There’s a human behavior that completely confounds my ability to get my head — and heart — around it: When a victim or survivor of a heinous crime chooses to extend forgiveness to the one who inflicted emotional pain, injury, or even caused the death of a loved one. It’s not that I don’t understand the choice; I’m always amazed by the grace and resilience of the human spirit.
Those who’ve been damaged by another human being — the kind of damage that takes years, and a lot of therapy to mend — have every right to shut-down, curl into a ball, and retreat from the world. But, as we see within stories in the media, some people take an alternate route to healing, even after horrific harm has been done to them: the path of Forgiveness. These people are an inspiration to me, each and every time I read, or hear about their stories.
I’ve been thinking about the emotional injuries (and even traumas) that I’ve sustained over the years. It’s hard to live a full life and not experience rough moments and rough people. In most instances, ‘Forgiveness’ was not in my repertoire. Lately, however, I’ve paid more attention to the words of those who’ve suffered much more than I have. At the hands of vile, or just ignorant people. As a result, I’ve come to a completely different understanding of the Power of Forgiving.
The Act of Forgiving doesn’t in any way condone or excuse the injury, or the person who did harm. What it does is acknowledge the depth of pain, in a way that restores power back to me. When someone hurts me deeply — maybe a major violation of trust — aside from the sense of betrayal, something else is taken from me. What’s lost, or, more accurately, ‘eroded’ is my confidence and belief in my own judgment. But when I forgive the ‘someone’, I take back my power and strength so that I can start to heal. However long it takes, I regain balance and perspective, and can turn away from becoming jaded or cynical. An alternate path that, I’ll admit feels very tempting sometimes.
The Act of Forgiveness doesn’t need to be a public declaration: it can be as quiet and as peaceful as a prayer sent up into the skies. Like those beautiful Japanese and Thai lantern festivals: silent thoughts float away in a swirl of golden light. It doesn’t need to be said directly to the ‘perpetrator’ of my pain. In fact, it’s not even about my antagonist at all. It’s only about releasing myself from the prison I let him put me in, believing him when he said, “I’m the only one with the key to your cell.” Not true. And, never again will that be true.