Friday, December 9, 2011

Forgiveness—Early Observations and Experiments

My kind promise is "to forgive with wild abandon." I chose the phrase because I want to forgive with extreme generosity. I don't imagine that I will forgive instantly and effortlessly, but I want to forgive frequently. I want the time between offense and forgiveness to get shorter and shorter, so that the cost to my soul and psyche gets smaller.

We forgive to return ourselves to wholeness.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” -- Lewis B. Smedes

How is forgiveness showing up in my life right now?
  • A friend of mine was describing a situation with her stepdaughter.  The younger woman had arrived from out of town for a visit with a companion she was specifically asked not to bring at an hour much later than she was expected. She was sent to a hotel, rather than being invited home.  Hearing the story, I (silently) had many judgments about my friend’s actions which I broadened to her character in general.
  • A man working for me did not do what I asked him to do. He made an effort, but the results were not what I had in mind. I told my husband how dissatisfied I was and what an idiot the worker was not to have understood how to do it right. Then I realized that the man was not (as I thought) out of the house and may have overheard my harsh words.
  • After both of these situations, I felt terrible for my own tendencies to judge. In fact, the idea that you are continuing to read words written by such a flawed character is astounding.
Simple vignettes, but they are rich with lessons about forgiveness.
  • Expectations:  I have ideas about How Things are Supposed to Go. My friend should have responded to the situation as I would. My employee should have understood what I had in mind immediately.
  • Judgments of others: if they don't do it my way, they're wrong. Not only that, but their wrongness reflects defects in character.
  • Judgments of myself: to take offense means I am A Bad Person, as does having judgments about the situation or the other person. Saying anything about the offense and/or at the judgments compounds my Badness.

How could it work differently?

  • Would it be possible to meet life without expectations? I'm not sure…
  • Having judgments seems like a human activity. I don't think I will stop having judgments. I can become more aware of the judgments as they arise.
  • Once I notice a judgment, I can decide what to do about it, including whether or not to say something. In the first example above, it doesn't matter that I would've handled things differently. In the second example, perhaps I needed to better explain the results I wanted.
Experiments—try thinking:
  • I'm open to this moment. The next moment also will be a surprise.
  • Whoa, look at all those judgments I'm having!  I'm good at being human.
  • She did it differently; that doesn't mean she did it wrong.


nicole said...

This one really hit me smack in the face!

Kate Wolfe-Jenson said...

Ooo, sorry! Forgiveness shouldn't be violent.

(Really, I know what you mean. Having forgiveness on my mind is making me aware of how much I have yet to learn...)