Like many important life skills, it starts in the sand box.
“That wasn’t nice to take his bucket. Say you’re sorry.”
“Say ‘I forgive you.’ ”
“I forgive you.”
It begins like brushing teeth. It’s something you are told you must do, a habit you must develop even though you cannot comprehend the consequence of a cavity.
I have learned a lot about the consequences of not forgiving. Like a cavity, at first, bitterness does unseen damage.
Forgiveness is not a very sexy topic. When I tell people about my current creative endeavor to create a communal art project about the power of forgiveness… well, not everyone is as excited as I am.
And I totally get it. It can be messy and painful. I’ve been there. Acknowledging wrong that has been done to you and making a choice to forgive is not always simple. It can be emotionally exhausting and not exactly how we want to spend our limited free time.
But, honestly, it’s worth it. It can be uncomfortable, sure, but so many of the actions that nourish our soul and enrich our lives with meaning take a little sweat and effort.
To live a simple life is not just about an organized kitchen, it is also about internal simplicity, taking the time to clean out resentment from your heart.
My Journey of Forgiveness
It’s been almost 4 years since my ex-husband left. To put it mildly, that stirred up all kinds of anger and resentment. In the process, I realized that there was a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of other areas of my life where I needed to forgive that had nothing to do with my marriage.
• I had to forgive my parents for not being perfect parents.
• I had to forgive an old boss who plagiarized my writing.
• I had to forgive the drunk driver who caused a car accident I was in.
• I had to forgive the rude lady at Home Depot who criticized me loudly on the day I signed my divorce papers. • I had to forgive people at my church who had given me hurtful and destructive marriage advice.
• I had to forgive my sisters for assorted sisterly things.
• I had to forgive my dad for not making more effort to connect with me before he died.
• I had to forgive strangers who judged me for making work phone calls while at the playground.
• I had to forgive friends who had lied to me.
• I had to forgive a lot of other things so painful that I can’t list them here.
I had to forgive myself, too. I had to forgive myself for a very, very long list of failures and mistakes.
I learned one of those annoyingly obvious life lessons in the process: you can’t control others, you can only control yourself.
Releasing a Debt, Not Shaming
I didn’t actually go in person to most of these people to discuss what they had done wrong and inform them of my benevolence. For me, this journey is about my choice to let go and release, not about trying to pour guilt or shame on anyone.
As an artist, most of the life lessons I learn get worked out through some creative medium. For this process, I wrote a song called “You Owe No Debt to Me.” It’s based on the concept that when you forgive, it’s like paying a debt that someone owes you. They wronged you, and in a certain sense, they owe you. But you can choose to forgive and pay that debt for them, even if they don’t “deserve” it or haven’t asked for it.
Instead of their “account” being in the negative, you go back to a zero balance in that relationship.
The Art of Forgiveness
I have found a meaningful parallel between the act of creating and the art of forgiveness. To forgive is to remove bitterness and create more space for love, gentleness and kindness.
And that’s why I’m doing this Kickstarter project called The Art of Forgiveness. I am passionate about this topic and this project. I want to encourage as many people as possible about the power of choosing to forgive.
I invite you to check out my project, write down your own statement of forgiveness and share your story with me.
Be vulnerable. Be brave.
Talk to your kids about forgiveness. Talk to your friends about it. Whether or not you join me in my creative endeavor, I encourage you to consider the value of spending time examining your heart and uncovering areas where you can experience more freedom through forgiveness.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing about your journey of forgiveness.
What have you learned about forgiveness? What do you want to teach your kids about it?