They are all hard to accomplish, said one.
They are all impossible if we are realistic about the human endeavor, said another.
They are all cruel ideals to make each of us feel inferior, said the third.
And yet, I wonder. Surely, one can forgive those who offend. Some can run the marathon. I know someone who finished the Boston Marathon nine years in a row. And contemplating great art is feasible as long as we let the beauty speak to us rather than our trying to define it and therefore reduce it.
Forgiveness, running the marathon, and contemplating great art all stretch us, ask us to see farther down the road, challenge us to grow beyond our current self.
They all awaken in us the call to greatness. They all challenge us to see that life is more than going to work, collecting a paycheck, and kicking back on the weekend, only to repeat the cycle seemingly endlessly until we retire.
Forgiveness is a heroic virtue because it asks us to so stretch ourselves that we are good to those who are not good to us. The marathon shows us that we can go beyond our expected capacity, that we have a reserve that can be discovered by the strong will. The contemplation of inspired works of art challenges us to see that there is more to this world than we can see and hear and taste and touch in our ordinary surroundings. There is a greatness awaiting us, if only we have the courage to look.
We all can begin by forgiving a loved one for a minor injustice. We all can start to walk and then run and lift that weight even if it does not translate into over 26 miles of challenge. We all can create and contemplate what others around us create even if none of these will see its way to a Florentine gallery. And we can keep raising the bar on whom to forgive, what exercises challenge us, and what magnificent art really is.
We all can start stretching ourselves today. Forgiveness, the marathon, and inspired great art are all calls to us to move forward, to be better than we are today, to reach and then achieve.
To forgive another who has hurt you, you need to do certain things like seeing the other as truly human and not defining that person only by the unjust acts. Yet, there is more than doing; there is persevering internally, within yourself. It takes a certain degree of tenacity to stay with the process of forgiving another because forgiveness can be hard work, especially if the injustice against you is severe.
Once you have forgiven another, it takes more perseverance and tenacity to forgive another person and then another. To stay at forgiving rather than sinking into bitterness or pessimism takes the strong will. “But, I already tried forgiveness…..and I keep getting hurt.” No matter how many times you have been hurt, you can reduce that hurt by forgiving. Think about it for a moment: To what in your life do you keep going back to regardless of difficulty and struggle? Where in your life do you not quit no matter what? Your answer will show you that you have a strong will in some areas of your life.
Why not, then, apply that strong will to forgiving? Why let pessimism have even a minute of your time? Your strong will can keep pessimism away.
The strong will needs to be understood, nurtured, and practiced in the context of forgiving. Long live the strong will.
Do you realize that your practicing forgiveness now may pay unexpected dividends for you decades from now? As an example, look at how the Amish community handled the tragedy in Pennsylvania in 2006. The world wondered how the community could stand in forgiveness after 10 girls were shot and 5 died. The answer: Forgiveness is part of their daily culture.
Please realize that each decision and each act of forgiveness now may pay great dividends for you and others 20 years from now. Forgiveness today is an investment in your future.
To grow in any virtue is similar to building muscle in the gym through persistent hard work. We surely do not want to overdo anything, including the pursuit of fitness.
Yet, we must avoid under-doing it, too, if we are to continue to grow. It is the same with forgiveness. We need to be persistently developing our forgiveness muscles as we become forgivingly fit. This opportunity is now laid out before you. What will you choose? Will you choose a life of diversion, comfort, and pleasure, or the more exciting life of risking love, challenging yourself to forgive, and helping others in their forgiveness fitness?
Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 5359-5360). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.
Patience. To forgive requires much patience because we cannot rush the process; we cannot will the end of the pain; we cannot automatically change the one who hurt us. Patience with perseverance…..and an acceptance of the suffering are keys.
When we have impatience with the forgiveness process we are misunderstanding what the process is. It unfolds. We do not rush through it. I have come to realize that this unfolding, this waiting for relief from the suffering, is a time of strengthening. It is a time of learning a greater humility. We are not the ones who always are in control.
In the waiting comes wisdom. We learn more about ourselves and our ability to endure even when there is great pain. We learn who other people are. They can hurt us, but ultimately they cannot destroy us from our inside because we see our own strength developing. Out of waiting comes a stretching of our patience and a shrinking of our impatience. Out of waiting comes growth as persons.