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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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