Thursday, November 11, 2010

Giving by Asking

Of all the steps discussed in this blog, it seems that forgiveness (step 8) is one of the hardest. The foundation of so many teachings, and the subject of endless writing, it remains one of the most challenging to accomplish.

Even the concept is hard to grasp, like a squirming, slippery fish. Forgiveness sometimes masks judgment. As in, I forgive you because I am a better person than you. Or lack of compassion, as in, I forgive you because I want you to feel bad. And even when we genuinely forgive someone, sometimes the forgiveness doesn’t stay put. As in, I know I forgave you for this, but I was remembering what you did and now I’m all upset again.

I recently stumbled across a new perspective on forgiveness. I was talking with a friend about a person who had wronged me years ago in a major way. It doesn’t matter who the wrongdoer was, so I’ll just call this person Jane. I held such bitterness towards Jane for so long that I knew it was poisoning my whole life. So I set out to forgive Jane. I would like to tell you that my motivation was that I wanted to be a good person, but really I just wanted relief from the choke hold the resentment and blaming had on my life.

I worked hard in therapy, I completed forgiveness workbooks, I went to healing services, and I prayed. And gradually I forgave. And for the most part it stayed put. I went on with my life, free of the chains I had dragged around for so long. But as I was relating all this to my friend, something started nagging at me. Later, still reflecting on this vague uneasiness, I had a lightbulb-turning-on epiphany.

I realized that I had only completed half the work of forgiving. I still saw myself as the “innocent” party in this story. But was I? I had heaped judgment and blame on Jane. I had wished unpleasant things for her. And I had completely denied my own contribution to the escalation of the enmity between us. It was my own reaction to what had happened that created such a monster that forgiveness took so long and required so much effort.

And so in my heart I asked Jane for forgiveness. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t like admitting, even to myself, the things I had thought and said and done. Humbling, to be sure.

So I’m wondering if I have stumbled onto a shortcut to forgiving others. Giving forgiveness is easier if you are also asking for forgiveness. Now, when I catch myself feeling wronged, in even some small way, before I get too invested in the story of someone else’s shortcomings, I try to stop and ask forgiveness for the separation I am creating by my own thoughts.

I’m finding that it is very difficult to ask for forgiveness and judge someone at the same time. So the bonus is that not only am I able to forgive more easily, but I’m less quick to judge (step 6). A twofer.


  1. I love your 10 steps to finding happiness!! I need to post that on my fride..I am your newest follower via the mom club Have a great weekend and stop by sometime..


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