To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you
-Lewis B. Smedes (Ethicist and Theologian)
It seems I’m always asking for forgiveness
again, and again and again!
My request is almost always met with confusion.
And yet, I keep asking,
“Do you forgive me?”
“Do you forgive me?”
“FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME!!!”
Then one day I hear you say
“Do you forgive me?”
and clarity blooms.
For forgiveness is not about the
question, nor the answer, but about trusting the action.
Copyright 2019 PositivelyAnne.com
I remember the minute the words were out of my mouth, I wanted to crawl in a hole. I could literally see the light go out of my husband’s eyes; those two brilliant green orbs that had welcomed me to the breakfast table just a few moments before, now blinked at me dull and hooded. As we ate breakfast, my husband had made some forgettable joke about some HGTV show we always watched together. I was nursing a cold and had awoke with a terrible headache and my initial reaction to his joke was not to go along with the fun or respond in kind as I usually would, but to bite his head off. And when I say bite, I mean “CHOMP!” To be honest, my reaction caught me off guard as much as it did him. Damn that Nyquil is some scary stuff! When the heck did I turn into Godzilla? But my own disbelief aside, I knew what I had said. I owned it. I was an adult. I had to fix things, make it right.
“I’m sorry honey, that was pretty crazy.” I mumbled something about not feeling well and then with a question in my voice I said those four timeless words:
“Do You Forgive Me?”
At first he said jokingly, “No”…then seeing my crestfallen face, he broke out into a big smile, those green eyes twinkling and said, “What do you think?”
I said I honestly didn’t know. I mean I thought I did, but I needed to hear the words.
“Yes” he said and went back to his eggs and casual conversation. All be it, any and all discussion of HGTV was unspokenly off the table lest Godzilla rear her ugly head again.
Now after over thirty years of marriage I can attest to the fact that my husband and I pretty much read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences. It is quite funny sometimes and actually catches us off guard at other times.
“Oh my gosh, I was just going to tell you about that…you must have been reading my mind.” “I can’t believe we both were thinking the same thing about that person!” “I just read that article and was sending it to you!” Happens all the time with us. We are simpatico. Soul mates and instant best friends since our first date in 1984.
So, it might surprise you to know that despite our deep connection and my sorrow at spoiling our beautiful morning with my Godzilla impression, I didn’t put a lot of stock in his simple one-word response of “Yes!” I guess you could say I didn’t trust it.
Which is odd because my husband is truly one of the good guys. The most genuinely honest and decent person I have ever met. So there is absolutely no excuse for questioning his forgiveness. I mean this is a guy who makes his living working fourteen hour days as a contractor and yet at the end of the day, he still finds the energy to cook a wonderful gourmet meal for us and give a damn about my day. This is the guy that got up early on his day off to make me fluffy eggs and oranges with sugared rims and I just bit his freakin head off. I’m blessed, more than blessed.
But something in me just wasn’t buying that I had done enough to earn his forgiveness. So again I told him I was sorry for my words. His response was to say that it was o.k. and that he was going to clean up the breakfast dishes and go outside to do a little gardening. He truly seemed unaffected. But not me. No inside me, I was a bubbling caldron of guilt. OMG, he’s washing the dishes after what I said to him! Why aren’t we rehashing all I said so I can really apologize? Really earn his forgiveness.
My head was throbbing now. My tummy gurgling despite just having had breakfast. I felt like I was going to throw up. How the heck can he garden after what I said to him? Maybe he’s still mad at me and just needs to clear his head? Yeah, that must be it.
I told him to go on outside to the garden while I finished up the dishes and I would join him when I was done.
Working in our yard has always been one of those things my husband and I enjoy doing together. Immersing our hands in the soil, pruning and sculpting our trees and bushes, coaxing fruit and veggies from seeds, fussing and putzing till whatever troubles we have on our minds are long forgotten.
Did he have me on his mind? Was he angry at me? Did he really forgive me?
I found him in the garden shed getting his tools.
Me: “Um, did you mean it when you said you forgive me?”
My Husband: “Yes!” It was a casual, almost flippant response.
Me: “Well what kind of a “Yes” is that?”
My husband: “It’s a Yes kind of Yes!” A slightly irritated, but still pretty casual response.
Me: “Well are you sure?”
My Husband: “Yes!” His tone was definitely a little annoyed now.
Me: “Well, I think we should talk about it, because you still seem upset!” I don’t remember if he walked past me or ran past me, but he definitely walked away. He looked completely perplexed.
But that did matter, I wanted to talk about it and talk about it I did … ALL AFTERNOON!
I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
While I babbled on about how I didn’t mean this when I said that or how I was cranky because I wasn’t feeling well, my husband stood in our yard carefully and methodically pruning our lemon tree.
I didn’t catch a clue that he was over it. Moved on. That he knew I wasn’t feeling well and had given me a huge pass on my behavior the moment the words were out of my mouth that morning. That he couldn’t even remember what he had said about the goofs on HGTV, let alone anything I had said.
I wasn’t ready to accept the trust implicit in the words “I forgive” that he had given to me. I was too consumed with blaming myself, with not forgiving myself.
It was all so silly given the triviality of how the whole thing started. But I was determined to get to the bottom of this whole forgiveness deal. So I dug in and morphed into a self-appointed private investigator, invisible note pad at the ready, British accent, pipe in mouth, on a quest to dig and analyze and probe the sincerity of my husband’s forgiveness of my words.
In my head I heard a little voice that sounded an awful lot like Benedict Cumberbatch.
“Now sir, when you told your wife this morning that you forgave her, what was the context of that conversation? Did you say “I forgive you” with clarity of thought, no malace or conjecture, or did you say it with just a hint of snark?”
Huh? What the heck am I doing? Why is Benedict Cumberbatch vocalizing in my head?
I came back to reality long enough to look at my husband, still pruning the lemon tree, a look of peace and contentment on his face despite my Sherlockian attempts at interrogation. Ah gardening….
Suddenly another voice popped into my head…but it was my own. “Are you so caught up in the idea of forgiveness that you have forgotten what it actually means to forgive and the joy that comes from accepting the simplicity of the gift that it is?
I had a feeling I knew what the answer would be.
The word “forgiveness” is a noun, a label that categorizes all the steps, processes, things we do to rectify an offense. It’s a label in which we strategize, question, ponder, mull, what it’s going to take to fix our misdeeds. Sometimes when I talk about forgiveness, I convolute it’s meaning with all of the other things I want out of those two simple words, “I forgive.” Yes, it’s admirable I want people not to hurt anymore. But I tend to take it a step further and I want people to forget what I did, to immediately let go their anger, frustration at my actions and I want them to like me. I become “The Forgiver!” and boy am I demanding as hell of the humans I hurt. I need proof I’m forgiven. And I can’t provide that for my own misdeeds, so I go round and round in a circle complicating all that it means to forgive.
Because the word “forgive” is an action, a verb. It’s simple, uncomplicated, a little gem of a word, without caveat. It is to be taken at face value as simply, “I stop”. Now you can fill in the blank after I stop to anything you want. “I stop feeling resentful or angry or frustrated or sad or hurt!” It is one of those words where it means what it means and that is all there is to it. And I might add that what it means is up to the individual and their timetable, but it has a heck of a lot to do with trust.
Ah there’s the rub. My husbands ability to forgive and the parameters he places on it are his and not mine to control or manipulate or worry about. His simple response of “Yes” when I asked if he forgave me, was absolutely the best and most appropriate response for him.
His “Yes” meant “Yes” and it was my job to trust in it, not to question it’s sincerity.
To forgive is simply to stop and trust. Trust in love, trust in kindness, trust in faith and hope and all of the things that help us to heal when we wake up cranky and spout nonsense. To trust in the goodness in each other. To trust in the goodness in ourselves.
Life can really can be that simple sometimes, if we humans stop complicating it.
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