“When you forgive someone, you stop feeling angry at them.”
This one sentence, from an entirely unexpected source, stopped my brain in its tracks this morning. It’s how Liam’s “Endless Alphabet” game defined the word forgive. (As an only-slightly-related aside, the app is fantastic. Educational and super cute. Keeps Liam’s attention for long periods of time. As in, I can get a shower without anything being destroyed.)
I’ve been struggling lately with knowing for sure whether I’ve actually forgiven, or if I’m working on forgiving, or if I’m holding on to grudges and thereby being unforgiving. Where is that line? There is of course, a very obvious kind unforgiveness. But what of the random flashes of anger that crop up long after a deeply-felt wrong? Or the lingering occasional sadness that hurts can bring? Where is the line between having (and processing) feelings, and being unforgiving?
So when I was walking past Liam and hear the iPad chirp “When you forgive someone, you stop feeling angry at them”, it gave me pause. And I have to say that at first I was thinking I didn’t agree. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not faulting a toddler’s game for its definition of the word. I think that for a two-year-old, that’s a fine and understandable way to explain it. But for me, that definition gave me a thought to latch on to, and it gave me a little insight on why I’ve been struggling with the concept of forgiveness.
I think where it begins, for me, is being able to separate “anger” from “hurt”. And if I can make that distinction, then I have a better benchmark for how I’m doing with my forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn’t always just “not feeling angry”. I think that it sometimes needs to go beyond what we are “feeling”. It can be that we don’t let our feelings determine our actions. It can mean that I will continue to treat you with love and respect even though I feel hurt. It is choosing to move past and let go of things, even if a wrong hasn’t been (or can’t be) righted, or perhaps it hasn’t even been acknowledged.
As someone who can tend to be… too hard on myself, I’ve come to this realization: just because I still feel sad, or hurt, doesn’t mean that I’m holding on to unforgiveness. It means that I’m human. And, *gasp*, I have feelings. That sometimes get hurt. And that’s okay. It’s what I choose to do with those feelings that makes the difference.
Disclaimer: “This morning” was a few mornings ago now. I’ve been wrestling with this post, and actually managed to change my own mind in the process. So, hooray for self-therapy and clarity via blogging. Who knew a toddler’s game could spark so much thought?