This is another blog done in collaboration with my husband’s pop culture/psychoanalysis channel, Willarious. Check out the link at the end of this blog for his psychological take on forgiveness.
I used to date someone who was fond of asking, “What is your most pressing question about the universe right now?” While that boyfriend is now many years in my past, the question is still a good one. For the last year, the biggest question I’ve had goes something like this:
What does it practically mean to forgive someone? What if you’re angry for good, just, and holy reasons? Does forgiveness diminish the “wrongness” of the act that was committed? How do you keep your self-respect when you’re releasing the anger that kept you sane and, sometimes, even alive?
I don’t claim to have all the answers to those questions. But, after having conversations with several trusted folks in my corner, here’s where I am today.
Forgiveness for me has become the repeated, intentional release of feelings of anger and even hatred. These feelings are often totally justifiable. They shouldn’t be ignored; often our feelings tell us important realities about ourselves or our situations. And yet when they’re held for long periods of time, these feelings erode our own wellbeing. They hinder our ability to be in right relationship with the people we’re not actually angry with–like our kids. They can cut us off from the experiential knowledge that God loves us perfectly. So even though our anger can often make perfect sense, I think God calls us to move towards a place where we can release it.
For me, that release is only possible because I believe that God bore the sinfulness and brokenness of the world in his own being. God dignifies us–even in our most hurt, angry state–by refusing to turn a blind eye to the sin that has broken us. God takes the wrongdoing that we have experienced and the pain that we’ve felt so seriously that God incarnate, Jesus Christ, has to die for it to be made right. When we release our anger, God absorbs it and holds it in the divine being. We don’t have to hold it with our fragile bodies and minds. Our anger, then, is crucified with Christ. And because he lives, we can live, too.
Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. Instead of forgetting the events that wounded us, it’s granting God’s grace permission to reshape the narrative in a transformative way. It’s also not the same thing as reconciliation. God desires our shalom, our wholeness, too much to ask us to stay in destructive relationships–no matter the relationship. Sometimes, hopefully often, reconciliation can take place within the context of forgiveness. But let’s not forget that the road of reconciliation is never meant to be an easy one–Jesus died to reconcile the world to God.
Those are my (maybe half-baked) thoughts on forgiveness, written quickly during baby/toddler naptime…what are yours?