#Selfcarewithme for a moment.
Extend one hand out in front of you, closed fist. Now turn that fist over and slowly begin to loosen your fingers until they're in an open position. In the middle of your palm you find a coin. It's made of shiny gold and definitely has some weight to it. Now lean in and look closely at its surface. There's a word on that coin. The word is LOVE. Now, flip that coin over. There's another word on the flip side. Lean in once again. The word on this side is FORGIVE.
Both love and forgiveness are choices. We must choose to love. We must choose to forgive. Now for some, love and forgiveness are not necessarily 2 sides of the same coin but love and forgiveness have a lot more in common than you think. My husband and I were chatting last night on the couch after watching the NBA Playoffs. I was telling Harlan about how the word FORGIVE was stuck in my head. He shared the word stuck in his head was LOVE.
During our conversation, I realized these two action words were interdependent- one cannot be fully realized without the other. To choose to love is to choose to bear witness to the fullness of ones being without judgement or condemnation. Choosing to love not only creates intimacy with another but it also requires vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be open to both acceptance and rejection. To be rejected can create wounding which then leads us to have to make a decision- to forgive or not to forgive. The very act of forgiveness requires love and choosing to forgive opens us back up to love again. So if
we say we are a lover of people then we must in turn be a forgiver of mankind. Right now I'm preaching to myself.
Often, we think of forgiveness as this thing that we get to hold onto until our offender demonstrates remorse or even better, asks for forgiveness. In reality forgiving has little to do with our offender, just as in turn, the offense has little to do with us. The offense has much more to do with the state of being of the offender. You know the saying 'hurt people hurt people'? Yeah. Facts. Our offenders owe us nothing. Not even an apology. Some of you might need to deep breathe on that sentence. It would be foolish of us to expect anything beyond what our offender gave or took from us initially.
It is better to think of forgiveness as a door that when unlocked and opened, allows you to cast away all unworthiness, hurt feelings, emotional wounds, betrayal, and ultimately bitterness that was a result of the unloving actions of another. And when we forgive, we cannot hold onto even a little hurt or a smidge of our wound. If we're being honest with ourselves, sometimes we can get very comfortable resting in our own offense.
The Latin derivative for the word forgive is perdonare (think 'pardon'), which means 'to give completely without reservation'. We were never meant to carry those burdens around with us long term. If the door of forgiveness is left locked and closed, all the garbage that remains will fester and has the potential to turn into pure unadulterated hate. The product of an unforgiving life is isolation; void of real love.
Forgiveness has been on my mind a lot these past few months in light of all the social injustice that has happened. Although I feel called, and have always had a leaning toward topics of race and social justice, I know that my advocacy for racial equity does not exist in a vacuum. For me and my household, we do all things under the banner of Jesus- even social justice. As I've considered what and how to post on social media about the racial climate we're presently living in, I've asked myself these questions:
Am I doing this in a loving and Christ-like manner? Am I acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly as I navigate the rugged road of social justice? Am I loving my neighbor even when they don't look like, act like, or agree with me? Am I constantly forgiving trespasses as God forgives mine?
Now, 'loving', 'acting justly', 'walking humbly' and most importantly, 'forgiving' doesn't mean I passively roll over and let people abuse and terrorize. Sometimes 'loving' is calling a friend out about some racist mouth garbage they're saying. Sometimes, walking humbly means taking the family to March on Washington in the middle of a pandemic in humid 90 degree heat to tell the powers that be- 'enough is enough'. Sometimes 'forgiving' is having a robust conversation with a loved one on the opposite side of everything you stand for and opening the door of forgiveness to cast away all the accumulated hurt. That's what I'm working on- Forgiving. I have to remain in a posture of constant forgiving so I never arrive and drink from the raging river of hate so many I'm opposed to bathe in regularly.
A few days ago I had the honor and privilege of not only marching on Washington on the 57th anniversary of the first March on Washington, but I was also able to see the MLK Jr. Memorial. I am still processing through my emotions, thoughts, and feelings from that weekend. Although, not part of the canon of quotes that flank the 'Stone of Hope' in D.C., I close with these befitting words, penned by King Jr. and echoed in part, by his son Martin Luther King III as he spoke before the march:
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love,"
-Martin Luther King Jr.