Maya Angelou, when asked what she would say to her younger self, said, “I would encourage her to forgive. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself…You can’t forgive without loving, and I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean much. I mean having enough courage to stand out and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.'” (The interview is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcOzaMGQzPg.) Her poetry, literature, and person speaks deeply to the spirits of those who encounter her words.
Today her words spoke wisdom into my daily task of choosing to forgive. Although those whom I need to forgive are still on the very mild end of the “offenders of humanity” spectrum, my experiences have taught me the deep resolve it takes to forgive. I can only imagine what the forgiving process looks like for those whose life and/or dignity have been threatened or taken.
I would like to say that today, I forgive and I’m finished with it but that’s not the case. I find myself needing to work at it every day, choosing to forgive despite the pain I endured and still will. In an untrue, but easier to accept, reality, I feel like I lose out when I forgive. My offender gets away scot free while I agonize and wallow and claw my way out of a dark pit. But true reality is that until I can fully work through forgiveness to my offenders, I will respond to life with a sense of woundedness as well as act out because of my woundedness. In such a state, I am unable to see in color and unable to experience wonder because I feel personally jaded by everything that goes wrong.
So on these hard days when I can’t profess that I forgive, I can remind myself that there is one who says, I know you, I love you, and I forgive you, when I can’t. I need that gift too.