Last year I started a new tradition. At the beginning of the year, I picked a theme for personal growth. 2010 was my year of forgiveness. My husband, Art, and I went through a Lenten study on forgiveness at our church in March of 2010 and I was finally able to do something I thought would never be possible. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do; I forgave the man who murdered my biological father. The latter was finally achieved by understanding that justice is not mine, but God’s. It is not to my benefit to continue to harbor anger against someone, no matter what they have done to me.
Mind you, forgiveness doesn’t have to mean forgetting. The old adage, “Forgive and forget,” is just not fair. Forgetting about a heinous crime is not possible and forgetting that someone has perpetrated abuse on you could prove dangerous if the perpetrator chooses to repeat that abuse.
2011 is my year of “no fear.” I started the year reading A Course In Weight Loss
by Marianne Williamson. Lesson 1, titled “Tear Down the Wall” has an exercise in which we are asked to imagine that all our painful feelings are bricks in a wall that is keeping us from trusting and fully connecting with other people. We are to name our feelings, write them down on slips of paper and then attach names of people or events to each one. The emotion for me that had the most events and people attached to it was fear, but I also noticed that I had quite a few people still attached to anger. It was then I realized that sometimes, fear and lack of forgiveness go hand in hand. Our reluctance to forgive can cause a lack of trust towards people who have never hurt us.
Currently I am in a study focused on Renee Swope’s, A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of Gods Promises. This book is all about losing our doubt and fear of failure and moving on to the life and goals that God has intended for us. An exercise Renee suggests is to make a timeline of painful moments in your life. Doing this exercise, I came to see I was again harboring some anger towards people from my past, including toward myself for things I had done to hurt others and myself. Fortunately, I watched Melissa Taylor‘s vlog from October 13, 2011, and learned another aspect of forgiveness. As Melissa says, “I have to keep reminding myself that I forgave that person.”
Renee Swope suggests that we pray over each event, asking God to “heal your heart and your hurts.” She also reminds us of another reason why forgetting about our past is not an option: “God could use my mistakes and hurts for His greatest purposes.” As an example, as a result of being rejected and teased by other children, I taught my children to reach out and friend those who others made fun of or ignored.
As Rose Sweet writes, in her book A Woman’s Guide to Healing the Heartbreak of Divorce, “Forgiveness is a process, not an event.” I see that the year of forgiveness and the year of no fear may alternate on my calendar for the rest of my life.