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Forgiving, The Best Tool to Help You Rebuild (including my website)

FORGIVING if for the one who FORGIVES.


“I am so angry with you, but I will move on.”  “Forgive and forget.” “Won’t you please forgive me?” “I just want you to know that I have forgiven you.”

The key to any of these statements is that sometimes we crave forgiveness, and sometimes we have to be the one to forgive. The latter can be very hard to do.

As a child, I experienced the need to say, “I’m sorry.” And being Catholic, I experienced Confession or Reconciliation from the age of seven on. What was the focus: what did you do wrong that you have to ask for forgiveness? Fortunately, the things on my list were minor. And when I had to say to someone, “It’s okay, I forgive you” —the hurt or the incident was also minor.

But growing into adulthood, either my thin skin got thinner or more likely, the issues on either side of the forgiveness question got bigger, more complicated. They caused real pain. And most of us know when forgiveness is necessary, it can weigh us down; the situation we are dealing with can create depression and rip dangerous holes in relationships.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I heard these words: Forgiving is not for the one who needs to be forgiven—it’s for the one doing the forgiving.


Iyanla Vanzant, encouraging her TV viewers to journal, to look at what might be pulling us away from someone we loved, to examine fully the incident, so we might find the courage to forgive. (I’m not talking physical abuse or threats on one’s life. That’s a different situation and requires help and intervention.)

Because even when we write things down, when we examine and go over why we are angry and hurting…the issue of forgiving is complicated. And though I still believe forgiveness is for the one doing the forgiving—those of you reading this who have been living in pain because of something someone did to you or to someone you love—you know forgiving is a process and it’s not an easy one.

I truly learned about forgiveness when reading Lewis B. Smedes book: The Art of Forgiving, When you need to forgive and don’t know how. A core debate in the text centers on the story of Karl, a German soldier during WW II, who killed many innocent Jewish people in a Russian village, and then, before he was to be executed, desired the forgiveness of one Jew. He grabbed the wrist of Simon Wisenthal asking him to represent all Jews and forgive Karl.

Wisenthal’s writes of the incident in his book The Sunflower stating: The crux of the matter is… the question of forgiveness. Forgetting is something that time alone takes care of, but forgiveness is an act of volition, and only the sufferer is qualified to make the decision. Thus Wisenthal refused to forgive Karl, though over the years he struggled with his decision. Smedes writes that most people who read Wisenthal’s book agreed with his ultimate decision…You would never have been able to live with yourself had you forgiven him. To forgive everything means one is lacking in discrimination, in true feeling, in reasonableness, in memory…

Smedes writes: “No one has a right to forgive someone, unless he himself had been injured by that person.”

Something to ponder. But the true purpose of Smedes book, and it is possible that Vanzant read it, is to stress the following aspects of forgiveness.

  • Forgiving someone who did us wrong does not mean we tolerate the wrong done.
  • Forgiving does not mean we want to forget what happened.
  • Forgiving does not mean we excuse the person who did it.
  • Forgiving does not mean we take the edge off the hurt done to us.
  • Forgiving does not mean we surrender our right to justice.
  • Forgiving does not mean we invite someone who hurt us once to hurt us again.

This is heavy stuff. But it does help us process; and it can definitely lead to healing. Though there are times when you hear: “Move on, move on,” and you just can’t. You’re stuck. Do the words get even come to mind? Of course they do.

Smedes writes: “Vengeance is the only alternative to forgiving. It is, simply put, a passion to get even.” He then states that when we stay away from vengeance and forgive, we are expressing our true and best nature.

Smedes: “Forgiving works on both sides of the street. It is a reciprocity. We do ourselves good when we wish good for the other. And we do the other person good only after we have healed ourselves. Forgiving has to be both ego-centered and other-centered. Otherwise it cannot work.”

Richard Rohr, Catholic priest and author of Eager to Love, writes: “Forgiveness is a decision, but making that decision doesn’t override the emotional residue that often takes much longer to release. That feeling of wanting revenge or wanting to assert your rightness or your victimhood can take days, weeks, months and even years to dissipate. On certain days, when you’re in a down mood, your psyche will want to grab onto that hurt. You have to go through that necessary period of feeling half dead, half angry, half in denial—this is the liminal space in which we grow…”

Many of us live in liminal space–the space of unknowing. It’s the desert and we desire the green land with flowing water. But moving through that space can heal us. As Rohr says–we grow–and that might be the very reason we are challenged by our neighbors, by our very living to experience the pain of hurt and thus to eventually know the peace of forgiving.

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