"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." ~Lewis B. Smedes
I hadn't danced with her for over six months. The last time I'd asked her to dance, she'd refused, telling me that I should ask someone else. As the intermediate class came to an end, however, I found myself partnered with her. I couldn't help thinking of the time when we were friends, and how we'd regularly dance together.
The talent I have for detecting the slightest changes in body language, facial expression and other things, interpreting them in terms of feelings, doesn't always serve me well. The waves of animosity I felt coming from her made it difficult to concentrate, so I fell back to basic movements. It was still a difficult dance.
As the music ended, I bowed politely, and thanked her for the dance. She returned the bow. As I started to process what I'd seen, I realised that there had been another feeling, hidden beneath the waves of animosity I'd detected all too clearly. On the surface, she'd tried to appear impassive, but she hadn't been able to hide her ill feeling towards me. Underneath all of that, there'd been another feeling entirely.
I see and hear a lot of things said and written about forgiveness and, to my mind, it's a concept that is often misunderstood. Accepting an apology is not forgiveness, nor is a willingness to act as though no injury had been caused and no offence committed. Forgiveness is not about the actions of another person: it is about us.
In the case of a friendship falling apart, it's natural to question how much of a part we played in its destruction. Often, the degree to which we were responsible for the breakdown of the relationship is not important, and it's enough for us to simply acknowledge that we played our part. From there, we may understand the actions of the other person, however hurtful, as a reaction. We might feel that their actions weren't justified or were out of proportion, but these things aren't important.
The important thing to realise is that, when other people hurt us, it doesn't come from nowhere. They hurt us because they, themselves, have been hurt.
Now we're getting to the essence of forgiveness. I don't have to repair the relationship to forgive the other person. What I have to do - and this is the whole point of forgiveness - is to let go of the hurt. Forgetting the incident, or incidents, which caused the hurt is not a part of this. Indeed, we must accept that these things happened, rather than brushing them under the carpet. To forgive and forget, as they say, is the ideal, but forgetting is not always possible.
Sometimes, letting go of the hurt involves accepting that the relationship you once had with the other person is beyond repair. This can be hard. Unless it's in your nature to see people walk out of your life, which would say more about you than it does about them, it's difficult to come to terms with the fact that moving on involves firmly shutting the door on someone to whom you may once have felt close.
Forgiveness is all about letting go of the hurt. Sometimes, however, it is about just letting go.