How does one truly forgive when everything in you is crying out to resist, to withhold, to punish the offender(s)? Having come face to face with this question at a deeply personal level, I have realized I can’t do it. Not really. Oh, I can push it around in my soul and psyche, but the ability to forgive in a deeply organic, inside out kind of way eludes me. I know that forgiveness is a gift I give my self, but when I try to unwrap it, I find layers and layers hiding the gift itself. I knew
I didn’t want to become a bitter, angry old woman, so I really wanted forgiveness to happen. Recently I was reading Gay Hendricks, a devotional writer, who offered up the phrase “organic forgiveness,”
which to me, conjures up mental pictures of a beautiful living plant growing out of the depths of my soul. But how? Quite basic according to Mr. Hendricks, but not simple: Feel the feelings, 100%; the anger, pain, shame, hatred, resentment, the confusion, all of it. Then be willing.
That’s it? Feel the feelings and be willing to let forgiveness grow. Hmm… Maybe it is
a gift like so many of the other good things that are part of the Beautiful Mystery wrapped up in what we reduce to the three letter label of “God”.
Such a gift is really a great equalizer…available to all, no pride in “doing it better” than the next pilgrim on life’s rocky roads…just a gift, planted when the soil of my heart is made ready by tilling it with the full expression of my feelings and watered with my honest tears. Recently, I have begun to feel the organic nature of this kind of forgiveness, and it is quite peaceful, to feel its presence growing in my heart; a work of grace and beauty, a gift of God.
It seems like my ongoing work in this process is to honestly stay in tune with my feelings. This includes even the ones I have been trained to deny feeling, by a misdirected teaching that often stops relational honesty at ‘turn the other cheek’. And then there is the “be willing” part. So I take a really deep breath, let it out slowly, and know that I am. I am willing to receive this incredible, mysterious, beautiful and life-giving gift of forgiveness.
And I am left to wonder if Mother Teresa was right, when she said “Real love only begins when we learn to forgive.”