Up until about 12 years ago, I wore a couple grudges like a pair of boxing gloves. In my back pocket, I carried forgiveness, waiting for appropriate apologies before
I would play my card.
The problem was that the apologies would never happen. The left glove came from a person who couldn’t see that she had done anything to hurt me, and the right glove was the result of someone not meeting—but not even knowing—my expectations. My truth, though, was that I had been wronged. My stance was that each person had cheated me out of a well-earned and well-deserved relationship.
Over time, I realized I could take my gloves off and play my forgiveness card without waiting for apologies. The idea of forgiveness without apology was like an epiphany. Without grudge-laden gloves, I could touch the full love and trust in my heart; I could feel a more complete faith in humanity and in my dreams. I could recognize my imperfection.
These two big grudges … I didn’t throw them away. I packed them into a virtual box. Now and then, I hold up my pair of grudges as I tell my forgiveness story.
I describe how not wearing the grudges feels fresh and light, feels like freedom. The people I’ve forgiven can do or say or want (or not do or say or give) what they will. My gift of forgiveness frees me from being bound to react to them, to fight them. I stand in my corner, free from blaming and free of heavy grudges. Clearly,
I haven’t forgotten the wrongs. But I have forgiven.
These days, I’m still practicing how not to be reactive—learning to let others act while choosing my own behavior and emotions rather than reacting with automatic behaviors and emotions. I haven’t developed a chin yet for on-the-spot forgiveness, but after a bit of time in a neutral corner, I’m usually ready to leave the ring and move on.
Forgiveness is something I am fortunate to have begun learning years ago. My husband, however, had still been wearing an old grudge glove, still guarding his forgiveness card. Last week, he was thinking about playing the card, and he made a move ... only to discover that the other person had died just days earlier.
Attending the memorial service was helpful, but it was a lousy bridge for a 20-year chasm. The significant events—the weddings, babies born, birthdays and Christmases—had long ago been carried away by the river of time. My husband took a blow, but he’s not down for the count. He still has his forgiveness card, and forgiveness has no expiration date.