formation friday: forgiveness
it’s been a few weeks since i’ve posted a formation friday. this is a crazy month for us at the refuge & my kids home for spring break & getting moving on the book & all kinds of other typical chaos. it’s been a really good lent at the refuge focused on “hunger.” one of the things so many of us hunger for is freedom and peace. we want to feel less crazy brain & more peace. less burdened & more free. less insecure & more loved. less burdened & more light. one of the parts about lent that i really like is the introspection and examining what’s going on inside our hearts a little more intentionally. for all kinds of reasons, this passage has been rattling around in my head for the past few weeks (somewhere along the line, my kids had to memorize it when they were at christian school and i can still sing the jingle): be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you (ephesians 4:32).
forgiveness is such a tricky thing for so many of us.
letting go of deep hurts is much more than saying a verse or praying a certain prayer. releasing resentment is an ongoing process in our spiritual journey that is easier said than done. i think that’s why we need God’s help with it so much. left on my own, i can always come up with a really strong case why i am right, how i have been harmed, how deeply it hurts, and why i don’t want to let it go. some of my resentments are protections. they keep me safe & protected, my heart a little hardened; they guard me from vulnerability.
unforgiveness also robs us of so much life. i like what anne lamott says, “not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” we are the ones who suffer. oh, the hours i have spent harboring unforgiveness against myself & others that some never even knew existed. they didn’t lose one wink of sleep about it and i was tortured. i think that’s why Jesus called us to forgiveness so clearly–it’s not so God will be satisfied somehow, it’s so we won’t live in so much torment.
it’s also quite true that forgiving does not mean forgetting. that is a false teaching that gets any of us right back into unsafe situations. to me, forgiveness means means letting go. releasing ties with the negative power it has over us. seeing our story through new eyes. acknowledging not only our humanness, but others, too. and respecting brokenness & evil & reality. offering mercy.
i know there are a lot of really complicated situations out there. stories of abuse that simply writing a few lines in our journal will not immediately shift, but i thought that for this formation friday, and in the spirit of the last few days of lent, i’d share a little exercise that centers on forgiveness. we’re all at different places on this, so don’t feel any pressure. i noticed this week that i have been carrying some resentments that i had let go of but picked back up. i was reminded, yet again, how forgiveness is an ongoing part of our human existence and is a pathway to peace (the beatitudes & 12 steps are so good with helping us keep current). there’s usually always some work to be done in this area, no matter how big or small.
the primary areas that forgiveness seems to fall into are: forgiving others, forgiving ourselves, and forgiving God.
for some of us, forgiving others means letting people off the hook. they’ll never actually know how deeply they hurt us and will never ask for our forgiveness. but we can’t keep living like we’re living and it’s time to let go. even without the justice we desire.
sometimes the hardest one to forgive is ourselves–all of the “if only i’s…” all of the ways we are so freaking mean to ourselves, so withholding of compassion and kindness. all the “how could i be so stupid’s?” all the noise that clutters our heads & hearts & steals so much life.
and depending on our situations, sometimes forgiving God is necessary. one of the best things that ever happened to me was letting go of blaming God for everything but i have still had to reckon with how truly pissed off i am at the way things work sometimes. for others of us, we must address that God did not protect us properly and how bad that hurts.
they look different for each of us and part of this exercise is to consider what rises to the surface during this season.
a good first step is to consider:
who or what is giving us the most trouble right now?
what can we not seem to let go of?
what seems to keep rearing its head in a way that’s destructive?
then, here are some questions to journal, pray, reflect on and use in any way that works for you:
God, i know somehow i need to forgive…for…(the more specific, the better)
i am a little (or a lot) afraid to let it go because…
but i’m tired of the negative ways it affects me, like…
i long to feel…
i think kindness or compassion toward ______ (a person, a circumstance, ourselves, God) might look like..
God, help me let go of the power this hurt has over me. i really want to. today, as best i can, i choose to…
as with any spiritual reflection exercise, sometimes the time is right and sometimes it’s just not. my hope for this formation friday is not for it to feel forced but rather an invitation when the time is right. the lighter we can travel, the better.
have a great weekend.
love and hope, kathy