thI recently had a conversation with my sister about forgiveness. It seems an easy enough word to say, almost sounds pleasant. But the act itself appears to be much more difficult. They say that to forgive is divine, yet even god had trouble with that word. After all even he had his limits. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for instance. When he did forgive there always seemed to be a sacrifice of sorts required on the others part.

But still it’s those who feel wronged that carry around the weight, never so much the ones in need of the pardon. And do we really feel it when we say “I forgive you”, or does some part of resentment still linger long after the words are said.

I suppose it’s healthy both physically as well as emotionally to not dwell on the past and free yourself of the spirits that haunt your mind. I know I have been forgiven for things I have done, so it’s only right that I share some of that undeserving compassion. Yet it’s still not an easy thing to do.

Does forgiveness let the other person off the hook? Does it make your resentment disappear? Will it ever return to you what is lost? What if by forgiving it would rewind the clock and put you in the place of the act in question. would life play out the same way, or would it be different.

To forgive without sacrifice, well that is beyond divine. I know mistakes can be made for whatever reason. May they be born of influence or desire. Maybe from ignorance or jealousy. Events can act themselves out from deep within the subconscious mind. Scars left behind resurfacing and manifesting themselves causing fresh wounds to bleed out in a passed on form of betrayal.

So I even now as I sit here, reaching, pulling from the realms of the beating heart. I can say I honestly forgive. But that doesn’t mean that understanding is still not warranted. Some day, somewhere beyond this life. I am going to need an explanation.

About paulsdahlman

Born in Southern California, raised on the road and now growing roots in New England. I am on the journey of my lifetime. May the footprints I leave behind form the words to my story.
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8 Responses to Forgiveness

  1. Derek says:

    My daughter was murdered 2 1/2 years ago. It is and was not a pretty story… a pretty violent and gruesome end of a beautiful life.

    The following is not the “whole story”, it is just the slice of the story that has to do with forgiveness.

    I’m guessing a reader could at least start to imagine the effect this has on a person’s mind or life. It would play out differently for different people depending on the circumstances, how they reacted, etc.

    For me… the details are a little hazy, but I believe some time in the first few days after this event, I had a very vivid “daydream”… I imagined I was being escorted by two police officers into the killer’s jail cell… the door to the cell was at the right of the cell as seen from outside… as the door was opened, one officer walked in before me, and straight ahead, i.e. into the right side of the cell, and stayed there. The other officer stayed outside the cell. Inside the cell was dark. As I walked in, the killer was sitting on the floor with one of his wrists handcuffed to the bars. I had an old aluminum baseball bat, and I caved his head in with it. It was very graphic, I could see the skull caving in, blood splattering, etc.

    When I have told people this story, a majority of people have said they could understand how I would have this daydream at this time… a “natural” reaction. They can imagine they’d do something similar.

    So here’s the thing… this whole daydream maybe lasted ten seconds… maybe fifteen… but in those few seconds, as I was swinging the bat, I felt as if sulfuric acid was eating me from the inside… and not just a little… the effect was very intense and damaging. At the end, I felt like an empty husk… a shell… drained and exhausted… all from things going on only in my head. But nevertheless, I felt as if I had aged ten or twenty years in those seconds. I felt as if it was killing me.

    When it happened, obviously it was unsettling… but I’m guessing my mind “made sense of it”, much the way I am here. Other things come up in the day… decisions to be made, etc. I probably told people, I can’t remember.

    Then it happened a second time. As close as I can tell, it was pretty much the exact same daydream. The exact same intensity. The same drained and used feeling. The same strong feeling as if being eaten by acid from the inside. There must have been a “neural pathway” burned by such an intense experience… almost as if was a very intense memory of an actual real event… maybe why it played out scene by scene the same… but I don’t know.

    I’m not sure how many times it happened altogether… at least three… but it may have been as many as six or seven, or I’m not sure. At some point in there I decided I had to figure out how to make these things stop, they were killing me. Knowing myself, I would have probably made that decision after the second time, but I can’t remember actually making that decision, just that I did make it.

    In between these events… combined with whatever else was going on, it felt like I was carrying ten thousand pounds around on my shoulders. That I was swimming through mud. Again… people tell me all this is understandable, and they’d feel the same way. But that’s not much consolation when it feels like the life is being sucked out of you… and it literally IS.

    So I started thinking about what I needed to do to make this stop.

    I thought. And I thought. I evaluated option, by option, by option. Maybe 20 or 30 different scenarios my brain cooked up.

    There were really no good options. Not a single thing I could do… not a single action I could take. “Civilization” being what it is, the “primal” reactions the brain comes up with just aren’t valid. All dead ends.

    Somewhere… maybe a third of the way through this ordeal… I’m guessing, because I can’t actually remember… the thought crossed my mind that forgiveness might be a part of the solution.

    When I tell this story, I tell that my mind quickly and violently responded “f… that” to the forgiveness option… I immediately shoved it into the background. I’m not sure how many times I’ve told this story… and all but one person has told me they’d feel the same way and do the same thing. But as I did so (and through the moments as I was pondering other options) it would nibble at my mind. When I would actually bring it again and consider it as one of the 20 or 30 options, though, I’d reject it forcefully again, and go on to the next option.

    After a while, this becomes a circle… you realize you’re thinking the same thing, and considering the same options you’ve already tried and rejected three times already. As this went on, over these repetitions, my rejection of forgiveness became less violent. And at some point I realized it really was the only thing I could do that had any practical and non-damaging effect. And I had to do something, because the daydreams were still happening, and still taking their toll.

    At some point, I chose to try forgiveness… I can remember not being thrilled or happy about it… but also thinking to myself that it wouldn’t work if I didn’t mean it… this was something God was witness to… and I’d only get the results of not being suffocated by this if I truly “meant” it. I turned that over in my mind and made a bargain with myself that I could only partially let go of it… only partially forgive him… but for what I did forgive, I would really forgive. I remember thinking to myself that I wouldn’t mind carrying around this heavy load… I’d only forgive him enough to stop the daydreams.

    By this time, I had gathered a decent amount of information about the killer’s life and background and motivations… to some degree, I “understood” him… and “understood” how things had got from just fine to horribly wrong. Obviously 99.99% of us wouldn’t make the same choices he made at certain points… BUT we’ve all started at least part of the way down the same road, and said or done hurtful things in moments of stress and anger. He is an extreme example of my own “sins”, so to speak. In that context, I could forgive him… at least a little.

    So… I stepped into it. I can’t remember exactly how I did it… but I do remember it took maybe ten or fifteen minutes to walk through it in my head…

    At the end of that fifteen minutes… it felt as if a thousand pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt lighter. More free. Less dead.

    It is what it is. It is not what it is not. Forgiveness didn’t take care of everything. It did not bring my daughter back. It just allowed me some space to breathe in what I had left… my own life. And how to fill the hole left by my daughter’s death I found was an entirely separate matter… that I was responsible to take action to fill that hole… to carry forward her memory, legacy, and love, etc. I had more power to take these positive actions “in a separate plane” by forgiving.

    I know the first time I forgave didn’t stop the daydreams… I had at least one more… I can’t remember how many times I went through the cycle of deciding to forgive a little more… maybe twice more… to take a little more of the weight off my shoulders. It helped in my circumstance to know that “the system” was taking care of “the other side” of things… that even if I forgave him, that he would still face stiff consequences… that he was in jail, and was going to stay there. But at some point the daydreams did stop… and there were some other things I did to regain my strength… I started running… and am still running…

    It also helped that in some point of the middle of all that, one of my friends said something about forgiveness not really meaning anything unless it was forgiving someone who didn’t deserve forgiveness. That’s the whole point. I can’t even remember which friend said that… but whoever you were, thank you. If I would get caught in the “deserve” debate, I’d still be in misery.

    So when it comes to forgiveness… what I have is my own story… and an observation out of that that forgiveness is powerful to allow moving on with life. No more. No less.


    • coastalmom says:

      Derek. I am humbled. I thought I had forgiven a couple of times. Your story humbles me. I can’t even imagine. Your words did not just bring tears, they brought the sobs that rise up, as you try to push them back down. Wonderful writing. Tragic story. I am surprised that no one else found this and replied. Maybe they just don’t know what to say. My heart holds yours and weeps! Thank you for sharing. It humbled me today. And inspired me to forgive more than twice in my archives of my memory. How sad am I to even try to match your capacity to understand the act!!!!


  2. teri says:

    to forgive is devine, however the person you are forgiving keeps disappointing you over and over again. do you still keep on forgiving or do you say enough is enough? sometimes there are innocent lives at stake, you have to protect. I say let the past speak for itself for the future.


  3. rheath40 says:

    Forgiveness doesn’t mean you let go. It doesn’t mean you forget. It means that you need to move on and enjoy the life you have. It most certainly doesn’t let the person off the hook. It holds them accountable. It makes them remember. It makes them realize that they must have really screwed up for you to have to forgive them. The hurt will always be there. But it will be a scar. Scars are tougher and harder to break through. Scars make us stronger my dear. So much stronger.


  4. Java Girl says:

    Good post. I agree with Rheath40. Even when you say ‘I’m sorry”, the other person tends to throw it back in your face again. 😦


  5. coastalmom says:

    I have experience true and pure forgiveness perhaps twice in my life. I mean really 100% forgiving something that I felt was unforgivable. And I have to say that the experience is life changing. The sliver of a glimpse of what heaven must “feel” like. You want to tell everyone about it. You want to share the story! It is hard to even describe. Greatest post ever!


  6. Great post! Forgiveness is a wonderful topic. I almost don’t feel worthy to forgive, sometimes, if that makes sense. I feel like only the Savior can forgive since he’s the one who really paid the price for it. I try and get to a place of forgiveness quickly, but that doesn’t mean I need to continue having a relationship with that person. I don’t think we’re supposed to put ourselves in harm’s way over and over again. I guess it depends what the wrong doing was, how severe…? I’ve forgiven some atrocities but you can be sure, I’m not gonna stick around for more.
    People who apologize and ask for forgiveness need to take it to the highest authority and be prepared to take accountability and never repeat the offense. Apologies seem like lame and meaningless gestures unless a person is really willing to make changes. I think humility is necessary for both people in the relationship.
    Very thought provoking. 🙂


  7. Mari says:

    Oh, my! I have been going around and around on the same subject. I even drafted a post about it a few days ago but I hesitated to publish it because I tend to post things in the spur of the moment, and I regret it later. I feel as you do. Of course forgiving others is the what’s best for us but it isn’t always easy. I have forgiven things that had a serious impact on my life but I find that even when I hold no resentment towards those I’ve forgiven, sometimes, things happen that make me feel as though the wounds were still wide open all over again. And when I realize that the situation at hand didn’t even involve those I’ve forgiven I realize that perhaps I haven’t done the work required on my part to let go of the pain their actions caused me.

    You’ve definitely given me something to ponder about.



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