I’ve been researching forgiveness lately. Forgiveness is a very odd concept because everyone talks about it, but no one seems to know how to really forgive. Even the books on forgiveness do not fully explain what’s supposed to happen next. Will heaven shine a light on you? Will your wounds magically go away? Probably no to both.
I come from a family of grudge holders. Forgiveness is the “good Christian” thing to do, but I realized those were just words I grew up with. It’s not something I’ve ever seen in practice. I have family members who have held grudges for over 40 years, so long they aren’t even sure what happened, they are only sure of how much they dislike the offender. Over the years I thought I forgave some folks, but really, I just put them out of my mind and out of my life. While it was effective, but I don’t think it is actually considered forgiveness.
My mother died in 2007. I experienced what is called delayed grief. To make a long story short, I skipped straight to acceptance in order to move forward with taking care of my younger sister. Last year, the tenth year, grief hit me hard. And now that I am back to acceptance I’m left with unresolved abandonment issues I didn’t even know I had. This means in less than six months I’ve gone from missing my mother to resenting her.
So, I researched forgiveness.
During my research, I watched a video where Pastor TD Jakes asked the congregation to forgive and instructed them to determine if the person who wronged them was wicked or weak. Meaning did the person do the thing to intentionally hurt you or was it a byproduct of the stuff they have to deal with. It was an enlightening point of view, but problematic. For one, it assumed that most people wronged others solely due to their own weakness. While wicked conjures up images of villains, witches, and demons, we all know there are truly unhappy, hateful people in the world who, consciously or not, look for ways to hurt others in order to make themselves feel better.
The second reason this is problematic is, even if you know someone well, it is possible to make the mistake of believing you know their motivation. Motivations are often multi-layered. Wicked or Weakness requires extreme empathy and a glimpse into one’s psyche. For example, a close friend did not attend your party. Yes, she may have been momentarily jealous of you and your success, but she was also embarrassed by her own very public failure, suffering from debilitating social anxiety, and didn’t even have enough gas to get out of her block. She didn’t attend because she couldn’t and she was too ashamed to tell you the real reason. Meanwhile, you are holding a grudge because you think she is jealous of you and being a crappy friend.
Admittedly, wicked or weakness has helped me forgive most of the people in my life. No person is exempt from weakness. Every human has baggage, triggers, and faults. Sometimes those very human qualities cause us to unwittingly hurt those around us. Accepting someone’s weakness does not mean they are automatically exonerated from being wrong. It simply means you understand the possibility of other, stronger, forces at play.
As for the wicked? People who mean you harm should be immediately removed from your life.
Understanding that I have most likely unknowingly caused someone pain made me more amenable to forgiving those who have trespassed against me.
For those I have wronged, I’m sorry. Please forgive me.