It happened in Kmart. It was one of those moments that I can never reproduce, but I will remember it forever as an opening point – a moment that opened my heart, my understanding and my eyes to the power of forgiveness.
“I blame you for nothing, I forgive you everything, and I will always love you.”
He looked shocked, confused and stunned as he stopped to look at me.
I repeated, with a little more importance on “always,” “I blame you for nothing, I forgive you everything, and I will always love you.”
This time, the face of my grown child turned to a delicious mixture of relief, acceptance and love. He dropped the bundle of socks, toiletries and food that he was holding in his arms into the shopping cart. The hug was long, the tears honest and the meaning understood.
This is how forgiveness works.
I can easily forgive others for cutting in front of me in line, taking the parking spot I was clearly heading toward or for a snapping comment that I seem to be on the receiving end of. I assume they are having a difficult day. You never know what the bubble over their head is holding, what is going on in their life or what hurt they carry. I am happy to report that I have successfully accomplished forgiveness with most people and circumstances in my life.
The disclaimer here is that I am a soul in progress. My humanness allows for human emotions. I have tried countless forgiveness methods, such as: The “Bury and Forget It” Method; The “If I Don’t Talk About It, It Didn’t Happen” Method; and the popular, “This Person Doesn’t Deserve Forgiveness, So I Am Going To Lock Them In A Box, Put Them On A Shelf To Occasionally Take Down And Kick Them” Method.
Forgiveness is a life lesson I continually attempt to perfect. The forgiveness challenge for me has been with those who have harpooned my heart in a penetrating way. When I helped someone, cared for them and trusted them to hold my heart in friendship or love, only to have them rip it from my chest, pierce it and then hand it back to me, is the expectation that I will not feel the scar?
Even more difficult is when a perceived injustice is done to someone I love. Is the expectation that I watch with no malice felt toward the offender?
That day in the shopping aisle, the answer became a clear YES. I came to understand that when you forgive, relief, acceptance and love become a two-way effort. My heart no longer carried the heavy weight of anger, betrayal and disappointment. I no longer had to continue the painful circle of picking the scab to feel it bleed and begin to heal, only to begin the picking again.
When I felt the relief in me that day, the lightening of my spirit and the release of the burden of carrying all those negative emotions, I realized that forgiving is a gift to myself. I emptied my heart of the dirty work of bitter resentment and opened more space for love. When he heard my words and dropped his bundle into the shopping cart, he also dropped his fear, shame and regrets, which opened more space in his heart to love and be loved.
By forgiving, I am not condoning, excusing or pardoning another’s actions. I am not saying that in every circumstance I will forget or remove all awareness of the offense in an effort to reconcile a relationship. Some relationships are best left as a lesson in our past.
I am suggesting we begin looking at things differently and open our vision to see that blaming, resenting and revenge do more harm to ourselves than to others. We are all learning from our humanness. We all make mistakes. We all feel shame. We all inflict hurt. None of us can say we haven’t wronged another.
It’s time we start seeing the power of forgiveness.
Pennie’s Life Lesson: “Forgiveness is a gift that opens more space for love – in you and others.”