“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.” Indira Ghandhi
“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Bernard Beltzer
“Forgiveness is about empowering yourself, rather than empowering your past.” TD Jakes
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B Smedes
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;” Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:14a
Whether it be watching a Law & Order episode that had forgiveness (or the lack thereof) as part of the plot of the story, to listening to a sermon online, or listening to a daily devotional, the word of the week for me seemed to be forgiveness. First, this could stem from being hard on myself for not doing things I know I should be doing (like writing, which lately has been shelved). I have been feeling like time is quickly wasting away, thinking God will take the writing gift from me.
Secondly there’s the issue of caring for my mother. Dementia is a disease that has entered my mother’s brain and induced her to believe things her mind conjures up, different from what I tell her actually happened. Her words are hurtful and full of mistrust that I did not cause; yet, it continues. The relationship we have now is strained, the whole process of lessening stress levels has become difficult, the frustration becomes hard to contain, becoming a victim of a disease that lashes out at will. Not wanting to hear the same accusations I have heard for almost a year, I shut down during the one-sided conversation. Before eventually hanging up the phone I say to her “I don’t know what to tell you, Mom” after explaining something that I have told her many a time, with her response being one accusation after another, calling me a liar regarding actions that never occurred.
And through it all, I must forgive.
So I thought to start this post with some quotes on the subject. One that is not listed says the first step to forgiveness is the willingness to do so. Before stepping into the realm of forgiveness one has to want to be there. And, as Indira Ghandhi is quoted as saying, there is bravery when entering into forgiveness. Hopefully the reason to go there is because one has to admit the prison that unforgiveness causes. The lack of forgiveness is full of negative actions and responses, shrouded in darkness that can cause one to be in an abyss of anger and ill-will towards the person. This is the definition of the prison Smedes speaks of in his quote. How can one experience freedom while covered in the realm of unforgiveness? This kind of atmosphere attaches itself to the thought stream of the mind, keeping record of past hurts that keeps one hinged to the past without considering the future. Thus the empowerment comes not from the present but from the past that chains hope for a bright and open future.
When one decides to make a change and forgive, the doors of the future are opened. One must decide to no longer be chained to adversarial statements that have been received as hurtful. Here is where the strength and bravery must be adhered to. As long as the disease continues I will continue to hear the same statements over and over from my mother. And every time I must forgive, detaching myself from any negative response regarding me coming to my defense. Tonight during the usual conversation, the thought came to do just that. I decided not to go down that lane anymore, as it does not accomplish anything. It is as Jesus said, I have to turn the other cheek, regardless of what is (in this context) being said to me.
Forgiveness is an action that must be accomplished, though it may take a lifetime to achieve. I hope to release myself out of this prison, gifting myself with the empowerment of the freedom forgiveness provides. If I forgive, God will forgive me. Perhaps you are in a similar situation, a crossroads of what to do next. With the strength from God who is always willing to help, you and I can be brave enough to forgive, checking out of prison, and empowering ourselves to experience the freedom of forgiving ourselves and others.