You’re likely familiar with Alexander Pope’s famous saying, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” As a humanist, I think that “to err is human, and to forgive is human.” Forgiveness is a difficult concept to grapple with and it’s an even more difficult practice to live. But with empathy, sympathy, and reason, you can forgive. It actually makes me think of a YouTube video I saw a few years ago with an AME pastor in Cleveland who was speaking to his congregation about the new F-word in his church. That F-word was forgiveness! He told his people “touch your neighbor and say F you! Look down your whole row and say F y’all too! Take out your phones and text your exes. Say I’m in church. F you!” Every time I think about the video I laugh out loud. I kind of like referring to forgiveness as the new F-word because it’s strong language that we don’t often use and it makes some people uncomfortable.
There is a saying that states when you forgive someone its like setting a prisoner free. The prisoner just happens to be you. Now don’t get me wrong, forgiveness does not mean there was no harm caused. It doesn’t absolve anyone of their responsibility to make things right and ensure the wrong doesn’t happen again. I often hear people say I’ll forgive but I won’t forget. I understand the sentiment and the reasoning behind it but I would suggest this: forget what hurt you but never forget what that hurt taught you. It’s the stories of forgiveness that exemplify the greatness of the human spirit.
Consider for a moment where there is resentment in your own being. Harboring resentment impacts your life, your family, your work. I know this to be true from painful personal experience! Sometimes the impact is overt but more often it’s subtle and the grudges we carry keep us hunched over. They prevent us from really seeing one another. They keep us from fully living freely and can keep us from working with others in deeply meaningful ways. I encourage you to consider the practice of forgiveness in your life.
Forgiveness is powerful, transformative and possible when we realize that everyone wants to be happy and avoid pain. And that mistakes and poor choices are part of life’s journey. If you mindfully make forgiveness an everyday practice I promise you the result is that you will be happier. Remember that each day is a stepping stone into the opportunities and possibilities of what is ahead – our future. Desmond Tutu asserts that without forgiveness, there is no future!
“My friends, these are simple words, yet some people find them hard to say, “ said the wise stranger. “I think you have the courage to speak them. The trick is that you must say them to each other and truly mean them. The first two words are ‘I’m sorry’. The other three are “I forgive you.”
Now go say to someone "F you"!
I had hoped to post once a week, and did for a short time. Unfortunately, my doctorate research and other obligations have taken priority over the blog. BUT, I will return soon! Some postings may be articles I've written for publication, messages I've delivered in congregational settings, or excerpts from papers written in my doctoral classes.