A Forgiveness Prescription

Forgiveness is an act of Love

“Just forgive it.”  That’s something we try to tell our daughter Calista whenever something upsets her.  We don’t expect that it makes too much sense to her at three years old, but the hope is that if she hears it enough it will start to work its way into her consciousness and eventually she will master it.  The second reason that we say it to her is because it serves as a reminder to us that things and especially relationships will not always match our ideal.  When that happens, we have to be able to forgive the person, situation, or ourselves in order to move forward in life.  Still,  the concept of forgiveness is not always the easiest thing in the world to understand let alone surrender to, so I will attempt to approach it in a way that is accessible and will hopefully help some of you heal.  Before moving forward, let me say that forgiveness is tough work and not for the weak hearted or those who are always looking to feel good.  Forgiveness takes being able to face reality with humility, trying to understand the “other”, and surrendering to God (definitely the hardest part).  And for those of you who get caught on the socio-political connotation that the word “God” often carries in our society, just think Love.  But in honesty, if we let little things like that hang us up when the intention here is forgiveness then well….  I’ll just say it.  We’re choosing to be part of the problem so let’s start there.

Forgiveness of Self

The first person that anyone has to forgive is themselves.  First of all, we are the common factor in all situations that disturb us.  If we didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be pissed.  I mean that purely in the mathematical sense not as a promotion of self elimination.  The fact is that you cannot forgive anyone else if you can’t forgive yourself first.  How can you give what you don’t have?  Can you give someone $5 if you don’t have it?  No.  It’s the same with forgiveness.  If you think that you have forgiven someone but not yourself you are mistaken.  What you actually have done is taken a loan out and then given what you didn’t have to someone else.  Does that make sense?  Using the money analogy again, it’s like borrowing $5 and giving it to someone else.  What happens when you do this is that you can never truly let the loan go because you can’t pay back the person you borrowed from until the person you loaned it to pays you back.  How that translates to relationships is usually that to give to one relationship you take from another.  That is just off.  It doesn’t work, period.  What works is is looking at yourself and cultivating forgiveness within yourself.  That means accepting your own essential innocence.  We make mistakes, but we are not mistakes and will never become one.  If we can see that in ourselves then we can see it in others.  Jesus warns against judging, because he knows it works both ways.  I think when he says, “Don’t judge or you’ll be judged” and “You’ll be judged the same way that you judge others” he’s basically telling us that we can’t help but judge ourselves with the same judgment we judge others with.  So I recommend looking for your own essential innocence so that you can offer it to others.

Forgiveness in Relationships

To explain this section, I will start with a cliche and then refer you to Don Henley who wrote a great song on forgiveness.  Even though he says, “forgiveness–even if you don’t love me anymore”  and I don’t see love and forgiveness as mutually exclusive, it is a great song to teach about the necessity of forgiving in relationships. So here’s the cliche: “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and hoping that the other person gets sick.”  It really is.  You can’t hold a grudge and feel well at the same time and it is insane to think you can.  Now read Don Henley’s song at least 3x out loud with feeling if you have a forgiveness issue you are working on right now.  Or better yet go to the this Heart of the Matter link and sing along with it 3x if you’re brave enough.  I dare you.  No one can be angry and do karaoke at the same time. It’s impossible. If you can’t do this then you don’t want to do the forgiveness work.  Just admit it.  Keep your grudge and live with it until you’re really ready to do the work.  It’s better than saying you want to forgive but can’t do it.  When you do that you just double the judgment you put on yourself because you feel bad for not doing what you say you want to do.

The Heart of the Matter by: Don Henley
I got the call today, I didn’t wanna hear
But I knew that it would come
An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone
She said you found someone
And I thought of all the bad luck,
And the struggles we went through
And how I lost me and you lost you
What are these voices outside love’s open door
Make us throw off our contentment
And beg for something more?

I’m learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
…People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age
The trust and self-assurance that can lead to happiness
They’re the very things we kill, I guess
Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
And the work I put between us,
Doesn’t keep me warm

I’m learning to live without you now
But I miss you, Baby
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

There are people in your life who’ve come and gone
They let you down and hurt your pride
Better put it all behind you; life goes on
You keep carrin’ that anger, it’ll eat you inside

I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
Because the flesh will get weak
And the ashes will scatter
So I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

Forgiving God

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Woo hoo hoo hoo.  Ha ha ha ha ha.  Sorry about that.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Woo hoo hoo.  No for real sorry.  I know that a lot of us feel like blaming God is the catch all for life not seeming fair.  We ask questions like, “Why would a loving God let _______ happen?”  Then we do the same thing with God that we do with each other.  We eat that poison and think we’re hurting God’s feelings.  I’ve done it myself. (see the Road Trip With God, DMX, and 23 Bottles of Water series) I learned a couple of things from that experience.  First, God can handle whatever we dish out.   I smile most of the time when my daughter tells me she doesn’t like me because I don’t do what she wants me to do when she wants me to do it.  My love for her doesn’t waver and I try my best to be patient with her.  If I can do that for my daughter, how much more capable must God be?  (Check out  Matthew 7 to see Jesus’ take on this.)  So if you really feel like you need to get your blame off your chest takes Peter’s advice and cast your cares onto God since God cares for you.

Another thing I learned is that blaming someone you do not know does very little to ease you.  My point is that many of us do not know God or Love.  We know what we have heard about God and what we expect from Love and if we don’t like what we’ve heard or don’t get what we want, we reject them both.  And the fact is we cannot have one without the other, because God is Love.  That means if we have one then we have the other or we have neither.  This statement is beyond religion my friends and gets to the heart of the matter.  Forgiveness is an act of Love.  I will put this as simply as I know how and you can contact me if you have any questions. 

God is One.  Love is One. We are One. This is why you must forgive yourself in order to forgive others and why holding a grudge against someone else hurts you.  Forgiveness is an act of Love.  You cannot truly Love and restrict your capacity to forgive.  Hence the teachings, “anyone who says they are in the light but hates their brother or sister are in darkness until now” and “how can anyone claim to love God who they cannot see and hate their brother or sister who can they can see?”

My friends I am not trying to be tough, but rather trying to communicate that I understand that the need to forgive is often a hard pill to swallow.  I won’t make light of it because it is a heavy subject for those struggling with it.  However, if we don’t swallow the pill of forgiveness, we will choke on the poison of resentment–a sure prescription for becoming part of the problem by contaminating the solution Love offers.

Said in Love.

2 replies »

  1. Thank You for writing this…

    I have struggled with forgiveness for so long. I felt like if I never hurt you, then why would you hurt me? I thought I never held grudges, but after reading this blog, I can’t deny that I always have. I held secret grudges while keeping a smile on my face to try and hold the person responsible for hurting me. I felt like it was my “get-back” — my own little jab/punch that would eventually sting.
    Looking back and looking at myself now, there was never any internal progression from being that way. I need to make my rounds and openly apologizing for this behavior. But first…

    Michael Jackson put it best: I’m starting with the man in the mirror…


    • Most people struggle with forgiveness. When we are afraid of getting hurt we tend to keep a scorecard of grievances. That justifies us not giving 100%. In order to forgive, you have to take the risk of getting hurt–maybe over and over again. That’s why Jesus said to forgive an offense seventy times seven times. That’s 490 times. Hopefully we gain some wisdom along the way. More importantly we have to love ourselves and give to others what we’d like to receive. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean faking nice, nor does it mean letting them off of the hook. It just mean staying true to Love.


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