Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The gift of forgiveness

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you. - Louis B. Smedes

Forgiveness is the final form of love. - Reinhold Niebuhr

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately - what it means, how it works, and what it accomplishes.

I've written before that I don't think forgiveness is about "forgetting" or "condoning" someone's actions. It's about accepting the things that have happened and showing empathy and compassion for the person you think is responsible for the hurt and betrayal you feel.

I've noticed though that it's often harder to forgive those you care most about - perhaps, because it's so painful and confusing when they do things that hurt you. 

It's also harder to forgive when the person who's hurt you doesn't appear to have any genuine insight into what they've done or feel any real remorse. 

Lastly, I think it's harder to forgive when you're vulnerable or stressed as a result of other things going on in your life.

We all make mistakes. We all need forgiveness from time to time. Goodness knows, I've been the recipient of far more forgiveness than I had any right to expect.  So I believe forgiveness is a gift we should try to offer one another when we can - even when the recipient isn't particularly interested in receiving it.

Hopefully, they'll eventually come to appreciate what's offered. But, if they don't, at least you'll know you did what you could to create a little more peace in the world - a little space for quiet reflection, compassion and reconciliation.

And, who knows, maybe the person you forgive will remember and "pay it forward" - offering forgiveness and compassion to someone who wants and needs it more than they do.

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