Forgiveness. Forgiving. To Forgive. For some, it’s a word that when said aloud, brings peace to the mind and makes the heart happy. Just voicing the word into the air makes it feel as though a weight is being lifted off the shoulders and it is a little easier to breathe deeply. For others, the word, or mere thought of forgiveness, brings the onset of fear. It’s a quality people desperately seek in a partner, knowing it is one of the biggest things they struggle with themselves. We all like to think we are forgiving people, but are we really? What does it mean to truly forgive?
It was requested I write about forgiveness and what advice I would give to people struggling to forgive. Not going to lie, I was a little surprised with this request. After all, who am I to talk about forgiveness when I know it is something I continue to struggle with? But then again, everyone struggles with this, and it is something I have been working to improve on, so why not share what methods have helped me the most?
The first step on the path of forgiveness is understanding WHY it is so hard for people to forgive. A large part of the reason people have such a hard time forgiving others is because with it comes an underlying fear of forgetting. Fear that if they forgive someone, they will forget the things the other person did to them, and will become vulnerable to allowing that person to continually mistreat them in the future. This happens because we were taught that “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” As a result of this, we choose to hang on to the anger and resentment we feel towards those who hurt us as a protective mechanism to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
There also comes an issue of understanding the difference between forgiving and forgetting. Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiveness is finding a way to accept what is, understand the lessons to be learned from the situation, find closure and move on…but not completely wipe the slate clean. Truthfully, neither party will ever be the same, and no apology will ever be big enough to undo the ripple effect that results from careless actions. Forgiveness is understanding there are much more important things in life, and knowing there is no sense in carrying that extra weight around when God has a much grander plan. It is possible to forgive someone, while recognizing at the same time it is best to simply avoid them and take the high road.
Another reason why it is so hard to forgive is due to the accessibility level on social media. Today, it takes seconds to view an ex’s or perpetrator’s online social media profile and keep track of everything that person does 24/7. We have the ability to view their pictures and posts, see whose other pictures they have liked or commented on, and can even see when that person is on or offline. If that person blocked their account, anyone can check on the people in their friend circle and get information from other sources if they are that desperate for information. Even if we are not actively stalking their social medias, there is still that underlying anxiety of knowing that at any point in time, we absolutely could just open our phones, pop on their page and see what they have been up to. Not to mention that if you’re not on track of what your ex is doing, you bet your friends are already doing the dirty work and online stalking for you. Back when there was little to no social media, people simply stayed away from one another. Time would pass, and eventually both parties would move on. With this lack of privacy and full accessibility on the internet today, it is extremely difficult to forget about someone and be truly released of the shackles they hold on a person.
This is week 15 of quarantine for me, and during this time I have really decided to focus on building my relationship with God and growing more in my Christian faith in addition to healing post-accident. I started by reading scripture every morning and following Bible studies related to various topics. Some of these topics have included fear, love, boss women on missions, anxiety, temptation, healing, stress and even hope. Without a doubt, this was one of if not the best decisions I have ever made. Along the way there have been some verses that really resonated with me and they have helped me let go of some of even the deepest anger I did not realize I was holding onto for so long. The Bible talks about how loving others is not an option. It is what we are called to do on this planet. Jesus died on the cross to save us from all of our sins, and all he asks is that we love each other the way he loves us. Loving others means that we need to always take the high road because everyone makes mistakes, we are all human, but we are all God’s children and we MUST love one another. The time we have on this planet is far too short to let old mistakes instill chronic bitterness in our hearts. People make mistakes every day, but that does not mean that they do not deserve to be loved or to be shown kindness. There are people who have grown up never knowing what love is or how to treat others with kindness; we must take it upon ourselves to be the one to show them what it means to be God’s children and to love above all things. God tells us that the people who do us wrong are the people we should pray for most; pray that they find love and kindness in their hearts, and turn to God if they need help finding it.
In addition to learning that it is our responsibility to LOVE one another, scripture has also shown me that we do not forgive others for the sake of clearing their conscience. We forgive others for ourselves. Forgiving is choosing to not let what happened create lasting grudges that hold stress and bitterness inside of us. These feelings are fatal to the soul, and wear away a person’s spirit and happiness faster than anything else. There are stressors of our own that we have to worry about as we follow God’s path for us, we do not need to let stress brought on by others add to the weight we carry. It is best to simply forgive, learn from the situation, and understand that people are either put in our paths to be lessons or blessings. If that person is a lesson, be receptive to it. Rather than being resentful for their actions, be grateful for what you have learned from them that helped you grow as a person. God has a beautiful plan for everyone, but just because someone’s path does not align with ours does not mean we should punish ourselves by giving ourselves hate in our hearts. Once we choose to let hate, bitterness and resentment take hold inside our hearts, it unknowingly influences all of our future interactions, decisions and prevents us from reaching our utmost potential. We are cutting off our greatest assets when we choose to let the poor decisions of others change or diminish the best parts of who we are.
Lastly, there is one extremely important thing to remember when it comes to forgiveness, and this is something I have discovered through practice on my own. The truth is, it is not possible to forgive others if we are unable to forgive ourselves. Even after I understood and accepted what the Bible was saying, I found that I still could not fully forgive people who have done me wrong in the past, no matter how far long ago they were removed from the picture. It held my curiosity for a while, so I started doing a lot of self-reflecting to understand what it was that bothered me so much about those particular situations. Was it because I was just that hurt by the persons actions? Was what they said or did really so bad that I should condemn them for life?
I realized that while I was upset with that person, I was just as equally upset with myself for trusting that person and letting them in in the first place. How could I let someone of such evil nature have such a place in my life and in my heart? It upset me because I was the one who gave them the power to hurt me that way. I was also upset with myself for being the kind of person who gets that upset over what others say and do. Can you believe that? I was actually mad at myself because I wasn’t more “cold-hearted” in nature and couldn’t just shrug off whatever happened. I also found a lot of anger towards myself for several other reasons, such as falling short at times or not acting in the way I should have. To this day, I still get very upset with myself whenever I fall short of the expectations I set for myself, no matter how small. I am sure it is the same for many others as well; being upset for falling short of expectations regardless of who set them. To the young Kaycie who dealt with all of that, I’m sorry you felt that way, and it’s okay that you were not perfect. It’s okay that you chose to see the good in people and was the first to lend a hand to people even when it may have seemed like they didn’t deserve it. That is the way your parents raised you, and that is the way you will always and should always treat others, regardless of anything they do.
I am not saying that everyone should go and read the Bible and become devout Christians this very moment, but I thought these lessons were worth sharing. It is my greatest hope that everyone who reads this is able to use these tools to help release some of their own grudges and anger and begin truly loving those around us. In addition, I hope that everyone reading this starts truly loving and forgiving themselves, so that they may in turn forgive others just the same.