I thought about doing a 2020 recap - you know like one of those professional bloggers. But, while there was a lot I could have said about gratefulness in the midst of a pandemic, the milestones I reached as a single mother, the mind boggling weirdness of online dating; there was one theme that popped up in so many of my memories - forgiveness.
2020 was a year of forgiveness and the larger lessons and balance it brought to my life was truly the highlight of my year. Now I could go in to every single example from the year, from forgiving myself and Finn for our failed marriage, to forgiving an old coworker for cutting me off and never explaining why, to forgiving someone from high school I never got along with but have now become good friends with, to forgiving an old friend I never expected to hear from again. They all had a potent impact on my life, but there is one that sticks out and one that I learned the most from spiritually and personally.
FORGIVING SOMEONE WHO NEVER SAID SORRY
I have seen this quote probably a dozen times over my adult life. I remember feeling like it was applicable to so many small disagreements because they were the only thing I had to relate it to. This year though I realized just how important and hard it is to do this when someone had truly hurt me and disrespected me. When I really, really didn't want to let go or forgive. Now I'll admit, the assumption that this person was "never sorry" is probably not fair, but when you never hear an apology or acknowledgement that someone knows and regrets hurting you, it is an easy one to make.
I remember watching this person repeatedly make decisions that hurt me, disrespect my feelings and then take a solid gaslighting approach to dealing with my attempt to set boundaries and address my issues. It was maddening and hurtful. Now, I will also admit - I have always been a naturally forgiving person, often too forgiving, and the duration that this went on was in part my fault. That in no way however, negates or lessens the amount of emotional trauma my "relationship" with this person caused me.
So why did I forgive Britt? Because the anger, resentment and anxiety from holding onto all of her transgressions was holding me back from being my true self, from living my life and moving forward.
MY CALL TO FORGIVENESS
I remember late this summer when a woman I went to high school with, whom I was never particularly fond of and whom had hurt someone else close to me reached out because God had called her to. She was afraid of how I would act, how I would receive her after all these years and worried that I would hold her past against her even though she was now a changed woman. When Crystal wrote me, I could sense the change - feel God's mercy and presence in her and it was amazing to see and hear where her life had taken her. Needless to say, we made amends and are now great friends. Most notably though, like so many women I've connected deeply with over the last several years, her grace and connection with God was inspiring to me.
At the same time, another friend of mine was struggling and needing to come together in prayer and devotion. We decided to start a devotional together on an app I had never downloaded before. This app has daily scripture that is populates on the home page every day. I had already been feeling the weight of my anger towards Britt and was becoming acutely aware of how debilitating it was becoming. It had become a road block in my journey to healing and veering me off the restorative and healthy year 2020 had become. So that first morning of our devotional came and I looked at my homepage for the daily scripture. I don't remember now which verse it was but I remember it speaking to me and that it tuned me into my feelings about Britt and how I needed to forgive her - for me. The scripture stayed with me throughout the day, repeating in my head and heart.
That night I decided to start a second devotional on my own called "Unforgiveness & The Power of Pardon". Two or so days in, I knew God was calling me to forgive Britt. It felt right. I didn't want to, it was still too easy to hold onto the anger and hurt, but it felt like it was time. There were other signs too, but I'm not here to try to convince you that my call to forgive was real or valid. I remember messaging Crystal and asking her to pray for me as I went on this journey to figuring out how to forgive Britt. I remember telling my mom and two other close friends who were all equally supportive of my decision because they knew it would help me heal and that I deserved to leave this chapter behind me. I continued my devotional and prayed quite a bit that week, specifically asking God to open my heart and show me how to forgive Britt. Each day my chest grew less tight at the thought of her. My anxiety lessened and my anger became a dull buzz versus the loud roar that it had previously been. By week's end, I was ready to symbolically let go.
I have always been a fan of burning things as a means of healing. Now before, I lose you (lol), I am not some crazy fire starter. I just mean that when I burn old letters of people who hurt me, burn photos of memories that are triggering, etc. it is a form of symbolic release. Sometimes even just writing out feelings that are pulling me down or anxious thoughts I know aren't real and then burning them helps me release unnecessary emotional weight. So when I decided to "let go" of Britt and the anger I held towards her, I decided to purge everything in my home that reminded me of her. There wasn't much but it was enough to make me feel good and my mom and Crystal joined me and prayed with me. It felt good and I knew I had made the right choice.
But that brings me to an important clarification and probably the biggest lesson I learned from choosing to forgive Britt. I have never been a fan of the saying, "forgive and forget". I don't think it is plausible or reasonable to expect someone to forget trauma or pain. That is not how the human brain works. So when I talk about "letting go", I am speaking about a daily choice to remember who I am, remember what my values are and how I want to live my life. By forgiving Britt I didn't magically forget the pain she caused. God didn't erase the past or cleanse my brain of all the memories. Instead by learning to forgive someone who never said sorry, I taught myself how to forgive "on repeat". I choose daily to forgive not only Britt, but anyone who comes across my path. I choose to hand things over to God when they feel too cumbersome. There are still days I feel a twinge of pain from a memory that pops up on social media or reminder of specifically triggering events. Even writing this blog made my chest a bit tight because it meant recalling feelings I don't like to indulge in (anger and resentment). But still, I forgive on repeat because forgiving relieves me of the weight of negativity and strife.
The decision to forgive Britt seemed impossible when I first felt called to do it. But it was healing, restorative and empowering to know that no one can hold me back, keep me stuck in a place of unhappiness or an unhealthy emotional trench. So I'd like to challenge you to look at the saying I shared earlier in a new light, because :