Verb: forgive- to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
Could there be a harder verb in the English language?
Forgiveness has always been a difficult thing for me. My mind wants to keep bringing up the offenses, flaws, or mistakes I see in others. Yet, with all of my offenses, flaws, and Everest of mistakes, I continually hope those I have wounded choose forgiveness.
Forgiveness...the holidays, a new year, a fresh beginning? How do we get there?
I was reminded by my friend Beth of Charles Dickens “The Christmas Carol” and its parallel to empathy and forgiveness. Ebenezer Scrooge: a cheap, grouchy, despicable man who seemed hell bent on making life miserable for anyone around him. Yet we see Scrooge’s transformation, after being visited by the ghosts that soften his heart and thrust him toward those he meant to harm. The characters he had offended did in fact embrace him, but what about us, the reader? The characters in the book did not see Scrooge’s ghostly night, but we did. We witnessed a young, rejected, and wounded Ebenezer looking for love and ultimately choosing to deny his feelings and turn to greed, the one thing he could control. Empathy and forgiveness seem to walk hand in hand in this story. By putting ourselves in Scrooge's shoes we saw glimpses of his life that lead him to being the man he had become. Although the characters he had wounded welcomed him with open arms in the end, for our benefit we saw Ebenezer's story so we could forgive him.
Think for a moment who you would label as an Ebenezer in your life. Maybe it’s not even a person, it could be a group of people, a political party, a religious group, or even an entire culture you are holding in unforgiveness. With the virtue of empathy, could you look into the past, present, and future of their story? What would you see? And more importantly, would it be easier to forgive them?
I’m not advocating that forgiveness equals trust or justice. Trust is earned. Justice is given. Both can be essential in the healing process. But trust and justice are not things we can control. Empathy and forgiveness are choices we can make, no matter who and what situation we face. You might be thinking; If I forgive someone do I have to be friends? No. If I forgive a group of people do I have to agree with them? No. If I forgive does it make what they did alright? No.
Forgiveness is a choice. It doesn’t right a wrong or change what happened. Forgiveness is for you and for me to decide in order to set us free from bitterness and hatred. Hopefully, by choosing empathy and forgiveness, those we have wounded will choose the same for us. It’s the quietest loudest choice we can ever make for our hearts.
In addition, we probably find it easy to point to the Ebenezer’s in our lives, but what if through some self-reflection we find we have been someone else’s Ebenezer?
From P2E Crew member, Alexi Seabourn: “Mr. Scrooge had lost his empathy, not just for others but for himself. To find his place in the world again he had to walk in his own shoes, examine his own path in order to decide how he wanted to move forward. At times we feel so committed to a direction that we don't take the time to reexamine our own path and make sure that it is headed in a healthy direction. Empathy and forgiveness feel like words about understanding other people, but in their truest sense they are about understanding ourselves as well. Ebenezer, by walking in his own shoes, chooses to change his path and right the wrongs. We can't control anyone else; it is entirely possible that our Ebenezer will not change paths any time soon. But empathy allows us not just to walk in another's shoes- but to reflect walking in our own.”
If forgiveness and self-reflection seems out of your reach let empathy (to walk in another’s shoes so to experience how they live, feel, and be) help you take one step toward forgiving another and yourself. It could change your holiday experience, and propel you toward the personal growth you’ve been looking for.
As said by Ghandi- “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”
We at P2E wish you the warmest thoughts this December and January.
Jennicca Mabe- P2E Founder, Forgiven, Forgiver