"Forgiving is not about forgetting, it's letting go of the hurt." ~ Mary McLeod Bethune
"Forgiveness... is a willingness to get over what you think should have happened and an acceptance of the reality of what actually happened." ~ Rhonda Britten
"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." ~ Lewis B. Smedes
I've lately been thinking a lot on forgiveness. The concept has always eluded me, allowing me to understand in fits and starts but never completely. I don't consider myself a person prone to holding a grudge. I find it easy to give people the benefit of the doubt, but most of the people in my life are pretty good at apologizing. We all make mistakes and giving people room to be imperfect is important to me, not only because it's the right thing to do but because I hope people will do the same for me.
For a long time now though, I've had someone in my life I could not seem to forgive. The relationship has gone through many stages and there have been times when I've thought I'd managed to forgive only to prove myself wrong over and over again. I told myself I was detached but could feel anger and resentment bubbling at my core under thick layers of feigned disinterest. I've mulled it over for years and have come to the conclusion that although the situation is muddled, I've mostly been waiting for a humble apology. If only I could hear the words "I'm sorry" I could let it all go...
...but those words have never come...and never will come. I've known this to be true all along and have let it feed my anger, in part, because the picture I have of myself includes this anger. The emotion has been there so long, it's intricately weaved into my very being. Much like the way I thought about cigarettes in the years I spent trying to quit before I was actually able to: "If I'm not a smoker, than who am I?". The fear of letting go of deep seeded emotion is the same: "If I'm not angry, then what am I?"..."Does that mean what happened was okay?"..."That I don't care anymore?"..."That I've been wrong all this time?"
Finally. FINALLY. I get it. I'm not sure what happened but it has again reminded me of when I gave up smoking once and for all. I just...did. I stopped. I knew I had to do it and have not had a single puff since (or been tempted to). Circumstances had not changed dramatically at the time and I still can't explain why, after many attempts and failures, I was able to take charge but I don't feel compelled to find the reason. The important thing is that I did it. I gave it up. I don't let myself forget that at any moment I could be surprised by the urge to smoke, no matter how far removed I am from it, so always have my guard up but smoking is most definitely not a part of my life anymore. 8 or 9 years later, I still feel the freedom of my choice to quit. I feel grateful every time I smell a cigarette or see people huddled in a cold corner outside the grocery store, feeding their addiction, that cigarettes no longer rule my life.
I realize I just took my first few steps down this new path of forgiveness and that at any moment, I could be surprised by my anger but I feel hopeful. I know now that I am capable of letting go of the past while not forgetting it. That I can stop waiting for an apology and find happiness in the relationship. That forgiving does not mean excusing but accepting. That I can live in the moment honestly without getting the closure I've been waiting for. I'm grateful for this not only because it's the right thing to do but because I know being free of the weight of resentment allows me to soar higher than I ever thought I could. Thank goodness for that.