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Forgiveness... (1)

Today, bravery looks like forgiveness.

What is it about forgiveness that makes it so difficult?  I’m not talking about saying, “I’m sorry”… to me, apologizing is easy (for anyone who is willing to admit they’ve done something wrong).  But asking for forgiveness, and actually forgiving someone, pushes us way out of our comfort zone.

Forgiveness, the real kind, gives both the offender and offend-ee an opportunity to get complete; to clean up any emotional unfinished business and move on with a clean slate. Conversely, if we don’t ask for or grant forgiveness we stay connected to an unsuccessful moment.  It’s hard to move forward when niggling resentment is a constant presence.

So… what stops us from engaging in forgiveness in a healthy way?  Here’s my (very remedial) take on a healthy  “Forgiveness loop”:

  • Someone does something wrong,
  • they then apologize,
  • they then ask the offended party for forgiveness,
  • they then are granted forgiveness,
  • then both parties move on.

Anyone who has been forgiven can speak to an improved connection with the person they hurt, and those that forgive are brought a sense of peace that hearing “I’m sorry” doesn’t give.

Here’s the more typical, unsuccessful model:

  • Someone does something wrong,
  • they’re guilt-tripped into apologizing,
  • they say “I’m sorry” (when they don’t mean it) and then
  • both parties pretend all is fine but carry resentment forward into the next interaction.

Wow!  Really… how awful is that.

You’ve been there, right? That moment when you’ve heard “I’m sorry”, then someone mumbles, “That’s ok,” and each person walked away thinking, “Oh sure, like he/she was sorry. I don’t think so”. And right there, that moment is the birth of unfinished business, or the stuff that haunts the relationship.  There’s a difference between “That’s ok” and true forgiveness.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Mahatma Gandhi, All Men are Brothers: Autobiographical Reflections

Why, then, when it feels so good to forgive/be forgiven so difficult?  I think it’s because both asking for and granting forgiveness makes us vulnerable, and being vulnerable is a hard place to be.

If you ask for forgiveness, you risk hearing “No.” You are literally hanging out there in a state of insecurity, waiting for someone that you care about to release you, redefine your relationship moving forward.  If you grant it, you are agreeing to release any resentment or anger you have about the person or their actions. Some of us would rather hang on to resentment… there is some power there, especially when we’ve been hurt.  But the healthier exchange frees everyone involved to move on.

As we’ve previously discussed, bravery is present when we intentionally move into a vulnerable space to make great things happen.  Forgiving/asking for forgiveness requires a brave heart and a willingness to put yourself at risk.  But transformation happens in that space, as relationships can be transformed by this single act.

I’d love to hear from you and about your own journey in forgiving/asking for forgiveness.  As always your willingness to share will strengthen our “Brave community.”

Be brave, lean into discomfort, engage in forgiveness.