Yet, please take a look at two different times in your life in which you were steeped in heartache or rage. The tears came…..and they left.
Today it may seem like these will never end…..but they will.
Take a lesson from your own past. The pains were temporary.
Forgiveness helps them to be temporary.
Last week, I was on an airplane to New York City. At one point, I started to flip through the airline magazine and this is what I found: page after page was filled with self-indulgences of every kind imaginable. There were waterfalls and fancy restaurants and fine chocolates and the newest fashions. Not once was there a message of self-sacrifice or service to others. I guess such self-sacrifice is not profitable.
The message of self-indulgence stayed with me. If we are bombarded with constant messages of pleasure, will we become a society that exalts this to a norm, in which pleasure-seeking becomes an accepted way of life? If so, we may stop examining the assumption that a pleasure-seeking life is one that is not worth living, if our goal is genuine happiness. When we stop such an examination and give in to pleasure all the time, we may find life to be rather meaningless. After all, what does one do when all the chocolates are gone or the trip to the hidden chalet is over and the new fashion is, well, not so fashionable any more?
Forgiveness as self-sacrificial service to others is a message diametrically opposed to the messages in that airline magazine. OK, so I am fuming at her injustice…..pass the bon-bons. OK, so I am enraged with his firing me……let’s go on a trip. Pleasure-as-diversion can hide the pain in need of cleansing. Pleasure-as-self-help may weaken the will to fight for mercy and forgiveness. One’s energy to be in service to others may weaken.
Hard work and pleasure-seeking surely can be in balance in a full life. The magazine did not give such a balanced message. That made me worry……for forgiveness…..for strong wills to give of ourselves even when it is not pleasurable to do so. May we never over-indulge in pleasure to the point of losing our way with forgiveness, which, in the long run, may produce much more happiness than one more chocolate with an orange center.
Never giving up. Perseverance. The strong will. Forgiveness is hard work and the more severely you are hurt by another person’s injustice, the harder will be you work. It is too easy to enter forgiveness with a kind of euphoria, full of hope that all will be well soon. As you then start to sprint, you realize that you are in a marathon……not a sprint. It is then that your strong will has to come into the picture to aid you in continuing to practice forgiveness until you make significant progress.
Learning to forgive those who hurt you deeply is analogous to starting a physical fitness program. You may start with a light heart and much enthusiasm, and these wane as the exercises get routine, as the muscles get sore, as the enthusiasm melts. It is then that sheer determination must help you through. It is similar with forgiveness. After a while, the practice of forgiveness may become a chore rather than an enthusiastic exercise of hope. Please note that the perseverance is well worth the pain of continuing the marathon. After a while you will notice an emotional strength building in you. After a while you will see that you are now stronger than the hurts against you. After a while you will see that through the exercise of your strong will, you are now forgivingly fit. Let the strong will help you to complete the journey of forgiveness.
“Ahhh…..I’m glad that’s over!!” How many times have I heard that….and even said it to myself. We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that if we go through a forgiveness process, such as the one outlined in the book, The Forgiving Life, then all is well and we are healed.
Yet, because forgiveness is a process that takes time, we cannot presume that if we go through that process once with a particular person in mind, then the journey is over. Forgiveness is not that simple for the deep injustices of life.
I was talking with a psychiatrist friend recently and he said this: “Sometimes I tell my patients that they will have to be working on the process of forgiveness for the rest of their lives.” He was not implying that they will never reach the goal of forgiveness. Instead, he was suggesting two things: a) Even when we have forgiven, the anger can creep back into our hearts and that is the time to open the door once again to forgiveness and b) As we forgive, we go deeper into its meaning and in new discoveries about the process; thus, as we continue to develop we have not finished forgiveness or perhaps forgiveness has not yet finished with us.
So, do not grow discouraged if you have been slammed by injustice. The road to forgiving will get easier and more familiar…..but at the same time you may be on that road for the rest of your life. Take heart because this is not a burdensome road. What happened to you may be burdensome, but the process of discovery about whom the other person is, about who you are as a person, and about humanity itself is filled with fresh and healing insights. After all, when you walk the path of forgiveness, you are walking in love. This is not such a bad path to be on, right?
Enjoy the journey of forgiveness.
Many people get quite excited about forgiveness at first and just dive into practicing it, only to lose interest after a few months. They literally just let it fade from their minds and hearts as they go on to the next popular diversion in life. In other words, they do not have a strong will to keep forgiveness before them as a practice and as a way of seeing the world.
This could happen to you. A commitment to forgive does not just mean a short-term commitment toward one person who has hurt you in one particular way. Commitment has a must longer reach than this. Would you become physically fit if you worked out several times a week for three months and then hung it all up? Of course not. It is the same with forgiveness. You have to fight against the tendency to just let it fade in you. You will have to fight against all of the distractions of life that call you away from it.