Forgiving the ‘unforgivable’
Forgiveness is about us, not them
There’s a mistaken notion that forgiving people is about letting people off. We think that by forgiving people, we’re letting them get away with whatever wrongdoing they did. This is not what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness is about setting ourselves free. Free from the toxins of bitterness and anger that eat away inside of us.
I found myself needing to be reminded of this after news broke about the atrocious shooting in Las Vegas. There was obviously the ‘unforgivable’ actions of the shooter. But then there was the response of gun lovers who continued to deny that the prevalence of guns was remotely part of the problem. I felt anger and bitterness rising up as I scrolled past the tweets of one idiot after another.
The reminder about forgiveness came as I was in the shower the next morning. One of my daily spiritual practices is a slow, line-by-line praying of the Lord’s Prayer. I was doing this as the warm cascading water from the shower poured down on me. I reached the part on forgiveness. ‘And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. I couldn’t help but linger longer than usual on these words. I knew, with that deep kind of inner knowing that’s hard to explain, that I needed to let go of the toxic side of everything I was feeling. In the same way that the water of the shower was washing my body, I needed to let the anger and bitterness get washed away too. For my sake. This was nothing to do with what had happened, it wasn’t justifying wrong doing; it was for my own health and inner peace.
And here’s the thing I’m convinced of. If we learn to let go of the toxic power of unforgiveness, we’ll then be in a much better place to truly fight back against all that’s wrong in the world. It’ll be from a healthy place of righteous anger, genuine justice seeking, and not from merely our own internal distress.