Saturday, March 22, 2014

30 in 30: Forgiveness

This is the fourteenth article in my 30 in 30 challenge, where I write 30 things I am thankful for in the 30 days leading up to my thirtieth birthday.


I think many of us are familiar with the saying, "I'll forgive, but I won't forget." I'm not sure what purpose the sentence is trying serve. Just take a look at the word "but." When you see that word, everything that comes before it is just filler. When I hear or read that sentence, what I am really hearing or reading is, "I'm telling you I am forgiving you because that's what I'm supposed to do. The real truth is that I am really not forgiving you." Because you are saying you won't forget what was done, you are actually letting them in on your dirty secret, you are just providing them lip service and you are buying yourself time to heal a bit more.

Of course you won't forget what may have happen or words that were said that upset you, just as you won't ever forget the good times in your life, so I'm not saying that the "won't forget" part isn't valid. I do think it's important to always remember defining moments in your life. Unfortunately-pain and hurt caused by others can be those moments. Instead of looking back at that moment with bitterness (as the phrase suggests), we should be looking at it with grace and seeing it for what it is; a learning moment.

We are really doing ourselves a disservice by not fully forgiving those who have hurt us, because at the end of the day, it's us who feel burdened or weighed down by not forgiving others. It may be years before we realize that our inability to forgive is actually hardening our spirit. 

The act of forgiveness is one of the hardest life lessons I have learned, but I am grateful that I learned it earlier in my life, because I no longer am weighed down by it.

I have learned that there are two sides to forgiveness. The first is when WE are the ones asking for it, and the second is when we are asked to GIVE it. Which one is tougher? IT's a trick question because they are both hard. Forgiving others is probably the most selfless act you can and it shows the person that you still love and care for them.  This is tough when the world around us tells us that we should hold a grudge and kick that person to the curb.

I was hurt pretty badly in high school by someone I gave my heart to and as a result I was left with some adult-sized issues to live with. It's not uncommon to go through a nasty breakup in high school, but I also know it definitely wasn't common to be treated the way I was.

*I'll insert a tangent here. every time you date someone new, you are giving them a piece of you away. So, yeah, breakups at any age are tough.

Anyway, it took several years for me to work through the heartache and the void I didn't think could ever be filled. During this time, the two of us were not on speaking terms, so the very thought of forgiving him hadn't even crossed my mind.

Fast forward a few years to the wonderful world of Facebook, I was curious if he had a profile, and he did. So my nosey little but sent the friend request. I received a message from him asking if I could call him. I reluctantly called hoping he wouldn't answer, but there he was on the other end saying, "Hello, stranger."  In a nutshell, it began as any other cliché, old flame conversation.  Then, out of nowhere, yet perfectly cued from up above, the conversation took on a more somber tone. He admitted that the one of the things holding him back was the fact that our story had never completely finished. He dug up some old, hurt feelings and once exposed he told me how sorry he was. I told him that I forgave him.  Three words I never thought I would say, came out of my mouth so easily. It was then that I was freeing him from that guilt, but also freeing myself from the hurt and pain I had carried all those years. 

I did not know that phone conversation would be one of the most important conversations in my life.

We continued to keep tabs on each other and on May 27, 2006 I received this email:

“Dad and I are leaving for a 3 day motorcycle trip this morning.  Talk to you soon.”

Upon his return he wrote me back:

“1,268 miles in three days…through the mountains.  Did a stretch called the ‘tail of the dragon’ (twice) that consists of 318 turns in eleven miles.  WHAT A BLAST!  I found a new hobby that will certainly be the end of me.”

He sent that email at 7:08pm on Wednesday, May 30, 2006. The eery thing about the whole conversation, is later that night, he died in a motorcycle accident. 

Within a minute, a part of me was gone. The news of his death came as a shock to me, but I know that it would have been harder to handle had I not forgiven him—I know that my heart would have felt SO HEAVY.  How different my life would have been had the phone conversation never happened.

If there is just one person reading this who is struggling with forgiving someone, whether it be a friend, family member or a significant other, I hope this helps them realize that forgiveness is a gift that everyone should be able to receive.

Even after all those years, it is still a struggle to forgive and I do believe there is a process involved, but I carry the experience I just shared as a reminder that our lives are temporary and in a matter of seconds it can all be over. Why carry the guilt, pain and loss? If we knew the secret to getting rid of all that crummy, don't you think we'd use it immediately? Well, the secret is out.

Forgiveness, you have softened my heart, opened my eyes and repaired my soul and for that, I am grateful.

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