Communal Study 005: Forgiveness

"To err is human; to forgive, divine." - Alexander Pope

A friend can turn to an offender in the blink of an eye. Taking off that lens of offender and offendee is difficult. It is difficult to see your friend as your friend again.

To forgive is to reconcile hurt feelings from a flaw, offense, or mistake. Forgiveness in itself can, in most cases, be the easy part. What proceeds is hard, important, and often overlooked. That is the effort to disassociate the offense from the offender. What we mean by this is to forgive the friend and actually treat them like you forgive them. Deal with the offense separately.

It is all too easy to be offended by something and “retaliate” in different ways—the silent treatment, passive aggression, or some active form of retaliation. Even if you are able to move forward in a constructive way in that instance, another form of retaliation is keeping an internal score. Letting resentment build slowly in the background. None of these things are healthy for a friendship or for your well-being. That following action is a huge part of forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not mean turning a blind eye every time a friend wrongs you. We so often forget that the people in our lives are in fact people, like us—people who on occasion have the ability to hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally. If we hold people to how they’ve acted in the past, there’s no room for people to change, evolve, or be better.

Forgiveness does not mean avoiding. You can forgive someone and still feel the effects of what they did. Forgiveness is more active than we’ve ascribed it to be. It may be the 30th time you work through a past hurt that comes up in a present situation until you don’t feel that pain anymore. It is an evolution of the heart. A practice that almost leads to a state of being; a state of taking every instance as it is and navigating from a curious standpoint rather than an accusatory one.

What does forgiveness look like as a lifestyle?

We think it looks like approaching life with what we call a “beginner’s mindset”. A beginner’s mindset promotes curiosity in every instance, which opposes the stories we may tell ourselves about how our friend feels about us based on past mistakes and vice versa. Assuming current intentions based on past failures (i.e. jumping to conclusions) may result in unnecessary misfirings and it does not allow you to take on each day of the friendship with a fresh set of eyes.

But it’s hard.

It’s hard to forgive the people we let in the closest. Their actions affect us much deeper and stronger than a stranger who cuts us off. It’s easier to forgive and move forward from the driver who cuts us off. You cannot move forward from the friend who slights you as passively. You forgive and move forward together. You treat a problem as thing C. You and said friend are A & B working together against thing C.

Forgiveness emerges as a pivotal step, one that requires both grace and effort. It allows us to experience our friendships freely by giving each person room to grow and be human. It keeps intact the reasons we value the friends in our lives: their unique strengths, their quirks, and the enduring memories and connections we share. So, as we navigate the simple, complex, enjoyable reality of friendship, let forgiveness guide us into more resilient bonds.

ACTION: Find areas in your life that could benefit from the adoption of a beginner’s mindset.

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