Though poignant, stories of forgiveness can be difficult to write. They call for us to reveal the dark times of our relationships with our family, friends, or even faith. Telling heartfelt stories of forgiveness push us even further than the proverbial long honest look in the mirror. They require us to admit to the world what the reflection revealed.
Stories of Forgiveness
Perhaps because of forgiveness’ elusiveness or our own limited ability to harness its power, stories of forgiveness make for compelling reading. If you doubt their popularity, just do a Google search. Readers’ Digest, Real Simple, and The Huffington Post all offer compilations of stories of forgiveness, as does The Forgiveness Project.
The following ideas should help spark your own recall of stories of forgiveness. They may be your own stories or family stories. As you think through these points, remember, not every story has to have a happy ending. In fact, when it comes to forgiveness, we’re often in the midst of a work in process—it seldom happens overnight.
Forgiving for your own sake
Many studies of forgiveness highlight the emotional health benefits to the forgiver. As Evolution Counseling synopsizes, “Forgiveness is a letting go, and with this letting go a decision to move forward with your life instead of staying stuck in the past.”
When have you forgiven someone as much for your sake as theirs? Did you harbor feelings such as anger or betrayal before you offered forgiveness? Was your forgiveness internal or verbal? Did the decision to do so come easily? How did you feel afterward? Was your relationship with the person(s) involved restored?
An Inability to Forgive
It’s not an easy thing to admit to, but sometimes we’re just not ready to forgive. We may be able to utter the words, but the feelings of hurt or judgment still stick in our crawl. For instance, a woman I know has struggled for years with forgiving someone. She often thinks she’s put it behind her, only to find the same feelings of betrayal rise up when she least expects it.
Have you been in this situation? What were the circumstances? Do you think there was a part of yourself resisting the “letting go” or do you think that you simply haven’t healed enough? Was the process of forgiving more like a washing or cleansing or a peeling of an onion? Do you keep finding bitter innards which time has not softened?
Forgiven but not Forgotten
This one came up in my women’s circle this week. I was surprised to find the idea of “forgetting” isn’t scriptural. Perhaps it arose more out of the idea of putting something out of mind so that a relationship can be restored.
Sometimes, in my opinion, forgetting is an absurd partner to forgiving. My mind goes to the families of crime victims who manage to forgive a murderer, but there are less extreme examples. A betrayal may be forgiven, but out of a sense of self-preservation, we hesitate to forget.
When has this applied to a situation in your life? When has it not? Why or why not?
Forgiveness with or without Reconciliation
Some people I know think that forgiveness without reconciliation isn’t truly forgiveness. I’m not convinced. What do you think? (Comment or write a story!)
I do think that the longer you know someone, the easier it is to accept their flaws and move on. We might take momentary (okay, maybe even a few days) offense, but we can tease apart thoughtlessness from malice. Sometimes, that understanding facilitates forgiveness more than an apology would have.
Think of a time when you’ve reconciled with a loved one. What about your relationship made it easier? What made it more difficult? How were you able to work it out? Were you able to accept your own culpability in the disagreement? Was the other person? If you weren’t, do you think there’s hope for the relationship?
Inability to forgive yourself
This is a forgiveness story that we all too often don’t tell because we’re so entrenched in it that we don’t realize we’re worthy. Some instances are small—like still cringing over a scar on an adult child, remembering that time we didn’t protect them. Other times, the lingering regret debilitates us.
Does regret have you bound to the past? What’s preventing you from accepting that you did the best you knew how and move on? Do you constantly wish for a re-do? (I’m raising my hand here.) What do you think makes you reluctant to forgive yourself? How would you feel if a dear friend were in the same situation?
Write down one or more of your stories of forgiveness, whether you were the giver or the seeker. Describe the circumstance and don’t forget to put your heart into the story.