If I study grief, I also study conflicts, and if understanding grief leads to acceptance, understanding conflict leads to forgiveness. That is the premise:
When you forgive, you release what you can’t control.
I’ll be honest with you. I have traveled two unique journeys to reconcile myself with peace, to arrange things in my own mind and heart, through forgiveness.
Incredibly, I found complete peace when the most important person in my world ended our relationship. Almost immediately, I was able to see where I screwed up in that relationship. My contribution belonged to me. Forgiveness was easy because I took the log out with my own eye.
But there was another path I had to take, where I felt mistreated, and there was no effort on the part of the other stakeholders to reconcile things, despite our efforts. A completely different path for someone who has experienced the ease of letting go by letting God have His way. I can tell you that this ease of letting go was as real as it could be, but it was not about me being in my power – all the power of God, because that is how God acts – through our letting go.
Thus, with the experience of forgiving a betrayal as deep as anyone could be betrayed, in contrast to the experience of not being free to let go of other situations, I prayed long and desperately to understand something more of God’s richness in the grace he gives and the grace he carries.
Suddenly, I understood that by experiencing both types of hearts – soft and hard – God showed me both the depth of His grace to allow us to let go and the extent of our sin to resist His movement of softening our hearts. I know both intimately. Both heart states were important experiences. I thank Him for both.
God allowed both and invited me to compare them in the light of His grace.
What He has allowed me to see is fascinating.
Until we have been able to forgive, we have not reached the place where we are desperate enough to give another try at forgiveness. Until it is impossible to forgive someone who has mistreated or betrayed us, we do not dig deep enough into the mysteries of the rebellion of the heart in forgiveness. We remain in self-protection mode. But we also stay away from the freedom that Jesus wants us to have and that he knows we need. A freedom of the aggressor, so that he won’t hurt us anymore.
In these difficult situations where letting go seems impossible, we are given the opportunity to develop an attitude of forgiveness, the recognition of forgiveness is traditionally a two-way process that requires the protagonists to give and receive forgiveness.