Forgiveness used to be a tough one for me. I suffered severe abuse as a child, and like most of us, I picked up a few more bruises as I moved into and through adulthood. What I understand now, though I didn’t realize it at the time, was that I held onto my wounds as if they were a gift. Or a badge of honor. Perhaps they were, if I regarded continued victimhood is my goal.
I don’t think I’m alone in that. I once attended a book signing of an author speaking about forgiveness. The audience was packed, and the negative feelings in that space were so strong, they were palpable. When invited to share the things they couldn’t forgive explosive feelings burst into speech. But strangely enough, most of the speakers didn’t discuss the great wrongs they’d suffered. They talked about the guy who cut them off today while they were driving, or the person who had 20 items in the 15-item express line at the supermarket. Their anger seemed too excessive for such minor slights.
Do angry people simply look for new things to be angry about? Or do deeper old wounds, cut off by scar tissue, look for fresh sores to infect?
Maybe a little of both. If other people are like me, they resist forgiving the wrongs they’ve suffered because it seems as if they’re letting the wrong-doers off the hook.
It’s taken me a long time, but I now understand that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It’s how you let go of the past, so that you can live freely and happily in the present. It’s how you deny the past its strangling hold over your future.
And if you’ve truly been wronged, isn’t that what you deserve? Isn’t that the gift you should give yourself?
Causes Kris Neri Supports
Sedona, Arizona Humane Society