I think I may be still a bit naive about how I think about what it means to forgive someone. I mean I think it is difficult for me to let go of my childhood version of forgiveness, which looks a lot like a complete erasure of past wrong-doings.

What does it mean to forgive someone, anyway? At the bare minimum? What it is the least amount of forgiving you can do to properly feel that you have forgiven them?

Is it to not wish them harm? Or to be okay with seeing them? To like them again? To respect them? To see things from their view? Or merely to be okay with their existence?

My childhood/very-Christian version of forgiveness is to let go of the thing that was done against you to the point that relationship returns to “normal.” But in my experience, it is not really ever the same again; it is acting as though you have returned to state of existence that was pre-wronged, but it is not the same. The forgiver absorbs the consequences of the forgivee’s actions which allows them to continue forward with their relationship.

But I think this lived definition is flawed.

I looked up the written definition: to stop feeling anger or resentment towards the person that harmed you.

I think this is the problem with a lot of our definitions: linearity.

The definition describes a world in which one day you are angry, the next day you stop being angry and then it is done. You have forgiven. I mean, I like this world too. The idea that you can just turn your feelings on and off is quite appealing. Unfortunately, that has never worked for me.

What I’ve noticed is more cyclical. I don’t ever quite feel like I’ve fully forgiven someone because somedays I wake up and it feels like the thing that happened a year ago just happened. So I feel all the things again. The hurt, the anger, the rage, the sadness. And then the understanding. The metta.

I’m beginning to believe the goal is not to stop feeling all the hard things. But instead, feel them all so you can get to the other side. The only way out is through.

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