So do I. Maybe itâ€™s because of the toxic family script I inhaled as a child: â€œBackmans never forgive.â€ Or maybe, being hypersensitive in general, Iâ€™m hypersensitive to â€œthe heartache, and the thousand natural shocksÂ that flesh is heir to.â€ In other words, I get hurt and it sticks.
I do know that forgiveness is required of me as a Christian. One part of the Lordâ€™s Prayerâ€”â€œforgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against usâ€â€”implies that if we donâ€™t forgive, itâ€™ll cost us.
And yet getting to forgiveness seems well-nigh impossible.
All this came to mind when an article in Tricycle, a Buddhist journal, caught my eye. Author Gina Sharpe ruminates on the general landscape of forgiveness before describing three practices that can foster it. Hereâ€™s part of that landscape:
Forgiveness does not gloss over what has happened in a superficial wayâ€¦. Itâ€™s not a misguided effort to suppress our pain or to ignore it. If youâ€™ve suffered a great injustice, coming to forgiveness may include a long process of grief and outrage and sadness and loss and pain. Forgiveness is a deep process, which is repeated over and over and over again in our hearts. It honors the grief and it honors the betrayal. And in its own time, it ripens into the freedom to truly forgive.
Sharpeâ€™s forgiveness practice grows from the same ground:
As you do the following forgiveness practices, let yourself feel whatever small or large release there is in your heart. Or if there is no release, notice that too. And if you are not ready to forgive, thatâ€™s all right. Sometimes the process of forgiveness takes a lifetime, and thatâ€™s perfectly fine. You can unfold in your own time and in your own wayâ€¦. Â Forgiveness is an attitude of welcoming and inviting and spaciousness rather than some emotion that we pump up in our bodies and minds and hearts.
I read all this and thought, This is something I can do. It acknowledges the sheer difficulty of forgiveness. It describes forgiveness as Iâ€™ve experienced it: time-consuming, slow, requiring attention and effort. Most of all, it gives me permission to take my time, to do only what I can, as long as my heart stays pointed in the general direction of forgiveness.
I offer this to you in case it helps with your own struggle. But Iâ€™m also noticing something else here. For all their emphasis on forgiveness and its importance, the Christian scriptures donâ€™t really describe how to go about it. For me Sharpeâ€™s article, with its Buddhist framework, is yet another example of how different faiths can feed off and illuminate each other when theyâ€™re allowed to play in the same sandbox. Have you experienced this too?