“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
I have been thinking about forgiveness – forgiveness of myself and others. I have fallen short on weight goals. I have not trained like I have mapped out for the race I am preparing to run. I have not gotten back to my yoga mat like I had pledged. I have not met daily writing goals. I have missed sending birthday notes. I have partaken in too much wine and beer. This is just a beginning of a list that could reach back a lifetime.
Those are things for which I need to forgive myself.
Then there is forgiving others.
Forgiving others is easier when I think about the fact forgiving others is as much about freeing ourselves of the bind of anxiety and anger as it is about letting someone else off the hook. It is as much about accepting our own frailty and imperfection as it is about accepting the frailty and imperfection of others. It is about realizing that we really don’t know the road someone else walks.
Ultimately, forgiveness is about acting out of compassion and love.
I need to learn to forgive and get busy being who I am supposed to be.
When I think about forgiveness, I wonder if it all boils down to acts of little forgiveness.
By little forgiveness, I am talking about the daily stretching and strengthening of the forgiveness muscle. I am talking about letting go of the anger at the person who cuts me off at the stoplight. I am talking about releasing the gnawing generalized annoyance I carry into bed that keeps me from sleeping. I am talking about forgetting the grudge I hold against a friend that has been held so long that I can’t even remember the when, where, or why the grudge started. Little forgiveness is like salve on life’s pesky mosquito bites. Little forgiveness is the lemonade I drink to cleanse my mouth of the bad taste that is left when I accidentally drink bad milk. Little forgiveness is the soft wool scarf I wrap around my neck to brace myself when I am outside on a bitter cold January day.
What is the relationship between little forgiveness and big forgiveness?
There are acts of little forgiveness and acts of big forgiveness. I see big forgiveness as the forgiveness someone is asked to find when they have been profoundly wronged. Bernie Maddoff client wronged. Nelson Mandela wronged. Big forgiveness can also be understood by the families of those who lost loved ones in Newtown or Pulse. Big forgiveness often winds up on the news and understandably brings support and sympathy. Big forgiveness can seem distant and remote. Big forgiveness is so huge that I often can not fathom what I would do in that situation. There is a scope to big forgiveness that makes it hard to view the act as in any way related to my daily decision-making.
Is forgiveness easy? How do you forgive yourself and others? Is there a difference between big forgiveness and little forgiveness? Are there things that just can not be forgiven?
Ultimately, I believe little and big forgiveness are related. Maybe as I practice little forgiveness, I will get better at forgiveness in general and be capable of big forgiveness when life asks it of me. Both are about freeing ourselves from pain. Both indicate forward motion into a future that does not carry the weight of past mistakes or regret. Both are more about love than being right, or vindicated, or even justice. Both are powerful tools for peace. No great epiphany or heart-changing moment is required to forgive. Pain can just pack up its things and slip away in the middle of the night.