Daily Beauty, Day #21: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is most difficult when it is unacknowledged.

When someone apologizes and explicitly asks for our forgiveness, it is easier to give it. It is easier to give something that is eagerly sought than to cast this grace on one who is  uninterested in receiving.

But what does it really mean to forgive? I would say that the external admission of forgiveness is secondary. Don’t we often say we forgive someone when we really haven’t? Our words are in line with politeness and conventions, but our heart may be far away from what we have spoken. And yet, speech has little value on its own, even if it is accepted in the world’s eyes.

Forgiveness involves letting go. Letting go of our hurt and our bitterness, letting the pain slip into the past, where it no longer controls us or imprisons us within its withering grasp. The challenge lies in the fact that many people who have broken our trust, who have wounded our soul or damaged our joy, do not want our forgiveness. They may not be concerned about the impact their words or actions have had. They may not believe they have wronged us at all and they may not be willing to listen.

This raises a different question: should we only give forgiveness to those who desire it? To those who are deserving?

If I were to answer yes to this question, it would pose many problems. Because none of us are always deserving of forgiveness. We often don’t respond to life’s daily twists and turns with good grace. We often misstep along our journey and we may carry on in deluded grandeur, holding high our heads with world-whispered praise and false pride. We may not ask for the forgiveness God offers us, because we are too busy finding fleeting pleasures elsewhere. We may not want mercy; perhaps, at times, we don’t even think we need it.

But God forgives us anyway. His mercy does not hinge on our actions or attitudes. The outpouring of love He unconditionally shows us is rooted in our inherent worth: our unchangeable identities as children of God. He forgives us, even though we may be unwilling to listen. He forgives us even when we do not believe, even when we refuse to acknowledge the way we have chosen other alternatives over love.

Our forgiveness- the forgiveness we can give- is imperfect. But it is still a gift. It is still beautiful. And it brings beauty not only to the one we are forgiving (whether they know it or not), but also to ourselves. It is beautiful to let love spill into places of our hearts kept locked up by bitterness and pride. It is a gift that we can let go of these feelings of hurt and sadness, anger and shame, and choose to replace them with love.

Our forgiveness may not be sought, but we give to give. The gift does not have to be purchased. In its purest form, it is free. It is love. It is beauty. This is the gift we have the choice to receive every day, and I think there is something very beautiful when we too have the choice to give of it to others.