Forgiveness = Letting Go

Ball And Chain In PrisonForgiveness is a part of life. We all have an opportunity in life to be forgiven or to forgive someone. In some situations, forgiveness is hard and not so easy to do. When you forgive someone, you also have the responsibility to forget. Now while it isn’t possible to wipe out your memories, you must pardon the past hurts and wrongs that have been done to you.  As difficult as it is, we have to let things go if forgiveness has a chance.

When we are wronged or hurt, our natural response is to seek retribution for it. We need to resolve those hurts. To forget means that we stop seeking it. Going back to revisit situations and moments when we were hurt only reopens those wounds. If we ever want to heal those wounds, we have to move forward. We have to leave the past in the past.

I won’t lie to you. This is hard. Very hard.

Many times we are misunderstood or there are misconceptions about things that led to the hurts. We may never be able to explain those things.  This is something that is very difficult for me because I have always felt like I had to explain or justify things but the reality is that you can’t always do it.  Honestly, it stinks but if forgiveness is going to have a chance to gain any momentum, you just have to learn to let it go.

We can’t force ourselves to have amnesia and forget things but we can push them away to the past and not let it hinder our efforts in the present and future of our relationships.  We all say or do things that hurt people.  We all will have regrets in life.  There isn’t anyone that will get through life without regrets.  We go through life making decisions – some good and some bad – that we have to live with the consequences of those decisions.  We also hurt people.  Most of us do not intend to hurt people but somehow we will.  That’s just a fact of life.

Some relationships with people are hard.  We have a choice as to whether we will make the effort or let those people go.  Is the relationship worth working for or is it best for both parties if we go our separate ways?  Those are some difficult choices we have to make.  I have had to make those choices.  Some where easy choices and some were painful.  Sometimes you have to rebuild the bridges you have burned along the way.

No, forgiveness isn’t always easy.  In fact, most of the time it isn’t.  Sometimes you simply have to eat the hurts and wounds for the good of the relationship.  I can tell you from personal experience that the longer you allow a severed relationship to go on, the harder it is to repair.  Sometimes it becomes an emotional game of chicken where one side waits for the other to make a move.  One side feels justified in waiting for the other party to ask forgiveness first.  This game can go on for years.  Sometimes neither side blinks while the wounds grow larger.

One thing that came to my mind one day as I was praying about a situation in my life.  I wondered if I should make a move or not.  While I was wrestling in my mind about it, the thought came that “doing the right thing is never wrong”.   That pretty much settled it for me and I let go of the stubbornness of who was going to make the effort first.  Now when I say “doing the right thing” that means letting it go.  I had to remember not to try to justify or explain my actions.  I made it simple.  I let it go.

Does it feel good to let it go?  No, it absolutely doe not.  I’m sure I surprised you with that answer but I have to be honest.  It’s like pulling off a bandage on a wound very slowly.  Letting go is the first step.  You take it one day at a time.  I’m sure it will get easier and that time will help as we put one emotional foot in front of the other.  Is it work?  Yes, I’m afraid it is but I think it is worth it.

The past is the past.  The only way to redeem the past is to move forward.  We do not have a time machine that can go back and change even one second.  When can only make the next second in our lives better.  While we have to let go of the past, we still must deal with the consequences of what has happened.  Forgiving is good but it doesn’t work if we are waiting for someone to disappoint us and bring up the past to add to anything new.  We have to give people another chance but not another chance to disappoint us.  If we sincerely do our part to make things better, that’s all we can do.  We can’t live in fear of repeating the past.

The Bible doesn’t use the phrase “forgive and forget,” but the implied concept is one of continual forgiveness without holding grudges. That is, when you forgive someone, it’s like you’re giving them a clean slate. Why should we give anyone a clean slate? Because God does. He pardons our sins and overlooks everything we do against Him so that we can gain an eternal inheritance. “He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love.” (Micah 7:18)

Letting go is the key that unlocks the door to forgiveness.


Learning To Let It Go When You Don’t Want To

giving-a-complimentI have a problem which I am trying to fix.  I tend to have expectations of people and situations only to be disappointed and – at times – totally stressed out about it.  I have learned that I can’t possibly be the enforcer of manners and expectations of people to do their jobs.

My wife and I talked about this recently and decided we would try a new approach.   Instead of being frustrated with the actions of others, we have tried to take the attitude to “let it go”.   Our happiness can’t be dependent on holding others accountable for when they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.

This past weekend I saw an example of positive reinforcement in this area when my wife and I were seated at a restaurant for lunch.  We were seated next to a table of about five of six teenage boys.  I know both of us were thinking “oh great, this isn’t going to be fun”.   Much to our surprise, the boys were not unruly or disrespectful at all to others around them.  In fact, it impressed my wife so much that when they left she followed them out and complimented their behavior.  I’m sure those guys didn’t know what to think about that.

I have had the opportunity to practice this “let it go” thing many times.  I must confess that it doesn’t come easy for me.  Someone once accused me of always trying to fix things and right things that I saw were wrong.  Yep, that’s a serious flaw I have.  I’m trying to do better.  When I had to call a contractor to come to take a look at some heating issues at our house, I prepared myself mentally in having low expectations with their service.  This same company had been out before and all the fussing I did on a previous service call accomplished absolutely nothing.   Sure enough, they came out and gave some bogus excuse for not doing the work and they left.  I simply let it go.  Was I happy about it?  No but I was prepared for it.

Then after being out of work for a week, I had hoped some things would be covered and discovered they were not.  I could have fussed and complained but I haven’t — yet.  I expected it and came into it with low expectations.

I am seeing that instead of fussing at bad behavior that recognizing good behavior seems to do a whole lot better.  So, I would say that looking for reasons to compliment someone might be a lot less stressful than fussing at people who disappoint us.  The toxic people in our lives really aren’t worth the fuss and we are the ones that end up messed up over it anyway.

Let me just assure you that this “let it go” thing isn’t easy.  It takes work.  It takes a conscious effort to do it.  Sure, my first reaction is to rip into someone who isn’t doing their job or a situation that is not acceptable.  It is the realization that I no longer live in a time where manners were important and being respectful was common.  In fact, common sense isn’t very common anymore.  It simply doesn’t exist in abundance which is all the more reason to recognize the positive when it happens.

I was really impressed with my wife and how she complimented those guys at the restaurant on their good behavior.  I need to be more like her.  She has a big heart and is not afraid to express herself in that way.  We both have had our frustrations over people and situations in the past.  We have found ourselves trying to correct bad behavior or try to get people to see what they are doing.  You know what?  People don’t care.  You can confront them, reason with them and even show them and they are simply going to do whatever they want to do.

It’s still going to bother me when people say the F-word.  I’m going to be irritated when someone presses the elevator button when it has already been pressed.  I still won’t like it when people refuse walk on the right side of the hallway.  I will still get ticked when the contractor is lazy and won’t do their job.  It’s still going to be difficult when I get lousy service at a restaurant.  I never said I was good at this letting go thing.  I’m just saying I’m giving it an effort.

And I still don’t like Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Seriously though, if we all tried to look for good then there would be hope for us yet.  None of us like being disappointed and we all have expectations that aren’t always met.  That’s life.  Crappy people and things happen.  The recipe for a happy life is to not let external things hinder that happiness.  I’m not saying we should all float around saying “It’s all good”.   One of my relatives used to say that all the time and it made me sick.   No, it’s NOT all good.    Let’s don’t go to the other extreme either.  There are times where confrontation is appropriate.  I can tell you that I’m not going to whimp out when it is time to confront someone but I will pick my battles a little better now.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)