Saturday, January 20, 2007

Forgiveness Is For Suckers

I read this somewhere recently. It was written by a dear friend, and while a little funny (and something I may have said at one point), it broke my heart. Without forgiveness, there's no hope for me. I know I will let you down, disappoint you, say something unkind, show up late, or roll my eyes at you if you know me long enough. We're all adults, right? It's OK to acknowledge that sometimes we're selfish bastards, and looking out for our own interests. Once in a while, we drop the ball. It makes it hard to remain friends if we keep every disappointment on a list for quick reference later, like Weight Watchers points. "You did this to me on August 3, so I get to do THAT to you today." It's not a trade-off; it's more like arsenic. It builds in your system, never going away, until it reaches a lethal level. If you make a mistake with me and acknowledge it, we're good as new. If you do it on purpose, and we get to talk about it and resolve it, there is no problem. The best definition I've ever found for forgiveness is this: Refusing to make you pay. It acknowledges that a) there is something that happened to put you in debt to me, b) I have a right to collect, and c) I am choosing not to collect. Period. It doesn't say anything about your contrition, remorse, or even asking for it. It doesn't say that I trust you, or let it happen again. It simply means that I am letting it go. The books are balanced; that transaction is canceled out. So what if things keep going wrong? What if it builds up to intolerable levels? There is a saying that, "People find a tolerable level of despair and call it happiness." I've lived in total despair for years before doing what it took to set things right. In one case for me, what it took was forgiveness. In another, it took forgiveness - and ending the relationship. Since I'm saying sayings, here's another: "Resentment is the poison you take, hoping the other person will die." Unforgiveness chews me up on the inside, destroying any peace I have toward that person. The object of my resentment may be completely unaffected, but I become a wreck. Go ahead, call me a sucker. I forgive you.

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