And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)
I quoted this verse from the old King James Version because that’s the way I memorized it back when I was a kid attending Awana club. Of course as a little kid I didn’t fully understand the meaning of these words and even as an adult I sometimes find it hard to put these ideas into practice.
John Gottman’s research into couples demonstrates that one of the major differences between successful couples and struggling couples is their ability to repair the relationship after something negative has occurred. Often the failure to repair is really based in our inability to forgive.
Forgiveness is a huge struggle for many people. When we are hurt most of us try to let go of the anger and pain that we feel. We all know that we are supposed to “forgive and forget.” We often find that very hard to do. Fortunately today research into human relationships has improved our understanding of what it means to forgive. Fred Luskin is the director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. In his book Forgive for Good he compares the unforgiven moments of our lives to a bunch of airplanes flying around an airport with no place to land. Those airplanes buzzing around demand a lot of our attention and use up a lot of our energy.
I think sometimes we get stuck on the road to forgiveness because we don’t really understand what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. I think the lists below from Dr. Ruskin’s book are really helpful and I wanted to share them with you.
What forgiveness is:
• Forgiveness is the peace you learn to feel when you allow the circling planes to land.
• Forgiveness is for you and not the offender.
• Forgiveness is taking back your power.
• Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel
• Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the people who hurt you.
• Forgiveness is a trainable skill just like learning to throw a baseball.
• Forgiveness helps you to get control over your feelings.
• Forgiveness can improve your mental and physical health.
• Forgiveness is becoming a hero instead of a victim.
• Forgiveness is a choice.
• Everyone can learn to forgive.
What forgiveness is not:
• Forgiveness is not condoning unkindness.
• Forgiveness is not forgetting that something painful happened.
• Forgiveness is not excusing poor behavior.
• Forgiveness does not have to be an otherworldly or religious experience.
• Forgiveness is not denying or minimizing your hurt.