I’ve had two occurrences, in the last several weeks, that have led me to wonder what the true definition of forgiveness is. What forgiveness really means. What is truly expected of us when we offer our forgiveness? From the person we forgive. From ourselves. From The Lord. And, how do I figure out what this true definition is?
I’ve found myself in a circumstance, on our baseball team, with a very irate mother/wife. She has caused some very serious problems and sent nasty email after nasty email. And, quite honestly, I am over it. Over the situation, and, over her. I simply do not wish to deal with her anymore. This woman and I used to be close. Our children, both her son and my Coco, and her daughter and my Lou, are friends. What happened was an adult thing, between our families, that does not need to affect the kids’ friendships, however, it very much affected ours.
I have forgiven her. In so much as I can carry a cordial conversation with her. I can be civil, even almost to the point of friendly, without faking it. However, I cannot hug her, or carry on, as if nothing has happened. And yet I think that is what she expects. I know this is what her husband expects.
He asked me, last week, if things are good between her and I. I told him that things are OK. He then preceded to ask me if I was familiar with 7x70x’s and God’s expectation of us to forgive. I told him I was and he said then things should be good. I proceeded to tell him that my ability to forgive is what allows things to be OK. That because of my need to keep a healthy distance, for myself, that things may never again be good. He looked shocked. And, it made me wonder….do I not understand forgiveness?
My other occurrence recently, with forgiveness, involves my daughter, my 6 year old, Lou. She has a friend from school who she really likes. The girl has played at our house and Lou has played at hers. I’ve had some minor concerns about Lou’s friend. She never wants Lou to play with anyone but her and, personally, I think the girl is crazy bossy. Yet, I am trying to allow my 6 year old to navigate this new friendship world, so, we are working through it. Well, the last time she played at the girls home, the two had a spat. It was nothing major. The little girl wanted to play one way and my Lou wanted to play another. Something little girls fight about often. However, the words that came out of the little girls mouth are not common and turned it into much more than a spat…
Lou told me that her friend got angry and went and laid on her bed. She was squeezing a pillow and then said to Lou, “I knew there was a reason I wanted to kill you. Whenever my friends won’t do what I want, I want to kill them.” Woah!! What?! The little girls mom and I are friends and so, of course, I called her and let her know what was said. She was very apologetic and I could hear the remorse in her voice. Later that afternoon her and her daughter showed up at our house and the little girl had written, and colored, an apology letter. It was a very nice touch.
Lou asked me, after receiving the apology letter, if she could forgive her friend. I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said, “Mommy, we are supposed to forgive. That is what God would want me to do.” I agreed with her. But just as in my circumstance, what does forgiveness mean? Does it mean the two of them resume their friendship as if nothing happened? Does it mean we keep doing play dates at our house and hers? I mean, our house is one thing, but hers?! Then, when going to pick up Coco at school, I see the mom, and she asks me the same question, “Will you forgive my daughter?” And I told her I would. But, I couldn’t commit, that even with my forgiveness, that things wouldn’t change. I could see the pain in her eyes. She then asked me, as she also knows my son, if Coco would allow Lou to forgive. My son is very protective of his little sister. And we both smiled about that and I said, “Yeah, he’ll be the toughest one to convince for sure.”
So, again, I ask the question….what is intended with forgiveness? What expectations do most have when they ask to be forgiven? What is required, in my heart, to provide true forgiveness? And, what does God say about it?
Just today, I asked a friend this question, what does God expect. She reminded me, when Adam and Eve sinned God forgave them. However, that did not mean they were without consequences. I liked, and appreciated, her thoughts she shared. We all have consequences for our decisions and our actions. So, as we ask to be forgiven, or, we provide forgiveness, perhaps we should remember that although forgiveness can, and in most cases, should, be provided it does not mean that everything will necessarily return to how it once has been. And, if you are the one providing the forgiveness, that is OK.
Originally written 25Mar15