Pardon: Tolerance of distraction or inconvenience; a release from penalty of an offense.
Tolerance: A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinion and practices differ from your own; interest in and concern for ideas, practices etc. that are foreign to ones own; act or capacity for enduring.
Amend: Alter, modify, rephrase; to remove, correct faults; to reform oneself.
Forgiveness is one of those ideas I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around. Quite honestly when the topic comes up many times my heart constricts inside my chest. I used to think it was because I was an unloving and unforgiving person. Today I know better. Before I go on I want to say that I’m not talking about small grievances here. I am talking about behaviors toward others that have altered the course of their lives. My life.
It seems to me that the expectation of many of those who preach forgiveness, comes from what the majority have been taught about the matter. That Jesus suffered far worse than we ever could and he not only forgave the guys that beat him relentlessly, then strapped him to the cross, but was also able to love them deeply. Whew! Now that’s what I call a very tall order. And that is what kept me from resurrection for many years. When I speak of resurrection I am speaking of Change. A transformation of Mind. Being born anew. Seeing the world through a different lens.
The hang ups for me were that I thought forgiving meant that I had to humble myself in the same way I was taught that Jesus had. Convince myself that my tormentors didn’t know what they were doing. To martyr myself. The truth is, much of the time they knew exactly what they were doing, and chose to do it anyway. Again and again. I also believe they would have continued said behaviors had I not come to my senses and said; ENOUGH! Another wall for me was the subtle message that I had to prove my forgiveness by loving those who had wronged me. Picking up where we left off. The problem for me was that because of the wrongs done to me, there was no picking up to do. The relationships with these folks was never rooted in tolerance. Notice I did not say love. I don’t believe that Love can take root in an environment that lacks tolerance.
I have also used the way I saw forgiveness as a means of trying to force those I had wounded to forgive me. Used the old in order to be forgiven, you must forgive, as my threat. When this didn’t happen the betrayal I felt was in my bones. How dare they! Isn’t that what they’ve been preaching to me all these years!
The problem with the whole Jesus making it possible for us to be forgiven thing, is that we don’t seem to think we need to amend our wrongs. We believe Jesus took care of that for us. It took a long time for me to discover the wisdom of amends, but as soon as I did, forgiveness started to happen for me. When I got busy trying to correct the ways in which I had wounded others, which required the change of perspective I mention above, I was able to truly understand how much I had hurt them, and in some cases, how what I had done had not only changed the course of their lives, but also made their lives harder.
This insight has allowed me to grant pardon, without placing forgiveness expectations on myself or others. Today I love those I wounded more deeply than I ever have. I give all I can in the service of amends. In the cases where the relationships lacked a foundation due to my mistakes, I take responsibility. Forgiveness has taught me how to build relationships based on tolerance, in the spirit of compassion. To trust that Love will blossom where it is welcome