A letter about forgiveness, with no salutation but addressed to all.
In July 2015, I wrote a facebook caption forgiving the individual (or individuals) that broke into our car (twice).
I forgave them because I was taught to “forgive those who trespass against us.”
I forgave them, after spending several hours mulling on the problem, not just because my faith told me to but because I started to understand why my faith’s teaching focuses on forgiveness.
But before I continue with this blog post, I need to confess something – I dragged this example out of my Facebook archive not to share a pretty story but because in the conversations I’ve had over the past week, it turns out I haven’t learnt the lesson as effectively as I should have.
Recently, I reverted back to the selfish, self-righteous thinking that my forgiveness is key to the healing of others. And by doing so, my actions were hurting others.
For a while, for me, this meant forgiving others that trespass against us is all about those who hurt us. About forgiving them meant they can heal. That my forgiveness is an important, necessary part of their healing.
But I learnt that I was wrong. I learnt that following that line of logic was easier to follow because other people’s problems are sometimes easier to fix than my own.
Because, just like Prince Ea says, “people suffer when we place our views, our morals onto those living totally different worlds than us.”
“[Forgiveness] does not mean that we condone the actions of wrongdoers, or that there are no consequences, or that you should continue the relationship with an abuser. Forgiveness could mean that you have nothing to do with them ever again. Forgiveness is about your mental peace in your heart. Getting yourself out of your prison. Because forgiveness is about you, them.”
Sometimes forgiveness is a tool in breaking the violent cycle of hatred, of self-doubt and negativity. Sometimes forgiveness can make a difference to other person but most importantly, forgiveness breaks the internal, violent cycle of self-hatred to make a difference to your own mental peace of mind.
I forgave them, not condoning their actions or to say that their actions have no consequence. I forgave them because I needed rest in my heart. I needed to be at peace. Because my anger and hurt at that situation, at all of the frustrations caused by the inconvenience of leaving work early to ensure that someone was home when the RAC came by to fix the car, helped no one and caused more damage to myself and my loved ones, than to any strangers.
I learnt that my forgiveness is not the most important part of their healing. By assuming that they need my forgiveness to move on made me self-righteous, and without knowing it, I participated in a system of judgement, of anger.
I need to show grace and transformation, because just like Glen. H. Stassen wrote “Transformation and deliverance correct the vicious cycle of self-righteousness. Grace teaches peacemaking, not putting all the blame on others and building up hostility against them but acknowledging our own contribution to the problem.”
My faith teaches forgiveness, not just to ignore our own contribution, our hypocrisy towards problems, our own self-righteousness, but to include people in this community of love. It teaches us to name the wrong that occurred, facing it realistically and truthfully. It teaches us to overcome hate and the vicious cycle of vengeance, and it teaches to find empathy for the person, not the deed. In doing so, it teaches us to look at how our actions have hurt others.
But most importantly, it teaches us to establish a friendship with those who hurt us – because if we’ve excluded the person, then we haven’t learnt our lesson.
It’s a painful lesson I’ve had to re-learn over the past few months, and I can only hope to continue to walk in humble, repentant love and ask for forgiveness for the times I’ve tried to remove the speck out of my neighbour’s eye but ignored the log in my own eye.