I’ve been given a lot of advice over the years, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve ignored most of it. Human nature—or at least my nature—says that my case is different, the advisor really doesn’t understand my situation and that I know what’s right for me better than anyone else. I’ve learned the hard way that it isn’t always the case.
During and after my divorce, I kept reading and hearing about forgiveness. How it was something I should do for me and not for the person I was trying to forgive. Maintaining a grudge, I was told, was allowing the person who’d hurt me to live “rent free” in my mind. I never liked that metaphor, but I got it: by withholding my forgiveness, I was keeping old pain alive, and I was the only one to suffer.
I finally got it one day when I guess I’d thought about it long enough. The awareness came to me in a flash: I was refusing to forgive because if I did so, I was letting my ex-husband and my ex-friend off the hook. They were responsible for the heartache I’d suffered, and if I was happy, then they weren’t paying for what they’d done. Except…they weren’t paying, anyway! They were going about their business, living their lives with little knowledge of me or my current life, and my unhappiness meant nothing to them.
I turned over a new leaf that very day and began a serious campaign of forgiveness. I’m proud to say that I’ve made tremendous progress over the years. I’ve asked God to forgive me for those I’ve hurt, apologized when I could, and I can honestly say that I’ve forgiven just about everyone who’s ever done anything that hurt me. Mostly.
Did you notice that I said mostly?
I wonder sometimes if I truly have forgiven those who hurt me most. It’s an easy thing to say—I forgive you—but how can I be certain? How can any of us? It’s one of the reasons that I started to write The Scent of Forgiveness. I figured if I could walk step-by-step through Emerson’s life as she learned to forgive, maybe I’d learn something about myself in the process.
Fortunately, my writing has helped me to work through some things. Some were new and surprising; others I’d thought were long in the past. But now, as I look back at all that I’ve done, I wonder…have I truly forgiven in the way that I’m meant to?
I’m still working to figure it out. I just finished reading the non-fiction book Murder by Family by Kent Whitaker, a Sugar Land, Texas father whose oldest son arranged for the murder of his mother and brother (Kent’s wife and younger son). I’d hoped for some inspiration in that story; how could a father forgive his son for an act so heinous?
While I do find inspiration in Whitaker’s almost immediate ability to forgive the murderer—before he knew it was his son—I can’t completely identify with his rock-solid faith. My faith has involved questions, wrong choices, anger, tears and a gradual coming to terms with the certainty that God can see a big picture that’s beyond my ability to comprehend. I trust God, but I’m always balancing the question: am I waiting for God to act, or is He waiting for me?
Clearly, I have work to do yet, but I embrace the challenge. I’d really love to achieve the peace that got Kent Whitaker through some very difficult days, and so I’ll turn to the next book on my reading list: Let It Go by Bishop T.D. Jakes. I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe in miracles, so maybe I’ll find some advice for Emerson that just might give Wendy a little boost, too.