Forgiveness is a choice. I don't know about you, but I've never woken up on any day thinking, "I finally feel like forgiving (insert whatever you're angry at) today." Never have those words come from my mouth. If I waited for the right time to forgive someone, I'd still be upset with a whole slew of people right now AND I'm positive I'd have no friends left if they were all waiting for the right time to feel like forgiving me. I posted this quote to my blog a few weeks ago and it's been creeping up on me as a gentle reminder throughout the past couple weeks:
We have a picture of the perfect partner, but we marry an imperfect person. Then we have two options: Tear up the picture and accept the person, or tear up the person and accept the picture. J. Grant Howard
I've been challenged recently to extend that quote beyond the confines of a marriage and apply it to my personal friendships, people in the church, myself when dealing with...myself, family, etc. We all have a picture in our minds of what we want, expectations of how things "should" be and what we want our lives, or circumstances in it to look like. To be honest, we "should" on a lot of things in our lives. So, naturally, when someone comes along and either a) challenges us, or b) rubs us wrong the wrong way,
( g a s p )
How dare they!?
In my search to find a quote to add in, I stumbled on a link to a book called, "Life Would Be Easy If It Weren't for Other People" - I literally laughed out loud. Why yes, yes it would. Just think about it for a second! You could make every decision on your own, you could eat whatever you wanted every night for dinner, you could be your own boss easily, your house would stay clean for longer than a millisecond, you'd have no one to worry about but yourself. You could literally do whatever you wanted, when you wanted and how you wanted. Hmm,
that sounds like a pretty lonely life.
Life is about people. People leading, loving and living with people. People are beautiful. Yes, we are complex beings. We are hard-to-understand and at the best of times, challenging. But, at the end of the day, people and all that they embody are so very beautiful.
Our differences sometimes make it difficult to see the beauty in every single person. But, would you really want everyone to be exactly like you? One of the most beautiful things about people is all the differences (opinions, mannerisms, personalities, etc.) that we each bring to the table. However, those differences (and more) can make it difficult to forgive. But, forgiveness isn't a feeling, it's a choice. If you're anything like me, you may feel entitled to receiving apologies in some situations. That is wrong. This is something I struggle with. Waiting for someone to apologize to you is not God's way. The bible talks clearly and frankly about forgiveness. In Matthew 18:21-22 , one of Jesus' disciples asks Him how many times he should forgive someone, Jesus replied, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Now, Jesus isn't saying to literally keep track of how many times you've forgiven someone until you reach 77 then write them off, but to have a constant outpouring of forgiveness that's available to anyone who wrongs you.
Forgiveness on tap. Non-stop. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Eek. It's one thing to read it, write it out and repeat it, but what about living it? Forgiveness is hard. There are so many different circumstances in which people need to allow forgiveness into their lives; whether it's you needing to forgive someone who has hurt you deeply or you needing to forgive yourself for something you're carrying guilt for or you needing to forgive God. It's tough. It's messy. It's not easy. But it's reality and it's a choice that is left entirely up to you to take the first step. Don't go at it alone. Like I said, life is about people. We live in community with and do life with people every day. Invite someone (or I recommend Jesus) into your life to help you process forgiveness (without sharing all the juicy details of course, I'm in no way endorsing gossip/slander against other people; that's a whole other blog post).
End point: You'll never feel like forgiving. But, you need to. God commands us to and trust me, the freedom you feel in forgiveness is so worth leaving the bondage that resentment imprisons you in. I've been there many times, in situations that required a lot of effort on my part to actively forgive and some that were easier. Forgiveness gets easier as you make it a habit and apart of your lifestyle. We are truly only hurting ourselves staying angry. And that's so not the way we should be living life.