Of the three stories below, which one do you think most exemplifies forgiveness?
I went to lunch with her ex-fiancee when I passed through town. The problem was that I had a crush on him at the time. She didn’t know about the crush, but she still felt like I’d broken her trust. She was right. I apologized profusely and cut all communication with him, even though we were friends. I went from being asked to be a bridesmaid in her wedding to not even being invited to her wedding. (She married another guy a couple of years later.)
We crossed paths again on a trip with a mutual organization. Again, I asked for her forgiveness. She said she’d given it to me and should have told me sooner. We sat down for a meal together and she explained that she forgave me but she didn’t want to stay in touch. I haven’t heard from her since.
We were co-workers and I knew some of his tactics were going against the organization’s values. I felt caught in the middle, and instead of confronting him about it I talked to our boss. He felt like his job was threatened as a result, and he told me that a man’s identity and the responsibility to provide for his family should have motivated me to talk to him instead of our boss. I knew he was right, but I couldn’t undo what I’d done.
It wasn’t long after that the two of us had to lead a trip together. I still felt uncomfortable around him because I knew I had been in the wrong. He went out of his way to be kind, making me the official leader of the trip, giving me the free gifts leaders received, and making sure I had everything I needed to perform my job.
Years later he asked me to be on the board of directors for his non-profit organization. I accepted. Now we get together for coffee whenever he’s in town. He never brought up the “incident” again.
I posted a link to someone else’s blog about an issue close to my heart. A family member accused me of being political. When I refuted, this family member’s spouse entered the conversation and said I’d been out of line. Hurt and angry, I disagreed and itemized the reasons why. She continued to argue. Knowing her personality, I knew she’d never admit the damage she’d done. I told her we should just end the conversation and move on before anybody else was hurt. After taking one more jab, she let it go.
At family gatherings now, we act as if nothing happened but we steer clear of controversial topics in our conversations.
True forgiveness is the restoration of a relationship, not a cordial parting of ways or pretense. Unforgiveness backfires because it requires more energy to hold someone captive than it does to set them free.
Who do you need to forgive today?