Forgiveness is one of those words that I heard often but never truly understood as a concept, or an action. What is forgiveness? How can I work to forgive someone? Why is it so hard to forgive?
Forgiveness: to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt
Finally I found an answer. To forgive someone is to release them from any payment or debt – “I release you from having to pay me back.” I release you from owning me any apology, any explanation about your behavior, or performing any type of act of contrition to make me feel better about a perceived slight, sin, or offense.
I forgive you. You owe me nothing.
This is a far cry from “I agree that you are blameless”. Forgiveness is a process with difficult steps:
- Making the commitment to no longer hold the other person’s behavior against them.
- Making the conscious decision to no longer bring up past grievances and throw them in the other person’s face.
- Making the promise not to talk to others about the person’s transgressions behind their back.
- And lastly, learning to expect nothing.
Then, and only then, can the words be whispered, “You are forgiven.”
Granted, this is much easier to say than to put in practice. But holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die (Augustine of Hippo). Grudges hurt me, not anyone else. Punishment limits me, not anyone else.
The best part is forgiveness only takes the efforts of one person to carry out. I can forgive others without even telling them. It is my gift to myself.