try to make it right. To try to have a "change of heart." If I do not accept an apology, or if I make assumptions about the genuineness of the "sorry," than I'm going to never going to be able to truly forgive, and I will continue to maintain the strain on the broken relationship, while the person who tried to apologized should start the healing process, but might not be able to because of choices I have made. I'm going to start working harder on saying "I'm sorry" and allowing others to say "I'm sorry" to me with out being critical of them.

    I really like Dieter F Uchtdorf General Conference Talk from April 2012: 'The merciful obtain mercy.' After watching this I suddenly had a strong desire to tell people that I have wronged "I'm sorry" and forgive those who have hurt me!

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    1. Thanks Anon - I could only quote so much from the book (he offers three chapters on this subject alone), but I think the things you shared above are consistent with the overall theme.

      If there's one thing that I feel really explains his (and my) philosophy, it's that forgiveness is much more a state of being that it is a series of actions performed by you or by someone else. The only reason you'd be able to be less critical of someone saying sorry to you, is because you would have already entered into a forgiving state before they approached you (and whether or not they approached you for that matter).

      Hope that makes sense, and thanks for adding your thoughts!

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  4. It's important to forgive people because the one who does not forgive feels bad. Perhaps forgive but not forget means to not be angry at someone whilst also remembering and knowing what they did. One can know that some people are untrustworthy whilst not being angry at them - the unkindness is forgiven but not forgotten.

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    1. I like the way you elaborate on the idea of Forgive but not Forget.

      As I said above, forgiveness is more about a state of being than it is a set of actions. You can forgive someone that wronged you by being free of the bitterness and anger, and replacing it with compassion and understanding....while simultaneously deciding to not allow the person back into a position of trust that would continue to harm you or your family.

      Like David said - forgiveness isn't about apologies extended or received...it is the act of letting go of all the negativity regardless of whether or not the other person deserves it or does the same.

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  5. Thank you, needed this today!

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  6. This is a great post guys, thanks. I have always referenced back to a sermon I heard years ago that put it simply- forgiveness is a vertical decission that is simply between ourselves and God. Reconciliation is a horizontal decision between ourselves and the other party. While reconciliation is not always in our best interest emotionally, physically, etc. forgiveness is something we are biblically mandated to do- and is an act of obedience and worship to God.

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    1. I really loved this concept Kelly, thank you.

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  7. Thanks for this post. Now I want to purchase that book, sounds amazing!

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  8. kelly g, thank you! I've been struggling lately with that very issue, forgiveness vs. reconciliation, and your words helped me find the distinction. I want to forgive but have been scared about letting that person back into my life. Thank you for opening my eyes and showing me I can do one without the other. I feel a peace in my heart already!

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  9. This Carrie Fisher quote always helps me..."resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." I try to remember that when I'm holding on to anger or stewing over something. It hurts me more than that person I'm angry at!

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    1. Wow! This is a great thought. Amanda...... and it's totally true!

      When we are able to let go, we free ourselves. It's such a better way to live!

      Thank you for such a wonderful post Danny. This is something I am working towards. I can relate with Brisbin in the siginifacant betrayal and the many nights laying in bed, seething and being sick and stewing... but pretty soon it becomes all consuming, until it oozes out of you.... and I don't want to be that person at all! I have been around those people before and it's just so draining.

      I'm making significant strides in forgiving those who have trespassed against me, as well as asking forgiveness of my own weaknesses and perfections. It's a process but one that I'm willing to do the WORK for.

      Thank you!

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    2. **imperfections** silly me ;)

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  10. Thanks- looking forward to reading the book, with pen in hand. :)

    And looking forward to more on the subject!

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  11. This is so true! There was a significant event in my life where I felt betrayed by the person closest and most dear to me. It was so hard to forgive. It ate at me every day. I spiraled me into deep depression. I was lost and couldn't get out. It was not until I made the choice to forgive that I felt that particular burden lift! I still struggle with regaining trust but it feels so good to say I have truly forgiven...and I feel so free because of it.

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  12. It's difficult to forgive someone when they keep betraying you over and over again. :(

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    1. Laurie, I completely understand, and I agree. It can be very difficult. I had a longer response for you, and then realized it would be way too easy to misspeak and tell you something you didn't need to hear or share thoughts that weren't relevant to your unique situation.

      So, instead, I just offer my compassion, and my hope that you will be able to figure out what a healthy kind of forgiveness looks like in your life. Hopefully readers comments here have been insightful. I wish you the best in your personal journey to heal and move forward.

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  13. I held onto something for years and years. Then I talked to someone who forgives easily and told them about The Offense. I asked, "How do you forgive?" This person said something profound that changed my life: "You just do it."

    And then I married the guy that gave me the advice. :) I figured I needed someone like that in my life. Someone who could look me in the eye and lovingly say, "I know it's hard. But you need to do it." (I forgave The Offense. And now I forgive really quick! It's SO much better than hanging onto it. I can't live like that any more.)

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  14. Oh, good one! This is a great topic and something I struggle with. I thank the dear readers who were mindful enough to add this to their survey response. -Celia

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  15. I believe that forgiveness follows repentance, just as God does not forgive us before we have repented. The Bible is very clear about this. I believe that we release our pain and grudges to God, nailing them to the cross, and that is how we are freed from the poison of bitterness. But I do not believe we should absolve others of their sins if they haven't repented. Forgiveness is not frivolous and it shouldn't be an act of self-help. It is a very meaningful act of reconciling with a person who has sought forgiveness and turned from the wrong.

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    1. Thanks Harmony -

      It's possible we're talking about the same thing but using slightly different words to discuss it.

      I've never really been one to hold grudges against people. I've never liked carrying around negativity, and in that sense one might say that I forgive easily. Someone says or does something hurtful to me, there's no question that my initial response is going to be something along the lines of hurt, disappointment, anger, defensiveness, etc. I try to let go of those things as soon as possible, whether or not the person apologizes to me. It's the negativity that I'm letting go of (that doesn't mean that all of the sudden I approve of their behavior or would welcome them into continued association with me). Forgiveness is a state of being, a freedom that has come to me whether or not the wrong has been righted. And in that sense, I don't really care whether or not someone feels bad about it or repents....I'm not going to wait for them to repent before I let go of it myself. In that sense, I enjoy a "state of forgiveness" even if there is no reconciliation. I don't view it as an act of self help - it's simply a way of Being...similar to Christ's when he says "forgive them for they know not what they do". And even if they did know what they were doing, he still says "If you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses".

      Forgiving someone doesn't mean welcoming them back into your life with open arms, ignoring all the past damage they've done and may yet do again. I would view that much more akin to reconciling, and would agree with you that such a gesture would only be welcomed by those who have demonstrated a real change.

      It's possible to "forgive" an alcoholic/abusive father without letting them back into your life. Additionally, I don't think it would be wise to let them back into your life unless there had been a real kind of change that merited reconciliation of some form.

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  16. Please change the title under the photograph to

    Yurusu/Forgive

    You can check this on an online Japanese-English dictionary.

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  17. Forgiveness - Mara and Danny, what a great topic. A little tidbit I use...
    Think of not having forgiveness as keeping yourself on a fishhook. You want to keep the person or people that hurt you "on the hook" so to speak, and so they go onto the hook after you. Essentially, by choosing to keep these feelings going, you're left with not only the original pain caused by the incident or individual, you are ADDING to the pain by choosing to keep it and fuel it. In order to get yourself off of the fishhook, you must let the other person off first. Otherwise, you are both hooked!

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  18. I don't know why I am just now finding your blog -- I love it! My first marriage lasted 8 years and I am now happily remarried and have discovered, like you, how to live and be happier. Forgiveness is something I still struggle with however. Not because I am holding onto past experiences and obsessing over how things could have been different, etc and so forth, but because the pain keeps coming. I had two children with my first husband and being away from them brings me pain, it kills me that I don't get to spend every Christmas with them and that after a year of getting them through school, our summer of finally being able to play is given to somebody else. Maybe it's because the divorce wasn't my choice, or maybe I am still holding onto the dream I always had of when I would be a mother (which didn't include custody issues and parenting time). I have come a long way in forgiving my ex and his wife, but when the time comes for my children and I to be separated, the pain comes and suddenly I feel like I am back at square one. I haven't figured out how to forgive when the pain keeps coming.

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    1. Jenny, I understand how difficult something like that can be. I imagine having kids involved only compounds the issue (by very nature you are forced to be exposed to people who have hurt you over and over again because of the shared custody).

      I certainly don't know whether your ex is currently doing anything to directly or indirectly cause you continued pain...but perhaps I can offer a different way of looking at things. He may or may not "deserve" your forgiveness, your kindness or courtesy, or whatever else. But realize this isn't about just him. This is also about the quality of your current relationship with a wonderful husband and great kids. Do they ever suffer because of the continued pain you feel? Is it too frequently a topic of conversation (and a negative one at that)? Is there energy sucked up despising him or a situation that you literally cannot control (it's not like you can stop sharing holidays/summers)?

      If so, realize that energy taints the relationships you cherish most, more than it affects your ex. Perhaps you can try to forgive him, not because he "deserves" it...but because your children could benefit from a mother who isn't fighting against that which is uncontrollable. Forgive him for the sake of your current family, so you can be free from the negativity you still carry around you...and that MOST CERTAINLY has some effect on your family. Do it out of Love for those you love most.

      Maybe I didn't answer your question on how to forgive...but no "how" will really matter if you don't first have a "why".

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    2. Danny, I completely agree. Even before I remarried I knew how important it was to not put my burdens on my children. Even though they know I miss them when they are gone, I don't let them see me cry and I don't put them in the position of choosing between visiting their father and relieving my pain. I never want them to feel responsible, in any way, for the pain I feel. My ex had an affair and when it came to light, even though it was very painful, I was willing to forgive him and work with him to keep our marriage together. He rejected that. I knew his choices were not a reflection of who I was as an individual or wife, but I felt like my role as a wife had been attacked. A couple years ago, my ex's wife (involved in the affair) began calling herself 'mom' to my kids and this was a major blow to me, I felt like now my role as a mother was being attacked. No matter the situation, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it may be for me personally, I always choose to take the high road. I don't place blame or lash out, I try to set emotion aside so the issue at hand can be handled in the best manner possible. My husband is a huge help and support with this and my children benefit from us being able to maintain a workable relationship with my ex. I think my deeper issue, which I tend to lump with forgiveness, is how to deal with my pain in a healthier way since I have always had the tendency of bottling it up. If I can do that, I think forgiveness will come easier and bottled up pains won't get to the point where they are overwhelming. I hope some of that made sense!

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  19. i was in an abusive relationship/marriage for 10 years. i was desperately wanting to get out but i couldnt break my family's heart. or our kids. so i stucck it out in a loveless empty marriage. it was the saddest. coz we had everythign. but it felt nothing. until he left me for a paid person and got into a relationship with her and did all the stuff richard gere did to julia roberts in pretty woman. lol.

    he said i was unappreciative of all the things money can buy. i was too much to maintain.. but what he didnt know was he was buying off his guilt... because i cannot be happy with thosse.... i wanted him to bare his heart and soul. i wanted freedom. i miss myself. everyday i cooked his meals.. we had 2 cooks and 5 maids... but he wanted me to do it. it breaks my heart because all i can think of was: i was not brought to this world to be his mother. there has got to be alot more than this...

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    1. and i was right. i found my way back into love.. with my first love. :)

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