Thanks to the good old reliable dictionary, I realize I’ve been going about forgiveness all wrong.
It’s said that forgiveness is not about absolving another person. It’s about self-healing. We forgive in order to feel better. In that sense it’s eminently practical.
Still, even when resentment is bubbling and it’s clear I “need” to forgive someone, it doesn’t occur to me. I’m more inclined to grumble and stew in the resentment until it simmers down naturally. “Oh, I’d better work on forgiving that person” doesn’t cross my mind.
I recently got the nudge that the time is now to examine the warp and woof of my life fabric for areas where forgiveness is needed. A daunting process, one I’ve gone through numerous times at the prompting of counselors or self-help protocols, but which never feels natural, comfortable, or right.
Still, I’ve been convinced that blessing myself with radiant physical health demands that I clear this wreckage out of the way first. But what about this new resentment at feeling forced to forgive in order to heal? Believing it’s necessary for my well-being doesn’t give me clarity on exactly how to forgive.
On some inchoate level, I simply don’t get it. I feel like I’m trying to catch a cup of water using a sieve. The water is there, I’ve got a receptacle, but it’s just not working.
Enter the Merriam-Webster dictionary: Forgive, transitive verb: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : PARDON. Example: to forgive one’s enemies.
This definition acknowledges that the other person is an offender and uses the example of enemies. Those are powerfully negative descriptors. I feel a lovely unfolding of vindication and affirmation. No wonder I have no inclination to say, “Oh well, it’s okay now, I forgive you.” It’s not OK. I don’t forgive that trespass.
But what’s this? To “cease to feel resentment against”? That is not absolving that person or saying what happened was okay. It’s only changing a feeling I have about that person, about what happened. It’s about moving from resentment to another state, another feeling, another frequency of emotion.
It occurs to me that the frequency of resentment has been impeding my healing. Impossible to feel vibrantly healthy when saturated with low-grade energetic dross.
Sunday morning seems like a good time for soul-searching. Perhaps Sunday morning I will find one thread colored with the darkness of resentment and ask for its story. I don’t want to say, “I forgive you.” But I can say, I am ready to let go of my resentment about this. And after a pause, I let go of my resentment about this.
And finally, I am neutral about this. Watch while the color of that thread lightens, becomes pale gray like smoke from burning cedar, and finally settles into the no-color between white and gray.
It looks like cloud, like smoke, like vapor. I take a deep breath, blow gently upon it, and watch it become nothingness. I take another breath of air that now feels buoyant, close that chapter, and go on about my day.