Learning Forgiveness

Before I forget here is the “part 2” to Teaching I’m Sorry” from last week.

Forgiveness is a tough one, even with a heartfelt apology, some pains are very hard to forgive. One can make a meaningful apology and begin to feel better. They did what they could to right a situation and that’s that. To forgive can take an ongoing effort because forgiveness is most often tied to trust and that isn’t gained back over night. Regaining trust can take days or even months, it’s a long process that requires the offender to not repeat the offense and the offended to recognize that. Therefore, I find forgiveness to be something that is learned through unfortunate experiences and not as easily taught as an apology. (Not that apologies are that easy either.)

“Forgive but don’t forget.”

I don’t buy this as it stands. “Forgive but don’t forget.” Sounds like a good grudge to me and a grudge is only verbal forgiveness at best. Short term a grudge may seem like a faster way to move on, long term it holds you back and affects more aspects of your life that you may realize. I’m not a crazy hippie but I do believe that having inner peace is extremely important for a healthy life. The healthier way to keep the saying would be “Forgive. Let go. Forget if you like.” Then there is peace again.

Let go.

This doesn’t mean that the wrong that has been done is ok, it means that you have made peace with it. It’s not ok, but you are not going to dwell on it. You have taken some time to accept what happened and allowed yourself to move on (not hold a grudge). This may mean that you have learned a lesson to not put yourself in certain situations or that you have realized that it really wasn’t your fault. This is not to say that in some situations the offended is not partially to blame, in which case taking ownership of those actions is important too (and may require acknowledgement and/or an apology). It is very important to take time and realize your role or lack thereof; don’t just assume you’re the victim.

When I opened my bakery years ago I started with a partner. Hindsight’s 20/20.I was just barely 20 and naive to think that she was not going to talk about me as she did her own family and other so-called “friends”. She lasted the first year with the bakery and it was finally too much for her to handle. During that year, I couldn’t believe some of the things she said about her husband and sisters and looking back I can’t believe that I didn’t think she was saying things about me as well. I never took time to think much past her words to think that some may be about me. I ignored the bad and continued to look for the good.

When she left, I thought it was on good terms, we agreed that she could use the kitchen after hours to do some wedding cakes on the side to help her get going again. I called a few times just to say hi and see how things were going. All the calls were short which struck me as odd and still I was blind. It wasn’t until things started going missing and a friend of mine mentioned some of the thing that were said when I wasn’t around. Finally everything made sense. I called the former partner asking about the missing items and even gave her an easy out questioning if someone helping her grabbed them by mistake. I will never forget her reply “maybe the fell in the garbage or maybe one of the construction workers took them.” Seriously, I may have been blind but I can wake up quick. That was the last straw, I waited for another weekend to pass in hopes that the items would mysteriously show up in an odd spot and then promptly had the locks changed.

Nothing was returned, no further calls were made. That was it. I saw her mother a few months later and got a very cold shoulder. I expect a parent to side with their child but I also know that what was said in my absence was a whole lot of bologna. Between the lying to me, about me and theft, forgiveness was a long time out. There was no monetary value to what was taken, just sentimental to me and I’m not sure to her. Some contained letters from my family and recipes that she knows I would have gladly reprinted upon request among a few other things.

No apology was made and I don’t expect to ever get one (or hear from her again). These days that’s ok. It took years for me to be completely at peace with everything. There was a lot of looking back at her actions and mine. I won’t claim victim because I wasn’t helpless, just blind. Peace came when I realized the problem was indeed hers; you don’t talk about your family like that without having a personal problem, she held a grudge against her husband and more that really doesn’t need sharing. In the end she has to answer for her actions to a being much greater than I.

The material things taken were just that. I have other letters from mom, recipes from grandma and I can look up new articles about my sister’s volunteer award. Would I have liked to hang on to them? Of course! Are they a necessity to live or keep the bakery going? No. (In fact without the partner, I was able to run a much better business without her and with the help of a dear friend.)

As for what was said about me, that was probably the easiest thing for me to let go of. The truth comes out eventually and actions speak louder than words to quote another cliché. I may never get acknowledgment from anyone she spread rumors to, but given time they will see her ways and rethink their opinions. I know the truth, God knows the truth and quite frankly, that’s all that matters. I forgave. I let go. I learned many lessons. I did not forget.

Forgiveness is a journey, sometimes a very long one. It requires reflection, patience and a willingness to continue unburdened by a time consuming grudge.

It’s not easily taught. It’s not easily given. It should never be taken for granted.

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