Willingness to Forgive is Divine
Earlier this week I had an argument with my friend. The contentious issue (I think my friend would agree) was not super-serious. It centered around our holiday plans. But, such things can be sensitive and tensions were high. Angry words were exchanged. I was interrupted several times and did not feel listened to.
Breathe, breathe. Within a few minutes our calmer minds prevailed, apologies were extended on both sides. In muted tones we settled on a mutually agreeable plan, then left each other’s company. Quickly.
Time Passes Slowly
For a few days after that I noticed I was creating space from her by not generating any phone calls to her. Why? Because I was still pissed off.
The scope of the argument was not monumental and I was willing to make accommodations for the stress. We’d come to an equitable resolution and there was nothing else to re-hash, nothing left unsaid and no value in bringing this up again. The irritation was tiny, getting smaller by the moment, but it still lingered. And I was OK with that.
In Search of Closure
This reminded me of a note someone left at the public Temple wall at Burning Man this year. It was so honest and realistic (and applicable to my work of Honorable Closure) that I snapped a photo of it:
You and I could imagine a whole story about what transpired between Matt L and J. I’m positive it was dramatic and friendship-altering, unlike the garden-variety upset I had with my friend. We don’t know if the relationship is over for good, or just on a long pause. But it speaks to the point that forgiveness isn’t necessarily a fast turn around operation.
When we find ourselves betrayed, insulted or hurt by another person, forgiveness can feel like a second violation or too much to ask. Thus, J isn’t saying “I can’t forgive you” or “I won’t forgive.” He or she is saying “I intend to forgive you, at least I’m willing to try, eventually… just give me some more time to cool off.”
Forgiveness can’t be forced even when we know it’s a wise move.
This week my community is enduring a fierce winter storm with rain so heavy it turned the sky white. Cars were carried away by flash floods, high winds and fallen trees caused power outages. I couldn’t help myself. It was time to call my friend and see how she was fairing. Why? Because I cherish our friendship.
As we swapped our weather stories and laughed, I could feel the last bits of annoyance slide away. I was free. We’d found our way back to friendly ground, to loving-kindness.
Even though I’d said (and meant) “I forgive you” a few days earlier, I can see now that I really couldn’t quite let go without a bit of time and space. Good for me for allowing that. And “thank you” to my friend for granting that to me, whether she did so consciously or unconsciously.
If you are experiencing something similar right now, whether is be with someone you intend to continue to have in your life or not, I hope you will know the power of forgiveness, but also the wisdom of cultivating and practicing it as a process over time.
The key is willingness, to be like J and recognize that forgiveness has a timeline of it’s own. When we are willing and accept this as a process; then, no matter how we might feel in this moment, our willingness opens the way to forgiveness as a viable future possibility, even if we just can’t do it right now.
Willingness changes everything. And if we can be patience with ourselves in the meantime, grace will carry us through.
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