Forgiveness

     I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness.
     I am sympathetic, to be honest, with people who do not forgive.  When someone has hurt us, we feel authorized not to forgive, in the name of justice: someone has deprived me of something that is really mine, something that I really deserve.  Since it has been denied me, I am rightfully angry.  I will release that anger when the problem is resolved, but not until then.  In that case, forgiveness is “extra”–it is what someone else might do if they were feeling a little less hurt than I do, and a little more generous than I am feeling.  But given that I am really hurt, no, I won’t forgive this offense.  There are many cases in which a person withholds forgiveness, not out of a mean spirit, but just because she is trying to get justice right.
     But what I see when I look around me is that the brother who cannot forgive his sister, no matter how wrong the sister acted, just plain old ought to forgive his sister.  The daughter who cannot forgive her father just ought to forgive her father.  The husband who cannot forgive his wife just ought to forgive his wife.  That is just how it is: we are imprisoning ourselves in anger, in resentment, and in pain when we do not forgive.  We think we are “punishing” the offender: actually, we are punishing ourselves far more.  When someone did not give me what I thought I deserved, I did not get what I wanted.  When I fail to forgive, I also do not get peace, every day that I withhold forgiveness.  The offender may be oblivious to this “punishment” I am inflicting on him.  Funny–I am the only one being punished.
     One person who has modeled forgiveness to me is my sister Melia.  She had and has every right to be angry with our late father.  But she got over ALL the many things that he did not give her, and chose to forgive and move on, forging a new and solid relationship with him.
     This forgiveness is heroic!  And rather than exonerating him, or letting him “get away with murder,” she gave herself the gifts of freedom from resentment as well as a renewed relationship.  That is truly the “right thing to do!”  Not to have forgiven him would have pulled herself down.  Melia, you are awesome!!!!!
     I do not know why forgiveness is built into our nature: it is what we have to do to fulfill our happiness and character.  But it requires transcending justice and becoming heroic.  If we are not seizing our opportunity to be heroic, then we are the ones who lose.