The concept of forgiveness is in the forefront of virtually everyone’s mind where I live — Charleston, SC.
What is forgiveness? As life’s more bitter events deal their blows, the nature of forgiveness rises in importance, as does the “how to” of the actual act of forgiving. To truly forgive is not an intellectual exercise; it involves one’s viscera.
Charleston’s newspaper, The Post and Courier, ran an article on July 4th about forgiveness. The article, “‘I forgive you.’ Could you forgive someone accused of killing someone you loved?” asked local religious leaders that question. In so doing their thoughts about the nature of forgiveness, the act of forgiving, the forgiver vs. the one being forgiven are expressed. Regardless of your religious affiliations or lack thereof, they are thought provoking and worth repeating:
Excerpted from The Rev. Cress Darwin’s response (of the Second Presbyterian Church, Charleston):
What forgiveness is not:
- Thinking that what happened was OK.
- Condoning the unkind, inconsiderate, hateful, or selfish behavior of someone who hurt you.
So what is it?
- forgiveness is the experience of peace and understanding in the present moment.
- forgiveness does not change the past, but changes the present.
- forgiveness means that though you are wounded you choose to hurt and suffer less.
- Forgiveness is becoming part of the solution.
Because of what it isn’t, and what it is, and who we are, we must forgive.
“Hate is a cancer that is capable of destroying the person who hates. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” ~ The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
From The Rev. Isaac Holt Jr., Senior Pastor, Royal Missionary Baptist Church, North Charleston:
“…In forgiveness the benefit is greater for the forgiver than for the forgiven….It’s not even about them, it’s about you.
… Until you forgive, you stay hooked to them and under the control of what they did.”
From Rabbi Yossi Refson, Chabad of Charleston and the Low Country, Mount Pleasant, SC:
“As a wise man once said, ‘Walking around with resentment is allowing some of your least favorite people to live inside your head rent free!'”
From The Venerable Calhoun Walpole, Vicar, Grace Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC:
“People who have the capacity to forgive recognize that one forgives in order to be free–free from hatred, bitterness, and anger–free to love and to be loved. We forgive because we are forgiven.
Forgiveness is, of course, distinct from reconciliation. Archbishop Tutu has taught us that there can be no reconciliation without a proper confrontation–a proper confrontation–not a violent one….Forgiveness requires empathy, and the ability to see ourselves and others as members–together– of the human race. When we separate ourselves forgiveness becomes more difficult….Forgiveness may need to be as much or more an act of the will as of the heart, which is why it may be necessary to forgive more than once…”
From The Rev. Dr. Don Flowers Jr., Pastor, Providence Baptist Church, Daniel Island, SC
“When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it…You re-create him. At one moment you identify him ineradicably as the person who did you wrong. The next moment, you change that identity. He is remade in your memory. You think of him now not as the person who hurt you, but a person who needs you….Once you branded him as a person powerful in evil, but now you see him as a person weak in his needs. You re-created your past by recreating the person whose wrong made your past painful.”
In my own wanderings through life, I came upon this definition of the how to of forgiving: Accept [the offense], let it go, move forward. Each step far more easily said than authentically done. Then there is that other niggling little prospect that faces so many of us in day-to-day life: how to forgive oneself?
I will leave you with that thought for now.