Perhaps one of the most unforgettable sessions in my Spiritual Formation class so far is about Forgiveness and Reconciliation, including setting boundaries. I believe these two are essential steps in taking great strides in life. Unforgiveness is a heavy burden to bear, and it incapacitates a person. It’s a difficult subject, but we have to tackle it somehow.
Forgiveness is letting go of the offense. We forgive someone because we no longer want to stay stuck in the rut of unpleasant memories and bitterness. We want to move on in life. It is letting go of the desire to get even, to fight for your right, and to make sure that the other person suffers more than you did. You want to let go.
But forgiveness is easier said than done. When you experienced hurt to the point that it scarred you big time, forgiveness seems to be harsher than the actual pain. Why would you let go of the thought of getting even? An eye for an eye!
“I was hurt and my life’s now tainted. It’s unfair to bear it alone. In the first place, I don’t deserve this!”
Lewis B. Smedes mentioned that “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Unforgiveness is a prison, and we may not notice, but its effect is debilitating. It keeps you attached to the pain that happened – say, months, years, decades ago? While the other party has completely moved on in life, totally unaware of the predicament that torments you.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”Lewis B. Smedes
Indeed, this topic shatters sensibilities, and people have different takes on this. But I believe that we forgive not because we want to trivialize the offense, neither we want to dismiss it as if nothing serious happened, but because we value ourselves more than we value getting even.
We forgive not to give the other person a favor, but because we want to tell ourselves that we matter, and we want to enjoy life than brood over the pain. We do it for ourselves.
“Does it mean we have to be reconciled with the person?” A student asked.
It depends. Especially if the other party has no intention of changing his ways or still has the tendency to hurt us again. It is wise to forgive, but it is equally wise to stay away from people who might cause you pain after you have released them forgiveness. It doesn’t have to end up just like before the offense happened. In the end, we don’t want to be an enabler. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean it will end in reconciliation. It takes two parties for it to work.
Reconciliation is a good thing. It is the best that can happen after a rift in any relationship! But we have to secure and fortify our boundaries. When we forgive others, it doesn’t mean we give them an opportunity to hurt us again because they now have a clean slate. Raise your guard up. You don’t want to be hurt a second time.
Forgiveness doesn’t always have to end up in reconciliation. It doesn’t mean you’re being mean or selfish, but when a relationship gets smeared because of a painful reality, sometimes it’s difficult to put the pieces in their original state. We have to deal with that.
We can always desire to end up in reconciliation, but when it seems to not be the best course of action, we don’t have to force it. Relationships thrive in mutual affection and desire to keep the love growing.