Much has been in the news lately about forgiveness. I have my own battles with the concept. I have been asked many time how I can forgive those who wounded me, stole my innocence and wielded the Bible as an excuse to abuse me.
There was a time when I had to say to myself, almost every minute “I forgive.” It was a blanket statement covering all who I felt offended or hurt me. But by saying it over and over it slowly became less of a mantra and more of a lifestyle. Forgiveness isn’t solely about a moment. It is truly an attitude standing witness to the fact that even the most egregious of faults can be overcome by a grace that doesn’t come from ourselves, but from our faith.
At some point I didn’t have to remind myself every minute that there needed to be forgiveness for me to walk forward. It became every five minutes, then every half hour, until only in the moments when I hurt the worst and wanted someone to blame did I need to recall and breathe the words “I forgive.”
Church members stood up at my custody hearing and swore my mother would never hurt me. They swore on the Bible that she was a good parent and couldn’t possibly do the things I said she did. I forgave them because they didn’t know any better. I didn’t blame the church or God or my faith for the hurt that caused. I held people, fallible, human people responsible for their actions and I forgave them.
At the end of the day isn’t that what we all want? To be recognized that we are people who make mistakes. There is accountability, reconciliation, restitution and consequences for our actions. But to those who harm others we must also consider that grace was offered freely to us, which others deserve as well.
Forgiveness has not wiped away the memory of what was lost, stolen or what hurt was caused. It does, however, free me from repeating a pattern of hurt and hatred offered to me. On good days I offer grace. On bad days I repeat to myself “I forgive” – hoping others will offer the same to me.