What do you know about forgiveness?
I thought I knew how to forgive until one day I had an experience that I will NEVER forget and it has changed me forever.
After I dropped my kids off at school and daycare, I met my cousin for breakfast. It was something we tried to do as often as our lives would permit (so not that often). At breakfast, my cousin shared with me a story, a rumor, that a family member had shared behind my back. It was hard for my cousin to tell me but only told me out of concern for my family. I was completely shocked. Speechless. There was no way that what I was hearing was true.
I played it cool during breakfast and once I got back to my car I made a few phone calls. It was true. The lie was so outrageous it was hard to get my head around. As I drove home reality set in. I could feel the anger rising within, my forehead red with heat. I thought about the ‘why’s’, the ‘how comes’ and the effect it will have on all the people involved. I couldn’t believe this person would say such a horrible thing.
With tear-stained cheeks sitting at a red light only a few minutes from home, I heard the word “Forgive” whispered in the air. I said out loud, “Forgive, no way this is unforgivable!” The light turned green and I drove on. Then my thoughts turned to…
‘Can I forgive?’ to
‘Maybe I could forgive?’ to
‘I think I can forgive?’ to
‘I can forgive’ to
When I said ‘I forgive’ out loud to myself in my car, I felt my heart actually skip a beat and let go. In an instant, I was released from all the anger and resentment that had taken me captive. I was free. Then I heard, “Just because she is your ___________, doesn’t mean she needs to be your friend”.
This family member and I have had our differences my entire life but in an instant, I had clarity of the relationship and I only felt love for them.
Then I heard, “This is not your lesson to learn” and I knew I needed to let it pass through me. I was just a pawn, a bystander in a lesson that was never meant for me. How many other times had I miss read the situation? Mistaking someone else’s lesson for mine and trying to ‘fix’ it when it only made it complicated and messy.
I was able to honestly forgive and feel peace but also change the path of a longterm relationship that always felt like a runaway train. For the first time, I was able to draw a line in the sand and protect myself when that boundary was overstepped.
A few years ago, I heard a story that has stayed with me. I can’t remember from where but I think I’ve retold it a hundred times to my kids and others I felt needed to hear it.
A university professor walks into the room holding a glass of water. He asks for a volunteer. Expecting to be asked the “half empty or half full” question, lots of hands went up. The professor picked a strong physically fit person. That person came up to the front of the room all smiles.
The professor held up the glass and asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?” addressing the class. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. He replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long it can be held” then handed the glass over to the student volunteer.
The professor started his lecture while the student stood there holding the glass of water. By the end of the hour, the student was extremely relieved to put the glass of water down. Their hand was cramping and arm was very sore. “I felt like I was going to drop it”.
The professor finished the lecture “If held for a minute, it’s not a problem. If held for an hour, you feel cramping and soreness. If held for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer it’s held, the heavier it becomes.” He continued, “Holding on to a grudge is like that glass of water. Hold them for a while and nothing happens. Hold them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you hold them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” Forgiveness is the key. Forgiveness allows you to put the glass down.
I love that story. Why on earth do we allow ourselves to carry around bitterness and heavy burdens that fester? It is so bad for our health and wellbeing.
Think about your life. How many glasses of water are you carrying around with you? How long have you been carrying them? Don’t you think it’s time to put the glass down?
Do you have a story of forgiveness that you are happy to share? I’d love to hear it.