I listened to a podcast on forgiveness while on a long drive. Over and over, I heard the words forgive and forgiveness. Then the word forget. Of course, we can forgive what we can’t forget. Forgiveness is both a choice and a process. As I continued to listen, I heard something within the words being used.
FORgiveness. For Giveness. For Giving.
Forgiveness is for giving. It is a gift. It is an intentional handoff. It’s an opportunity we have that not only lightens our load but doesn’t burden anyone else. It’s not for-dump-ness. It’s not for-discard-ness. It’s not a for-purge-ness. We don’t toss our stuff onto someone else. Even when we give someone else forgiveness, we can’t control how they receive it. Our forgiveness doesn’t guarantee someone feeling better about themselves or feeling free from the burden of whatever they are experiencing. The act of forgiving involves the recipient but is dependent on the giver.
Forgiveness is both powerful in its potential effects and humble in its motivation. Reflecting on some examples of healthy forgiveness, whether I’ve personally walked through it or journeyed alongside others, it’s rarely rushed. It’s almost like meticulously wrapping a gift. At first, it seems a mess. We have to find the best wrapping for this misshaped blob of something that doesn’t quite make sense to us. We can’t easily contain it or wrap it. When we try, the sharp edges break through the paper. Or just when we think we’ve cut the right size of paper, it seems to grow and leave that exposed sliver. We could toss it in a bag, but that’s messy. It seems too important. If we don’t wrap it, it’s as if we’re inviting it to escape too easily.
We finally find the right sized box. We gather up as much forgiveness as we think we have, and we contain it. We tape the box shut and begin to wrap it, only we choose the kind of paper that tears too easily. We try again but don’t like the way the pattern of the paper matches or where the tape shows. We try again and finally wrap it. Then we choose a bow, and bows are tricky. At some point, we call it good enough. We’ve worked so hard on it. We examine it, compare it to how we started, and we’re actually a little proud of it. It’s sort of sad to give it away. But that’s the point, so we do.
A few days later, we go into the same room, and we realize we missed something. We begin the wrapping process again. We’re a little better at it this time—and every time that follows. Because, yes, there are more times. That’s the process of forgiveness. The jumbled messes seem to be a little different, a little less raw. We don’t struggle as much to wrap it up. We’ve learned a bit along the way. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it makes familiar. Who knows when, if ever, we’ll give the final gift. Sometimes we reach a point of complete forgiveness, but I’m not sure we ever truly know what we’ll revisit in the future.
I know I’m going to wrap each gift as soon as I see it’s necessary and gather the strength and wisdom to do so, because forgiveness is for giving.