Forgiveness: What it is and What it isn’t

Forgiveness: What it is and What it isn’t


Forgiveness is letting go of the hope for a better or different yesterday.

According to Merriam-Webster’s definition, it is “to cease to feel resentment against (an offender).”

When one chooses to forgive, others may see it is condoning; however, the definition of condoning, according to Merriam-Webster, is “to treat as if trivial, harmless, or of no importance.”

If we are to believe these two words are alike, it would be impossible to forgive because who would or want to trivialize a horrible event?

What I’ve Learned About Forgiveness

I have learned, through years of grief, that forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person and everything to do with my well-being.

Forgiveness is an action, not a feeling. One cannot feel forgiveness unless you have forgiven. It is the act of letting go of resentment held against another.

Some may then say: I can forgive but I cannot forget. To that, it’s wise to ask then, has the transgression truly been forgiven? Who is the one who continues to remember and whose life is blocked by a lack of forgiveness?

Over the past few years, I’ve had to work hard at forgiveness. Not only that, I’ve experienced a lack of understanding when I’ve been able to forgive, and others in my life have not.

No one else needs to understand your willingness and openness to forgive. You and you alone know your heart and what it needs. We all walk the road of forgiveness in our own time. Let no one tell you that you’re wrong for offering forgiveness (in the silence of your heart).

What Not To Do with Forgiveness

To that point, never ever feel as though you must verbalize your forgiveness in person. You potentially open yourself up for more hurt and pain if you offer unsolicited forgiveness as the other person may see this as an attack. Remember: forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person.

On the other side of forgiveness is requesting it. When you ask for forgiveness, you are asking the other person to do something that you need to do for yourself. Because, when you’re the one asking for forgiveness, it’s really guilt rearing its head as you’re really trying to apologize for something you have said or done. Rather, it is an apology that is needed.

What are you holding in your heart that you’ve been unwilling to forgive?

Next week, I will share two methods I’ve learned in navigating forgiveness. In the meantime, give some thought to both positive and negative events of a relationship to someone you’ve found it difficult to forgive. This person can be living, deceased, or perhaps, any relationship you wish would be or could have been different, better, or more in some way. Map these events in chronological order as best you can, and then next week Friday, come back here to the blog for part two.

P.S. How about you? Struggling to find forgiveness in your heart? I know it’s hard – truly, I do. But know that by offering forgiveness, you’re not letting the “offender” off-the-hook. Rather, you’re breaking yourself free from the hook.

What We’re Taught

What We’re Taught

We’re taught how to acquire things, not what to do when we lose them.

Read the above statement out loud and let it sink in a moment.

Have you lived on cloud 9, where nothing could possibly go wrong, and all was right with the world – until one day it wasn’t?

We are conditioned to learn how to acquire things: knowledge, experience, careers, material possessions, wealth, dates, etc.. However, where in our educational system and life experience are we taught what to do when we lose those things?

You know the answer to that question as well as I do.

Now that you realize this as a simple truth, you can’t un-know it.

So – as this applies to you in your life, what are you going to do about it?

Continue striving to acquire more things (refer back to my previous post titled Bury and Replace) or work through the muck to find the reason why enough is never enough?

Explore why you feel you’re not enough for yourself and for others. Examine why your persistence to acquire more knowledge is never enough (none of it matters anyway unless you do something with it). Consider why it takes losing it all to make us wake up to what’s really important.

Grief is funny like that. It’s the unsuspecting culprit of ongoing suffering in our lives. There is a reason why a good number of lottery winners end up worse off than before they won the lottery. The money is like a band-aid on old wounds, only the band-aids bleed through – eventually. What do you think happens after the lottery winnings are all gone and the person ends up bankrupt? Add that grief on to all the others that came before it.

Society doesn’t consider all the ways adults and children alike grieve. It’s a mistake to believe children don’t grieve when their parents divorce. It’s a mistake to believe children/adults/elderly don’t grieve when their beloved pet dies. It’s also a mistake to believe people who are homeless don’t also grieve.

Consider all these ways people grieve and my oh my are we a sad population – busy being busy, striving to bury and replace, and masking it all with “I’m fine.”

So, what do we do about it?

We confront and process our grief so we can recover from it. It’s never too early and never too late. We become examples for our children in healthy ways to communicate, express, and process grief. And the majority of us don’t know how to do that. But every day that passes is a decision to tolerate grief taking the wheel in our lives.

My suggestion is to find someone who has walked the path of recovery to guide you. Seek out support groups for parents of grieving children. Seek out reading materials to help you process your grief. Keeping in mind, although getting together with others grieving can be helpful in the short-term, rarely, does this singular approach yield long-term results and recovery.

The first step above all else, my friend, is choosing. And every day you continue to bury and replace, you’re making a choice. As a result, your future happiness is paying the price.

How do I move past my grief?

How do I move past my grief?

The storm of grief may be brief, but mourning goes on for months and seasons. We mourn what was, what is, and what will never again be the same .

Are you navigating a grief storm right now?

When people think of grief or mourning, they often think there has to be the loss of a loved one.

I, on the other hand, believe we mourn and grieve in all sorts of ways throughout our lives.

We mourn a torn relationship with a child or parent, a life we feel we were cheated of experiencing, and personally, I’ve mourned a rekindled relationship that came about when it was too late and terminal illness took that person away. Similarly, we may mourn trust we felt was unbreakable, only for it to fall apart and shake our very foundation of trust in others forever.

Are you mourning a loss like these?

No matter what we are mourning, after some time we begin to ask ourselves if the mourning will ever end. It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that what was will never be again. And the first step in healing is, I believe, acceptance.

Once we accept what is, only then can we start to process, in our minds, a different future. Even then, acceptance of a different state of being may bring rise to another wave of mourning.

Grief is cyclic; manifesting itself as problems in various areas of our lives and continually, will show up until it is addressed. And in my experience, you don’t stay in one stage, then move on to the next like it’s some sort of corporate ladder. Rather, you move through grief as you walk through life – repeating over and over and over with each problem that comes up; even more so, I believe, the younger you are when you experience grief because, as a child, it’s more difficult to process these things (especially without guidance, support, or better yet – therapy).

So, how do you move past grief?

You don’t. Instead, you accept that it will be with you forever – like a scar that never leaves. But, there is hope that you can learn to live with it and this can only happen with focused time, self-compassion, healthy boundaries, and intentional action to protect and nurture your mindset. The way you loosen grief’s grip is by understanding that when the waves of mourning wash over you all over again, you remind yourself that you’re a grief survivor.

And then you act like it (and take action against it) – over and over and over again.

It’s Complicated

It’s Complicated

At an average rate of 80 times a minute, the (complex and complicated) heart beats about 115,000 times in one day or 42 million times in a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than 3 billion times — pumping an amount of blood that equals about 1 million barrels. Amazing, right?

Regardless of our feelings of joy or sadness, experiences with grief or accomplishment – our hearts miraculously do what they’re designed to do. Every intricate part of it, masterfully created by God, that it should be one of the seven wonders of the world – next to the brain, right?

In the midst of sadness, our emotions are all over the place, and our hearts are feeling all kinds of messy and…complicated. Is it any wonder that relationships can become complex and complicated, too?

The Two Sides of – It’s Complicated

There are times we will be on the receiving end of it’s complicated and times we’ll be on the giving end of it, too. I’ve experienced both and neither feel good. You likely have as well because you’re human.

This experience doesn’t feel good because we invest ourselves, don’t we? In a promise, in words – that etch into our hearts and take hold. We invest our complex, feeling hearts in someone else and, in doing so, we place our vulnerable, complicated hearts on the line. And such as life, we may retreat ourselves, or that investment is taken from us. And, when we’re on the giving end of it’s complicated (as I’ve also been), it’s fear that rears its head.

We are so afraid to let people in – to get close and cozy; afraid to see where things might lead. We’re fearful of sharing parts of ourselves never before seen and of expectations (of others and our own) and meeting them. We protect ourselves from vulnerability. And isn’t that somewhat written in our DNA – to defend ourselves?

The Hardened Heart

Our adult human hearts have some mighty walls to break. But they didn’t get that way overnight, and we weren’t born with hardened hearts either. A young child doesn’t discriminate in their love for others. They merely share their heart as God intended. Beautiful, isn’t it? How ruined and hardened by life we can become, right?

So, the next time you are on the cusp of being on the giving end of it’s complicated – remember, there’s a complex heart on the other end, and honesty is the best policy. Honesty isn’t easy because it’s filled with vulnerability and takes courage. But I’d take an ounce of honesty over an ounce of gold any day.

Likewise, the next time you’re on the receiving end (truth – there will always be a next time), know there are millions of others sitting in the same boat. Reflect on a time when you’ve been on the giving end of it’s complicated, and empathize. Accept that we’re all just doing the best we can and don’t take it to heart. It hurts, but it doesn’t have to harden your heart.

Making Peace & Welcoming Growth

Make peace with it’s complicated. It’s a part of adulting and we’re rarely taught, in childhood, the coping skills necessary to handle such things.

Maybe the takeaway is, as a parent, teaching honesty is teaching coping skills. Because when two complicated hearts are honest (which is vulnerable and courageous), barriers are broken, a sense of appreciation grows, and forgiveness finds a way.

There is one caveat to honesty, however. When you give honesty and expect it in return, you must be open to receiving it. And truth be told, there are golden nuggets of growth to be found when honesty can flow through your complex and complicated heart.