By Rev. Charlsi Lewis Lee
I spend a lot of time thinking about forgiveness. Maybe it is because I have a lot for which I need to be forgiven. Maybe it is because I know a lot of people who are seeking forgiveness. Regardless, forgiveness—and all the issues that surround it—wrestle around in my soul.
I’m pretty simple when it comes to forgiveness. For the most part, I believe that saying “I’m sorry” and really meaning it goes a long way toward clearing a path that has been inundated with stones and boulders. I know that people say “I’m sorry” far too easily and do not expect that repairs are going to have to be ongoing. Somehow we expect that the “I’m sorry” erases the wrong doing. Deep inside we know we are not done with an “I’m sorry.” The reparations still need to be made. Yet, it is a beginning a first step.
Some call me a push over because I open myself to be hurt again. I mean hasn’t “I’m sorry” been pretty much reduced to “My bad?” What is the harm in believing someone is authentically sorry for an action when they tell me they are? (Just so we are clear, I am not speaking about those who have suffered abuse, torture, or violence at the hand of another. I am speaking about the basic elements of forgiveness to which we have been called.)
Working with addicts has taught me a lot about forgiveness. It takes time and work. When requested it must come without expectation. When truly offered it comes with no strings attached. Forgiveness is not offered with an addendum that says “I will repeal this at any time I deem you unworthy.” It comes with a blanket of grace that says “You are forgiven. I don’t want to be hurt again. But I will not allow my pain to separate me from the opportunity to love another person.”
My inability to forgive someone is more harmful to me than it is to the other person. Holding onto pain and resentment creates more roadblocks to life than does forgiveness.