The Art of Forgiveness
If I had to name one subject I’ve struggled with more than anything else in my walk with Jesus, it would probably be forgiveness. It seems like every time I think I’ve understood something about forgiving, I’ve been given another challenge.
When I was a child I remember my parents telling me to “say you’re sorry”. Many times I would be thinking, ‘but I’m not sorry’ and that was often because they didn’t know the whole story. AND in the 1950’s I’m not sure that mattered much. It was an age where children were to be seen and not heard. Little girls wore dresses when we went out. My hair had to be curled. I don’t remember being asked what I wanted to wear.
When my Mother and I went shopping for school shoes for me when I was going into 6th grade she insisted I still had to buy saddle oxfords. I hated them. By that time other girls my age were wearing other styles of shoes with their dresses.
Yes…I said dresses. Girls still had to wear a dress to school.
We didn’t dare argue with out parents and if we did we were punished.
I argued that day and I paid for it, but I did not buy saddle oxfords because I said I would go to school wearing no shoes if we bought saddle oxfords. That was the first time I made a decision to stand up and not give in.
NOT sending up for what we wanted was pretty normal behavior back then.
By the time the 1960’s rolled around things started to change a bit. We had survived the early rock and roll years and “hell hadn’t frozen over”. By the time the Beatles came on the scene, it became pretty clear that rock and roll was here to stay.
Times were changing.
Much to the dismay of many, music wasn’t the only thing that changed.
Women actually started to think they had rights. One big issue was rights to equal pay…really equal pay. In many ways, women are still fighting that issue in some worlds. In the 1960’s women started to think they had a voice and didn’t have to just give in.
I don’t remember learning a lot about forgiveness in church when I was growing up. I did learn a few things about forgiving others by watching my dad and hearing him talk about forgiving someone, but even that was sketchy. It just really wasn’t something we talked about in church. When I joined church I went down front and prayed asking God to forgive me and I were “in”. I don’t remember the content of the prayer. I didn’t know what I did to need God’s forgiveness. If I would have been told it probably would have been because I fought with my brother. I was taught not to fight for myself. I still struggle with that today. I was also baptized. I don’t remember being told why. It was just something we did.
Going into the 1970’s the big deal about forgiveness then was asking God to forgive us of our sins so we could go to heaven. In many Christian circles there was a short specific prayer we prayed to become a Christian. If we told a friend about Jesus and accepting Jesus we needed to pray that prayer.
Nobody I knew delved into how we forgive others or ask others to forgive us when we hurt them. I’m not saying no one talked about it, but I’d been part of three different denominations by the time I hit my mid 20’s and the subject really hadn’t come up much.
All the while, when I hurt someone or when they hurt me, not much was said about how we forgive each other. Somewhere along the line, I read a few books than mentioned how we are to forgive each other and I started trying to do that.
I don’t think there was a playbook.
I was a Pastor’s wife for 30 + years and while we had to apologize if we hurt someone, I don’t remember anyone at church apologizing to me. I was considered to be part of paid staff and there were certain things I had to do. My children were expected to behave and not fight or argue with others. Somewhere along the line I’d figured out that I needed to forgive other people and I needed to ask them to forgive me. It was really hard because I didn’t always do what they said I did. That didn’t matter. I still had to apologize because I was ‘part of staff’ and it was my job.
Around the turn of the century, some of that started to change.
About that time I heard a sermon about forgiveness not being a feeling. In the sermon it was presented as being a choice. I started practicing forgiving others even if I didn’t feel like I’d resolved the issue between us. In time I came to realize that when I said ‘I forgive you’, That’s when we release it making it so God can take over.
I practiced forgiving others a lot.
Every time I did it, I received release from God. I knew God was working with both of us when I whispered the words, ‘I forgive you.’
As I practiced forgiving others I came to realize that God gives us a choice. God never forces us to do anything. In the beginning of Genesis, man was given the right to choose. That included forgiveness.
We choose to forgive others and that releases the matter to God.
I still have a lot to learn about forgiveness, but I continue to practice doing it.
I’m convinced that the Art of Forgiveness is a lifelong learning experience. When I get to heaven I’ll know more. For now, I thought I’d share a few thoughts I’ve had along the way.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Forgive YOU
Forgive yourself for something you’ve recently done that you aren’t so proud of. You do not need to feel like you deserve it. Just tell God that you forgive yourself. God will take over from there.
In God, Deborah