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.

A Healing Launch

A Healing Launch

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.