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What is Forgiveness?

I hadn’t planned to write on forgiveness, but it pushed to the front. I’ve heard again and again that unless you forgive, you can’t be happy or successful at life.

So what is forgiveness? Saying what they did is alright? That is silly, if you hate what they did. And if feels wrong if you were crippled by it.

I hear and read many places: “You must forgive yourself.” I believe it. I say it myself. But what is it?

I believe there are some things that precede forgiveness: acceptance of brokenness, acceptance of love, believing in hope and that I am lovable.

In order to forgive, you have to believe that you can do great wrong, that you can hurt people–that you are capable of evil. You also have to believe that you are of great value, that you are loved and capable of loving others. The first is difficult if you grew up thinking you were the center of the universe, and never had it corrected. That last one is difficult for many of us, especially if we didn’t feel it. We are feeling people who can think. And we have to be able to do both mindfully. We try to be thinking people who can feel, but we are mainly run by emotion. (When you’re tired or threatened, emotion takes over. Even when you want to do something different, feelings will often sabotage and take you back to what is comfortable.)

Forgiveness matters because we crave loving and being loved. If we accept the above as reasonable, then we have to acknowledge that there is a God of love, or none of this would make any sense. Without God there would be no reason to love or forgive, except survival–and that, too, is God; without Him emotion would destroy us; so we come to the most basic belief underneath forgiveness.  We were made pure, good, loved and capable of loving; and became broken–capable of evil, attracted to evil,  often ignorantly. Emotions have become so twisted here that what feels good many times is destructive.

Are you following? Most of the important things in life are backwards, or feel backwards because we were made to run on love, but we don’t here.

So then what is forgiveness? I have thought about this for 10 years, and studied it longer. What actually is forgiveness? First you have to admit evil and wrong: Oswald Chambers says, “The recognition of sin does not destroy the basis of friendship; it establishes mutual regard for the fact that the basis of life is tragic.”

It is now, but it wasn’t always so. In our beginning we were all good, made for love and joy. That means we have to accept sin. What in the world is that? I see it as brokenness, but it is more accurately that which broke us–high-handed mutiny against God and love–that which separated us from God and gave us two conflicting natures. It was high-handed because there was no reason for it. It came because they could. They were free to rebel. It happened before us.

So then forgiveness makes possible the reconciliation that fixes the separation–the tragedy. But it is not reconciliation. You can forgive without reconciling. And that comes from the God-part of us. It can’t be otherwise. Reconciliation is the idea that people are worth living with, worth loving, capable of choice and change. But forgiveness comes before.

Forgiving is primarily for us–it frees us from carrying hurt and anger. It is the attitude that makes it possible for us to keep giving even when we have been hurt or when we have done the damage. We give ourselves another chance to get it. We believe we aren’t hopeless.

At the most basic level forgiveness is belief that love is real and freedom exists–that I can make choices and change, and so can you, that love is a power in the universe and we call it God. There is a being, a Trinity of beings, who is pure love who wants to live with us and bring us back to wholeness, but who will let us choose in freedom.

Love is not just an emotion. It is power. Pure stable energy that is so strong unstable energy can’t exist in it’s presence. The first five books of the Bible, and maybe all of them, are about God trying different ways of dealing with the problem of being with us because His presence would consume us.

Forgiving is the easiest thing God does. Reconciliation is a process requiring a want-to on both sides. But forgiveness most simply stated is for giving love to ourselves and others just because we can. Forgiveness may be separating in love (as God had to) or it may be coming together in love, but it is fueled by love and supported by choice. I can let go or take you back believing in the change love can make. I can come back to Love.


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Why did I react like that? I wailed to God after saying “You’re such a pain!” to my 10 year-old grandson. I just blew it again, and I so want to be this loving grandma I see in my head.

And God is so sweet. He showed me the good side of our relationship. Who else runs to you every time you’ve been apart, gives you a hug, and says, “I love you Grandma.”

I had to admit it, They are all sweet and loving, but nobody shows it or expresses it as much as Wade. So are You saying that the closeness brings out the worst as well as the best? I guess that makes sense–we risk most where we are the most comfortable. I felt relieved and went to sleep.

Visiting my children often makes me aware of the jagged pieces of my brokenness that still catch on the words or actions of others. I hate it! The wounding from what others say or do. The reactions that hurt others. I hate seeing it!

Or do I?

I’m beginning to see that brokenness is one of the most important concepts we can “get.” It keeps us from discouragement. How?

If you accept that you are broken, you aren’t expecting perfection from yourself.  You are less embarrassed when you blow it, quicker to own it, and quicker to ask forgiveness. That is huge!

You aren’t as apt to hide, holding up your mask (your persona) and hoping no one sees around it. So you are more likely to be real, transparent, and relaxed. Relaxed people are easier to be around. They help others relax.

Relaxed people laugh more, enjoy more, are more efficient, have more great ideas, and generally are nicer to other people. They aren’t just trying to get things done; they are savoring the moments.

Relaxed people are usually more forgiving of others mistakes, because they aren’t cranked so tight that every minute has to come off according to their plan–human doings, I call them.

Relaxed people aren’t afraid they are missing something, or that something is going to go wrong, or that their kids will surely screw up if they aren’t there to stop it or bail them out.

I think it’s what Jesus’ disciples preached, “You are sinners, in need of grace.”

I never liked that message, it made me feel worthless when I needed to feel loved. But I see now that when you are trying to walk close to God, you can so easily become discouraged with your performance. And then it is a great comfort to know that you are just broken.

It’s the way it is. You are never going to be perfect. Not here, not now.

You have two natures. You can minimize damage by staying close to God and you will get more like Him, but you will still be a mistake maker–the weakness of humanity is a given. And when you see it in yourself, don’t despair or give in to self-loathing.

Get up, admit it, accept forgiveness, and keep on walking in God’s love. You can’t make a mistake so great that He wouldn’t love you.

You couldn’t even commit a sin that would cancel His love for you. (Sin and mistakes being different.)

But for heaven’s sake, don’t let your mistakes turn into sin–anything that comes between you and God. The definition of sin is living outside of love–saying “No thank-you” to God when He comes asking you to believe that He loves you, asking for a relationship.

He’s let you down? HE has?

Accepting brokenness helps that too. All of our brokenness muddles together to make such a porridge of blah and hurt, why would we ever expect life to be perfect? There is such a miasma arising from our actions, it’s like the world is enveloped in the smog of China. It’s amazing any of God’s goodness and blessings shine through!

We can help by choosing to own our hurt both in-coming and out-going.

So since my brokenness showed the morning I left, I texted Wade when I got home, “I’m sorry I said you were a pain this morning. I love you.”

And he replied, “Love you too!!!”

The miasma lifted. I felt God’s love shine through a ten-year-old’s forgiveness.

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