Thursday, October 18, 2007

I blame you! But I forgive you

Forgiveness.

I've been wanting to write a post about forgiveness for a while. Well... wanting to write it in that I think about writing it from time to time, but I never actually WANT to sit down and put the fingers to the keyboard about it. I'm not quite sure why that is.

I meet twice monthly with a lovely group of ladies at my church to do a small group study. This summer we did a six week series on Forgiveness. I suggested the series because it was obvious that many of us, including myself, could stand to learn a bit more about how to give and receive forgiveness. It was an amazing 6 week journey. I cannot share the stories of the other ladies here, because we agree that the things we share are confidential. But I can tell you that I saw lives change in those six weeks, all because of forgiveness.

I learned several things during that time, and relearned even more. Mostly I learned how to better practice forgiveness. One key element that I was reminded of is that once you have forgiven someone, the hurt does not go away. You are not expected to FORGET the pain. I struggle with this, because I feel like I should no longer be hurt and angry if I have forgiven, so then I get angry at myself for not forgiving, and a whole new cycle begins. We cannot expect ourselves to forget the misdeed, or the pain it causes. What forgiveness IS is deciding to not PUNISH someone for the misdeed. And some times I have to decide that on a daily basis, even over an old misdeed.

But the NEW thing, the thing that really got me, and freed me in so many ways, is this: In order to forgive someone, you have to blame them. Also, you have to know what the punishment is that you are choosing not to do. You have to be able to say, sometimes to the other person but sometimes just in your own mind, You did X to me, and the punishment for that would be Y ("you hurt me, so I will hurt you" i.e. "You told my secret, so I should tell one of yours" or "You cheated on me, so I should divorce you" or "You spoke ill of me, so I should never speak to you again.") This was HUGE for me, because what I so often do is try to talk myself out of it: try to convince myself that it wasn't so bad, or that maybe the other person didn't really mean to hurt me that way. So my forgiveness wasn't as fully realized, because I was unwilling to nail down the thing that needed to be forgiven. I would make excuses for the other person, which would then bring guilt back on to me for feeling so badly about it. I could not forgive someone unless I blamed them.

But this... this being able to just THINK to myself "You hurt me, I have every right to react a certain way, but I CHOOSE not to; I choose to forgive" ...it opened up forgiveness for me. Because then when I remember the hurt, I can remind myself that yes, I was hurt, but I have chosen to forgive. And I will not punish the other person in this way that I very well could. I choose another path.

It doesn't mean that I forget the misdeed, or that the relationship doesn't need to be repaired. It means that I have made the CHOICE to move forward in a different way, to work on the reparations from a place of forgiveness, while still acknowledging the wrong. I don't have to pretend it didn't happen. I don't have to pretend it didn't hurt as badly as it did. I don't have to make an excuse for the other person. (Sometimes it means that I make the choice to end the relationship, but that is not the PUNISHMENT. I have forgiven, and so the aim is not to hurt or punish, but I may still need to protect myself)

It's taking some practice, of course. But I am really excited about this new insight. I don't necessarily want to HAVE to practice it, but I know that I will have lots of opportunity.

I hope to face those opportunities GRACEfully.

36 comments:

Catherine said...

Wow. Wow, wow. So well said.

I have found that my "aha!" moments with forgiveness, and the times I've really experienced forgiveness for or from another person have been some of the most vividly life changing moments of my life.

thailandchani said...

One of the critical things to understand about forgiveness is that it is not absolution. It is a letting go of grievances.. and is typically more for us than for the offender. (The offenders usually couldn't care less, one way or the other. In their own minds, they justify their behavior.) When we are able to let it go, wishing only the best for the person ~ that he or she will learn their lessons well ~ then we are free.


Peace,

~Chani

Bayou Belle said...

I recently had to cycle through a forgiveness with two friends at the same time about the same problem. I "chose" to end the relationships (even if temporarily) to give my time to work it out in my head and let it settle. Because sometimes once time passes and you clear your head of the anger that is in your way you can see things clearly and make better decisions on how you feel about the incident and what your next step should be in your relationship. Seperation is not always running away. It is time to find clarity and lick the wounds.

And the truth is I came to a very different conclusion than I thought I would.

Good post.

WorksForMom said...

Wow. Indeed. You articulated this so well. It's something I really need to work on.

Isn't it amazing how difficult forgiveness is? Until, of course, you have forgiven.

Rimarama said...

I would have never thought of it that way. I knew that forgiving someone doesn't mean condoning what they did, but this whole placing blame or responsibility where it belongs is very new to me, too. I think it's pretty empowering.

Thanks for a very thoughtful post.

crazymumma said...

oh. The evolution that would require on my part.

I am so bad at forgiveness. But you have brought some concepts forth that I will explore (probabaly in the wee hours of the morning as I battle my insomnia).

Family Adventure said...

This is such an interesting post. I never, ever would have thought that I needed to specify a punishment in my head in order to NOT do it.

But maybe it is necessary to know what it is you choose NOT to do, in order to NOT do it properly. Perhaps it prevents the lingering resentment that might otherwise exist.

Thank you for this.

- Heidi

jen said...

very cool, you. so much is about our perception, our willingness to absorb it differently. look at you go.

carrie said...

I have no doubt that you'll conquer this with grace, tons of it!

Sober Briquette said...

I think what makes this work is that you give yourself a sense of control over the situation when you make a choice. It's no longer about something that was done to you; you're doing something (choosing not to punish, but to forgive).

I have a question. What is the criteria for the punishment? Or even for establishing that some one has done something blameworthy? Unlike you, who state that you were hesitant to place blame, many people spread blame around like syrup on a pancake.

It could be argued that anyone mature enough to get to this step is mature enough to have a reasonable ability to judge these things, but there are many who do not. Any guidelines, suggestions?

painted maypole said...

De - good questions (and point) about blame. I'm not sure I have a good answer for it! ;) I think that if what you're working for is forgiveness, then you'll need to look at how the person hurt you. What they did and how that affected you. (you do also have to acknowledge when you play a part in the whole mess, too!) If forgiveness is the goal, you're probably not looking for someone else to blame for your problems, but rather a way to move on. The key point isn't about BLAME, but about the forgiveness. For me I've found I don't even have to say, usually, "I blame you for THIS" but can do a lot of that work on my own.

but you're right, lots of people are just looking for someone else to blame. and I don't have an answer for that. hmmmm....

Kathryn said...

Fabulous post! Thank you for a good reminder.

bubandpie said...

That was a light-bulb moment for me, too, when I first realized that forgiveness is actually the OPPOSITE of denying or downplaying the wrong. (There's nothing more offensive than being "forgiven" when you believe that your actions were justified!)

What's difficult, perhaps, is developing a reliable checklist to determine whether we really have forgiven (or are forgiving) the person. The goal is not necessarily to return to what the relationship was before - though that may happen in some cases. Nor is it the case that we will never feel any more pain or anger (though when we do, we usually need to choose again to forgive). I guess we know that we haven't fully forgiven someone if the tension between us is great enough to cause problems for ourselves or others.

suburbancorrespondent said...

I like that. I really like that. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Karen said...

And, ultimately, I think when we don't demand that our offender pay the price, when we see how big the price is and allow them not to pay it - really we pay it for them, because we deny ourselves the relief of exacting that penalty, which short term hurts us, but long term heals us. It's really why I believe.

Susan said...

I think it was a book by author Frederick Buechner that said that forgiveness is basically saying, yes you hurt me, yes it mattered and now I release you. That was a lightbulb for me and my heart. Basically the same thing your wrote about.

niobe said...

I'm having a little trouble with the thought near the end. What's the substantive difference between "punishing" someone by ending the relationship and "forgiving" the person, but ending the relationship to protect ourselves. How do you "forgive" someone, yet end your relationship with her?

What if, for example, someone has done us a great wrong, but it's extremely unlikely (or even impossible) that she will ever repeat it?

Or the opposite case, where the specific wrong is not really the issue, but the fact that you feel you will never be able to trust that person again?

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

That's fascinating and a great way to think about forgiveness. I've been trying to deal with that with two people in my life and this opened a door for me. Thank you!

nomotherearth said...

Interesting. Perhaps I would be better at forgiving if I acknowledged how much I was hurt in the first place.

Furrow said...

Hmm... niobe brings up good questions.

I also wonder if this method works for self-forgiveness. I did something bad, and I have hurt others, and I should suffer for it, but I forgive myself anyway. And does that work if the victim doesn't know that he has been wronged by me? Is that just getting away with something?

painted maypole said...

oh ho! there is so much I want to respond to and explore with you all. I am going away for the weekend, but when I return I will take a look again at all these comments and try to come up with a second post on the topic. Not that I'll have the answers... but to get a discussion going. It seems like something we all want to talk about!

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

It took me a long time to get to forgiveness in my life. But gosh, it's such a nicer place to be (than angry).

And P.S. I loved NoMotherEarth's comment above.

Julie Pippert said...

Excellent post on forgiveness, really, really excellent. I love how you closed...do it GRACEfully.

Niobe and De make good points and IMO the bottom line is always case by case. There aren't simple or hard and fast rules, I think.

Julie
Using My Words

Jennifer said...

Such a thought-provoking post. I had a lightbulb moment a short time ago when I had to let go of some anger that I was truly justified in feeling. To not seek a "revenge" that was actually mine to seek. (This was all in a business setting, which made it even more difficult -- no long heart-to-heart talks.) It wasn't really an "I forgive you" situation, but it made me view forgiveness in a whole new light: as a very empowering step to take.

Mary Alice said...

That was a really moving post. I have had some experience in the area of forgiveness and I really agree with you that once you have made the CHOICE you can move on through the pain. It is very powerful and very liberating to reach the point of choice. It puts you back in control of a situation that had been out of control. Thank you for this post.

BTW I came via Get in The Car...loved the interview!

Amy York said...

I LOVED this! Thank you for these words...
I am going to try this approach!

Christine said...

i often make excuses for those people who have hurt me. This post really hit home.

Suki said...

I don't know if how I handle hurt can be called "forgiveness". I judge what I lost, and usually find that I lost nothing - simply gained experience and made yet another facet of me grow impenetrable. I do understand that what was done was wrong, and I know exactly what I would wish to do to them.

But then I look at the people who hurt me... and I see that they are already making their own lives miserable. If I chose to exact revenge on them, it would be senseless and would give me a bad name. I feel that Nature's balance gives everyone what they deserve. There is no need to bear a personal grudge, Nature will be my avenger.

What say?
(Came here from BubandPie's blog)

linda-sands.com said...

wow. Thanks. Looks like I have some work to do.

b*babbler said...

A thought provoking post. I've been struggling with the idea of forgiveness lately, and this post touched a nerve.

Thank you for some thoughts to ponder.

Suz said...

I love the point that sometimes you end the relationship, but not as revenge. It's a good point to make. The post has really given me a lot to think about.

Lela said...

Forgiveness is a hard thing to figure out. And harder to do I think. The need for revenge on a person is so great that it is hard to resist. Thanks for the great post!

WorksForMom said...

PLEASE don't hate me (or ban me from your blog) painted maypole, but I've tagged you over at my blog.

Alley Cat said...

I like this perspective. Thank you.

Amanda said...

I need to print this. Two years of estrangement and trying to find a way back, but sensing an insurmountable hurdle...blame and forgivenes. This was so good. Thank you.

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