There is a lot written about ‘forgiveness’ in and out of recovery literature. What exactly is it? Well, I followed the lead from my sponsor and started with a dictionary. That led me to check out the roots of the word ‘forgive’.
It came into English as a direct translation of the Latin ‘perdonare’ which meant to ‘thoroughly’ (for/per) ‘give up’ (give/donare). Forgiveness then is the act of thoroughly giving up. Modern English meanings include pardoning for an offence, renouncing anger at and abandoning a claim. Okay, English lesson over.
Forgiveness is saying that my part is over. I took offence at what happened and now I step back; I will no longer look for recompense. Rather, I will act as if what happened had never happened. It is saying that I no longer have the expectation that another person ‘owes’ me anything or can ‘fix’ what happened. It is not pretending that it never happened. I think it is releasing the pain that was caused and no longer holding onto the offence and I no long expect anything from the one who offended me.
I see forgiveness as a type of surrender. I give up. As of this moment I will stop holding onto the anger for a broken promise or an infidelity. I won’t seek revenge. I won’t ‘hold it against you’. If I am truly forgiving the other person, I will ‘give over’ what happened and I will treat you as if it never happened.
That’s a tall order. Can I really give my trust to that person without them having to ‘earn’ it back again? Can I really act as is they never broke or lost what belonged to me? Will I never bring up this incident again, even if something similar happens in the future? That is what forgiveness asks of me. I surrender the offence. I surrender the anger it caused me. I surrender any claim I have against you.
Forgiveness is a release not only for the other person. It’s a great release for me as well. Once I forgive you, I no longer hold onto the emotions that had me locked in battle. I let go of the swirling thoughts of how to exact my due. The anger and resentment are ended. I let go of the hot coal in my hand, realizing it is doing harm to me alone.
Finally, I forgive myself. If it ‘take two to tango’, then the other person is not the only one involved; I am too. I ask myself what part I played in this incident. I ask myself what lessons I have learned. I stop allowing this ‘thing’ to enslave me. I forgive myself. And I move forward. By surrendering, by ‘giving over thoroughly’, I am able to find my own freedom.