Scanning through Facebook postings several days ago I ran across a simple phrase that stunned me with its simple truth. Max Lucado is a minister, spiritual teacher, and author in Texas who has the following to say about Forgivenes
“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner”
(thank you BTW to Esther Maria de Najarro for gifting this to me)
When I read these two simple sentences, I knew they were true, but I didn’t know exactly why. It’s like that with poetry I think…the metaphorical economy of language causes us to meditate on the meaning in our own lives. Here is what I have come up with:
In my mind this quote speaks directly to an illusion I have often fallen prey to when it comes to people who have truly “wronged” me. I would say the illusion is particularly strong in cases where I feel I am “owed” an apology.
So….what is the Illusion?
When someone has hurt me very deeply, it feels like if I hold on fiercely to my anger I am punishing this person just as fiercely. I am withholding my love, my friendship, and my respect so that they can “feel” as badly as I do. The illusion comes in, I think, with the fantasy that I can really know, understand, or control the way another person feels. Still harboring this fantasy, I might imagine that if I forgive them I will set them free from…what?…the guilt they “ought” to feel? I don’t want to set them free in this scenario. I want them to suffer
So….What Actually Is The Reality?
It seems to me that the reality is that we can never really fully understand the way a person thinks and feels…much less ultimately control it. My story of how things are or ought to be is just that, my story….Its certainly not the story of the person who hurt me. Its true, I think, that my forgiveness may release the person who hurt me from feeling guilty or just badly (if indeed the person feels this way)….and that’s a bonus if it happens. Its also true though, that I may never know. And I can’t really let it matter.
So….Whose Freedom Is Really At Stake?
When I can really forgive (and I’m not saying I’ve always been 100% successful)..I think I have actually released myself and given myself a gift. I am no longer chained to the story of me as a victim of my life, and of my anger. I can move on to new connections and relationships that aren’t eyed with the suspicion that is created by my past. Now I’m really free
So….how about you? Any stories of forgiving or not forgiving that you’d like to share? I would love to hear them.