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Slice of Life March Challenge. No. 19.

To err is human; to forgive, divine. -Alexander Pope

This is
not a story
not a poem
not an essay
not a lesson
nor a lecture.

This is
a trail
of thoughts
from my heart

Usually when I ponder a word, I open a dictionary, and then a thesaurus, and then search its history and use in literature. And so, as I think about forgiveness, as age-old questions poke at my thinking, I open my e-dictionary.

I’m not thinking about the forgiveness used “in polite expressions as a request to excuse or regard indulgently one’s foibles, ignorance, or impoliteness.”  Not the “forgive me” that we speak so frequently on cue.  But rather, the forgiveness that is the act to “stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.” The forgiveness that “cancels a debt.” A debt? That debt could certainly be a literal debt — a monetary debt, but I think it’s broader, perhaps an emotional debt. (-quoted portions from Webster)

Among the synonyms of forgiveness are absolve, acquit, exempt, exonerate, forgive, pardon, vindicate. As you read that list, did your thinking about the breadth of forgiveness expand a bit?  Mine did!

Well, according to the dictionary, “[t]o varying degrees, all of these words [the synonyms] mean to free from guilt or blame, and some are most frequently heard in a legal or political context.” Free from guilt or blame leaps out of my screen and strikes a spot in my heart that goes straight to my head. That is an not only the act of forgiveness, this is an end result of forgiveness. Freedom.

In the dictionary, following a brief distinction concerning the unique use of each of those synonyms, I read,  “To forgive, however, is the most magnanimous act of all…” I stop right there and ask, The most magnanimous act of all? Above all others in that list of synonyms? How so?  I know what magnanimous means, but used in this context … I’m now unsure. I decide I don’t fully appreciate its meaning, so I check with Webster: “very generous or forgiving, especially toward a rival or someone less powerful than oneself.” Hmm…

I click back and continue to read Webster about forgiveness: “it [forgiveness] implies not only giving up on the idea that an offense should be punished, but also relinquishing any feelings of resentment or vengefulness.”

Let’s be candid, there are times when offended or hurt, our response is to walk away — to ignore, to pretend it didn’t happen, to say it’s not my drama. And we hope, we think, our action will suffice. But ignoring is not forgiveness. And experience has taught that ignoring leaves the chain of pain intact. Somehow, lack of forgiveness binds the offense to the offended one, and pain and darkness continue. But forgiveness breaks that chain and sets us free, no matter whether or not the offender receives our forgiveness. Freedom.

Sometimes when we’re hurt again by the same person, instead of forgiving the new offense, we want to take inventory of old wrongs–even ones we said we’d forgiven. Doesn’t sound like relinquishment of feelings of resentment or vengefulness, does it?  In forgiveness, we set our offender free from blame, guilt, and responsibility, and miraculously we are freed from the effects of that offense. Forgiveness is at liberty to heal. Freedom.

To forgive, or not to forgive?
Bottomline for me–
I live by the teachings of Jesus,
and He gives only one option:

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. –Mark 11:25

Then Peter came to Him [Jesus] and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. –Matthew 18:21-22.

There is no doubt. To forgive is in the imperative, a command. And I have no doubt that 70 X 7 does not mean we are to keep tally marks. Rather, seven is the number of perfection, of completion, in the Bible. For me, it means that I must forgive until forgiveness has rendered that which is imperfect, perfect and that which is incomplete, complete. In short, I choose to live a life of forgiveness, so that forgiveness can do its work. Freedom.

Remember Pope’s words? To err is human; to forgive, divine.

He is right. This forgiveness that I write of is not possible in myself. It is the mercy of God at work in me that makes it possible! I do not understand it with my mind. But I know it in my heart. When I choose the way of Jesus, when I choose forgiveness, a divine capacity to forgive is released in me. Freedom.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for hosting
2017 Slice of Life Story Challenge