The New Year is a time when we make decisions inspired by the idea of a new beginning. We resolve to change our lives in, sometimes, drastic ways. So, what could be more dramatic than to forgive someone for the unforgiveable? This is my resolution for you. I’m imposing this resolve upon you because I know you would never resolve to let go of a hurt or the betrayal.
Then I thought of Mitch Albom’s sharing the story of his dying mentor Morrie, who at his death, wept bitterly because he never made an opportunity reconcile with a friend with whom he had a disagreement before his friend died. Now, Morrie, at the end of his life, could not believe that he let anything permanently disrupt his relationship with his close friend.
I thought of couples and siblings that I’ve seen in therapy over the years who are unforgiving and unyielding in their disagreements. It seems that most people believe that guilty parties should be punished—forever. Many have no intentions of letting the wrongdoer off the hook. Apologizing is often not enough because it “does not erase the scare” that was inflicted. And it’s been my experience that most ‘victims’ don’t believe the sincerity of these forced apologies. Unforgiveness, then, is an interesting and relentless grudge, and reconciliation appears to be unachievable and worse, inconceivable.
I know and accept that it will not be easy for you to relinquish the vindictive grip of unforgiveness. Without knowing what your specific problem is I can think of at least one thing that has a similar hold on me. I must confess that the reason I have no intentions of letting go of my anger or hurt is that I feel responsible for the thing that happened. I realize that my anger or unforgiveness is not toward the wrongdoer but myself. I am the guilty one! Now, you and are in the same boat. So my recommendation for both us is that we forgive ourselves because...
1) We did not use good judgment in our attempt to do whatever we did
2) We are not responsible for other’s responses to our bad judgment
3) Giving grace (being forgiving) is what mature human beings do in response to our errors, and
4) To quote Roman Israel, Esq., the Denzel Washington character of the movie by the same name:
“We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon—reciprocally—each other’s folly. That is the first law of nature.
Here’s an invitation for us to forgive ourselves. If we can do this, I believe we can move beyond our guilt disguised as anger, pain, or unforgiveness. There is a “time for everything under the heaven” says the prophet. So, let’s attempt to make this New Year’s a time to heal. We have a choice now that our healing is not about what someone did to us but we have done to ourselves.