“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:22
Forgiveness often seems so impossible; vengeance so much easier. Even easier is acceptance. Acquiescence, easier still.
I’ve had a gun pointed at my head, been raped, mugged, burglarized, vandalized, bullied, conned, assaulted and betrayed, physically AND emotionally. I have felt my blood boiling in outrage. And yet I can honestly say I have forgiven every transgression.
So what is it to forgive? Forgiveness means freedom from victim-hood. Forgiveness requires understanding. While certainly, understanding is not condoning, I have come to realize that to understand is to know we are all guilty. We are all capable, under the right circumstances, of committing terrible sins or creating monumental beauty. The only thing stopping us are our circumstances. We are not born to the knowledge of good or evil, it is learned.
It is our humanness, our will, our potential for any number of possibilities that make us heroes or villains. Being human is both dangerous and inspiring. It is this crazy mix, this battle between good and evil, that makes us fully human. And it is our humanness that God loves. For me, the awareness that I am loved by God, came late in life. It didn’t just happen. My efforts at building “self-esteem” always fell short; I was never good enough. Consequently, neither were others.
I came to realize our actions for good or ill are the result of a million conflicting thoughts, experiences, impulses and longings. Human motivation is beyond our comprehension and consequently beyond our judgment. I barely understand why I do what I do, so how could I possibly understand why others do what they do?
Does that mean I don’t believe in justice, that our actions don’t have consequences? Of course not. But neither does it mean I don’t have compassion for the perpetrator as well as the victim. When someone commits a crime, no matter how heinous, I realize it is a failure by OUR society to educate, to heal, to understand. We all are connected, and by extension, responsible. I think about the song, “And grace my fears released.” You and I were forgiven long before we were born, through grace, so that we could forgive. I believe it is perhaps, God’s greatest lesson for us.
My family and I made a short film about forgiveness that I hope you will enjoy.