Forgiveness is spacious and timely.
When I am influenced by traumas from my past, I will have the tendency to assume guilt before innocence.
When I am in forgiveness, which essentially means that I am looking at my world through authentic eyes, which in turn assumes that my vision is unhindered or tainted by the sightings of my trauma, I am willing to take the space and the time for you to show your goodness.
My forgiveness is not a constant. Forgiveness does not require that I will wait forever, or even for a very long in some cases. If I disagree with you, or you don’t pull through in ways that are needed, forgiveness has the boundary in place to exercise, and if need be to express the “No” appropriate to the situation.
My father and I have, and have had over the course of the last thirty years, a caring and fulfilling relationship. And we each have, in our own ways, worked hard on that relationship. We have had a lot of talks, he has heard me as best he can, and in the times I have not felt heard I have appreciated the best he was able to do. We have sought to iron out our differences and have taken the risk to analyze our past association. We enjoy our times together, and our love and tolerance shows through to ourselves and to others during those times.
A few years ago, there was a time when my father expressed naïve agreement over the unfortunate preaching of a pastor he knew who stated that women are not meant to hold positions of authority within a church because no woman holds any meaningful position in the bible.
If I had no boundaries in place, I could have held back my opinions on this matter – and I have strong opinions around the slander and servitude of women – and let it go. But it annoyed me. And I felt it right to voice my opinion on the pastor’s grossly erroneous perception. I expressed my boundary that I did not agree nor approve of such a view, that this perspective is archaic and unnecessary.
This does not change my love for my father, nor does it change the forgiveness I have towards him, or his forgiveness towards me. In fact, I recall we had a short conversation about it, where we came to an agreement regarding the inappropriateness of the pastor’s remarks, and moved on.
Forgiveness is not compliant.
Forgiveness does not prostrate or cower.
By being in forgiveness, we know we have the right and inner strength to exercise boundaries as needed.
My forgiveness may allow me to discern that your erroneous actions or words towards me were the result of needs not met in your past upbringing. But as long as you fail to take responsibility for those actions, and continue to disrespect my needs and/or the needs of my family, then I may be justified in choosing to keep a distance from you.
And still I am in forgiveness of you.
Forgiveness gives me the ability to see into your heart, to consider that your pain and suffering caused your hurt towards me, but it does not assume that my role is to repair you or to accept you within the vicinity of my life.
Forgiveness has the right to keep you at arm’s length, if I choose it.
Forgiveness is not an umbrella held above all relationships. I may have worked towards a level of forgiveness towards my father, but I may not feel the same way towards my next door neighbour. I may, for whatever reason, have a whole lot of anger towards him for treatments towards me, my family, and my property that go back to the time I moved into the neighbourhood. We avoid each other like the plague rather than sit down and sort the whole issue out. From this perspective forgiveness is way out of sight.
However, my work with and around my father, which has taken me into forgiveness with him, will impel me to resolve other relationships so that I have the same comfort level as I have with him within those relationships too.
So there will be what can be described as a gravitational pull created by the forgiveness present in one relationship onto other relationships, to reconcile them and urge them towards authenticity, if the capacity exists to hold authenticity within the relationship.
Forgiveness then is earned. We grow into forgiveness.
We don’t necessarily see forgiveness coming, as we would see a city in the desert from miles away. We arrive into forgiveness.
It is as if we were traveling from a country beset by poverty and hardship into another country that is far more affluent. Whereas the previous country suffered from want and lack – and this was to be seen within the faces and the lifestyles of the residents – the wealthier country seems far more relaxed, mainly because the people are not living on the brink of survival and worrying whether they are going to eat that day or not.
When we are in forgiveness we find ourselves seeing the world outside of us in a different light. We discover that we are now more able to reach into the hearts of those around us, and see where they are coming from, what led to their behaviour for their reactions to me and others.
We find ourselves seeing the bigger picture, or the whole of the triangle. (Read more on triangles and forgiveness.)
We may even find ourselves considering the abuses we have suffered from as our personal lessons – and the abuser as our teacher.
This question “How was my abuser my teacher?” is actually a litmus test, one that possesses the potential to tell us whether we have arrived in the territory of forgiveness or not. If the question repels you, or induces anger or rejection of the question, then likely you will be working on a preceding area on your personal growth process. Maybe there is more emotional expression to be worked on, or an inner relationship or trust that needs to be established.
To answer, “Yes” to the question, means that you are able to see the value of having worked through your trauma, that you have gained more from working through it than not, and that you are stronger from your exposure to it. That what you suffered has benefited you, and may benefit or have the future potential of benefiting others.
Thus it is said that those who have been wounded, and have recovered from their wounds, by virtue of being able to walk their talk can walk by the side of those who are new on their path.
Forgiveness then is a state of grace, where there is sufficient trust inside ourselves, that we view the particular relationship we hold in forgiveness, or a particular segment of our world in a forgiving way.
It is a reward, reflecting the work we have done on ourselves, and the depth of trust existing inside our most personal relationships, those within ourselves.
We earn that reward, at the same time, we accrue the benefits of that reward in our interactions within the world we inhabit.
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