You may have heard it said a thousand times. Forgiveness is more about the person forgiving than the one being forgiven. It might be true, although it certainly does not feel like it. In the difficult challenge of navigating relationship, forgiveness can be a powerful tool, an asset or a liability. And it’s not just about the good of one or the other.
Forgiveness sets the whole relationship free. It blurs the line between forgiver and forgivee and allows the possibility for connection, us-ness to be reestablished.
One of the most dangerous landmines in relationships is the desire for control. Secretly (and sometimes not so secretly), we want to get the other person to do what we want, to have things our own way. We are passive-aggressive, manipulative scorekeepers. We want things to be easy, familiar, comfortable. We want to be in control and we want to control the relationship we are in to fit our own purposes.
This is why unforgiveness is so deliciously tempting. We like to have one up on another person, even if their fault didn’t hurt us too badly. When it does hurt, we feel that much more justified.
Our desire to control one another shackles our ability to relate. In our attempts to hold the other person hostage, we end up detaining the entire relationship, us included. And worse yet, we do it with a feeling of justification and superiority.
When we forgive, we are invited back into clear vision. We get the chance to get back on the same page. But it requires us dying to the illusion of control.
Most of us don’t really know what forgiveness looks like. Are we supposed to forget? Pretend it didn’t happen or that things are just ok?
Forgiveness is about one thing: reestablishing truth. And this can be a complicated and messy process. Part of forgiveness is acknowledging hurt. Another part is taking responsibility when we have a part to play. A huge element is humility – communicating that we don’t know or understand everything, that our values or the stories in our minds might be influencing our perspective in a way that manifests in an incomplete view of truth.
Forgiveness is a two step process. Reach for the reality. Grab hold of the truth.
We have to acknowledge the pain, frustration, and confusion that we feel (reaching for reality). We have to own our feelings and communicate them in their proper place. But we have to realize that in doing this, we will discover that the truth of any situation lies somewhere between our perspective and the perspective of others. The healing magic of forgiveness is when we find the truth and grab hold of it. Not the part that makes us feel better, even, or justified in our emotion, but the part that is deeply true. And then let go of all the rest.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, forgiveness is about grabbing something rather than letting things go. It is about truth.
Truth sets us free. It allows us to care for one another, to pursue our vision together, to enjoy the ecstasy and the peace of life in relationship.
Our shackles have a name – falsity. Lies. Deception. And no one is better at lying to us than us. Forgiveness is about letting go of all the things that don’t matter and clinging to the things that do.