Forgiveness is a Patient Companion

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You can forgive someone and still be hurt about the situation. Yes, you can love and forgive someone and still be hurt, perhaps broken, about the situation.

We’ve put forth this untrue and incomplete story about forgiveness that makes it a transactional black and white process. Pain, the outcome of real offense, is rarely black and white…for the offended and the offender. But forgiveness is especially difficult when it is clear who the offender is, when there is very little of that mutual responsibility stuff that we cling to in an effort to avoid the full weight, responsibility, and, perhaps, shame of what we’ve done.

You can love someone, forgive them, and resent the work that is required to ameliorate the harm they’ve caused – EVEN WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND THEIR WHY AND HAVE EMPATHY IN THEIR DIRECTION. Sometimes, forgiveness is trying to figure out how to not cut them off and not position yourself to be injured again because you trust them to continue to be who they cannot help being. Sometimes forgiveness begins with recognizing that cutting the person off is not what you want, but loving them as they are isn’t appealing either.

Meaningful forgiveness is not simply “letting it go”. Sometimes, it is letting it go over and over again until the hurt is manageable. Sometimes, pain-free isn’t even the goal. Sometime forgiveness is loving your hope for them and your hope for a relationship with them. Sometimes, forgiveness is about your self-image: you want to be the person who believes in them and you decide that the risk is worth it for you and them.

Dispense with the pressure to grant performative grace. You can’t work on what you cannot safely acknowledge exists. Extend to yourself the grace you’re expected to give to others.

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