Forgiveness is a tricky business. It’s a decision, and a process. It’s an act of the will, yet not without an emotional component. It’s walking away, and staying together. It’s about asking, receiving, giving. (Although interestingly, it’s not something you can take.) It costs nothing, and everything, all at the same time. It’s the words you say, but also your attitude.
Some people say forgiveness makes you soft. Really? I mean, the hard yards, the mercy to choose to not hold it against somebody when they have done that most hurtful, most unexpected thing? To say “I forgive you” and not “Look at me! Look at this giant bleeding heart of mine! How could you have done that to me!”
Forgiveness does not always make the hurt go away. But it does make it easier to bear.
I sometimes wonder if the being such as I am – different, not a Nice Christian Girl – opens me up to more opportunities to be hurt. (Of course, the Nice response is to say, these experiences will only make me stronger, and give me a chance to experience grace. To which I reply, OK, I’ll deny your right to be yourself, and see how gracious you are.) And when my thoughts go in that direction, I generally take it to be a positive thing. Because you learn a lot about yourself when people treat you badly for being, I don’t know, yourself.
A large portion of this year has been taken up with recovering from the emotional turmoil of last year. Hurts that, individually, were easy enough to forgive. But, like a thousand small cuts can leave a person unable to function though each in itself is fairly harmless, they left me feeling incredibly drained, confused, and fearful. Because I could forgive the people who made errors in judgement (who doesn’t make errors of judgement), those who’s pride or selfishness got in the way (again, I do the proud and selfish thing way better than I should), even those that are plain old mean (you get them in this world. Shrug your shoulders and move on).
What I have really struggled with, is to forgive myself. Because I really thought some good communication could fix the things. Heal the relationships. If I explain my side of the problem, and you explain your side, then we can put our hearts and minds together and find a way forward. We can understand where the other is coming from, and in the spirit of grace and forgiveness, find a way forward that won’t leave you feeling offended and me feeling unacceptable. It is, as far as I can tell, a fairly solid expectation – even when you’re dealing with Nice Christians.
So why should I have to forgive myself, if there was nothing wrong with the expectation? Because things didn’t go to plan. (In fact, I somehow found myself feeling even less acceptable. And as far as I can tell, the other parties involved remain oblivious to this fact, to this very day.) The Nice Christians won, even though it wasn’t a competition.
And I lost. I lost my confidence in my ability to make a difference. I lost my voice. I lost that happy feeling that you get when you know that you have overcome a problem. And I lost my ability to trust people. I lost my belongingness. Even in my own home, I felt I did not belong. Can you imagine that?
So I forgave. I forgave the individual people, I forgave the institutions. And I forgave and I forgave and I forgave. And I asked for forgiveness (not from the people concerned, directly. Even I am not that stupid.) But from God. And from The Dude (for putting the family through this). And from myself.
But I never actually forgave myself the expectations. So I have been walking around, waiting to be hurt again. I have some fantastic people in my life who think I am brilliant. Who actually do the whole communication thing. And I have been waiting for them to be offended and start telling me I am unacceptable.
Because when the Nice Christians decided I wasn’t worth it, I changed my expectations. I decided it would just be easier to expect that people would decide I wasn’t worth it. Not intentionally (in fact, I voiced the exact opposite to The Dude). And that has been to my detriment.
So next time you ask yourself for forgiveness, remember to actually forgive yourself. And forgive your expectations too. Even when there’s nothing wrong with them.