To Forgive is To Accept
Chapter 3 "Standing In The Light of My Truth"
"Honesty is telling other people the truth; integrity is telling yourself the truth." —Spenser Johnson
We have been taught to forgive the offender and forget the offense because forgiveness should be like a cancelled debt—shredded and tossed into the fire—so that it can never be used against the person. Has anyone actually been able to completely forget the actions of someone who betrayed you, intentionally caused you emotional pain and suffering, consistently lied to you, or physically harmed you? Anyone?
Is there anyone who does not remember the transgressions against them even though they may have forgiven the person and let go of their anger or contempt? Does a woman ever forget that she was raped even though she may have forgiven her attacker?
If you believe that all of the events of our lives help shape who we are and what we are, then you know that every experience—the positive and the negative—is essential on our spiritual journey. They all have meaning and play an important role in awakening us to the true powers of God within us. Therefore, forgetting the offense is not an option.
I hung on to anger and hurt for many years and suffered emotionally in silence because I believed that I had to forget how I had been wounded. It took me years to hear God’s message that forgetting is unattainable unless you have amnesia or Alzheimer. Instead, He grants us the power of acceptance from which comes true forgiveness.
Acceptance does not mean that you approve of the offense; it simply means that you cannot undo what has been done or change the person or persons who offended you. I didn’t approve of someone in my life using emotional blackmail to get her needs met. I didn’t approve of her lying to me and lying about me. However, I had to forgive her for my own peace of mind. I accepted that her pathological lies were about her own self-hatred and desperate need for attention, not about consciously hurting me. I had to accept that she lies, manipulates, and schemes to get her way. I had to accept that she probably was never going to change. That was the hard part. But after years of severely straining the powers of my endurance to forget what she had done to me and many conversations with God about her, I finally accepted her for who she is, and what she is. Then to protect myself, I set up boundaries that prevent my value system from being compromised, and that allow me to love her from a distance.
I didn’t have to choose acceptance over forgetting, but I would not have obtained peace of mind unless I did. Since forgetting is not attainable, it cannot bear fruit. It’s wasted energy. If I could be paid for all the time I spent trying to forget, I would now be a rich woman. When you can accept that which you have no power to change, you have truly pardon the offender.
Acceptance abates the anger and hurt, and God rewards us for our courage with serenity as expressed in the first stanza of Saint Francis of Assisi’s prayer: “God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change,…” I don’t ever recall hearing a universal prayer that asks God to grant us serenity to forget the sins and transgressions against us or forget the things we cannot change. If we did ask Him for such a thing, He would probably respond, “Forget no more—accept and be at peace.”
The same is required to forgive yourself. You first have to see the truth about yourself—who you are and what you are. With some degree of clarity about what makes you “tick”, it becomes a matter of accepting what is written in your story about you. However, forgiving yourself is much harder to do, because you have no one but yourself to blame.
God forgives so easily because He accepts each one of us for who we are and what we are. He accepts that we transgress, but He loves us anyway. He permits us to be ourselves, whatever that is, by granting us free will. He does not write each transgression down in a book and then uses it against us later, as some people believe.
Therefore, according to God’s example, to forgive is to accept. Once you are able to accept; you can let go of the emotions and establish clear, uncompromising boundaries. That line drawn in the sand is a roadblock to any offender who thinks he or she can take liberty with your emotions and feelings.
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