A Workable Defintion Of Forgiveness
The late Lewis Smedes once noted that “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” You might be thinking, “Dr. Smedes, though I can capture the sentiment of what you propose, but just how am I the prisoner? The individual I resent is cruel, violent, and hurts others – and worst of all, they hurt me! Is not my resentment justified?”
Ready To Turn Your World Upside Down?
What if I told you that you willingly sealed yourself into an emotional cage, gave whoever you resent the keys, and made them prison warden over your emotional life?
Would you believe me?
Moreover, what if I told you every day your bitter heart plots its escape, designing sophisticated maneuvers to bring justice or better yet, self-justification, nevertheless, day in and day out you merely find yourself exercising in the yard, committed to your self-imposed life sentence?
Would you believe me that you make this choice daily?
What’s the motive in this real-life Shutter Island-like scenario? In other words, what’s the real intent behind this type of bitterness? If we are to understand Dr. Smedes we must first understand the hidden assumption within resentment.
“You must lose your illusion of control.”
-Master Oogway (Kung Fu Panda)
Your Brain: The Cerebral Dystopian Tyrant
The answer is unequivocally the desire for TOTAL control.
You might ask, “What am I trying tocontrol?”
“Why must that be?”
I’m glad you asked!
Understand, you’ve developed a belief system that demands your well-being and emotional contentment be contingent upon the behavior of everything around you (people, places, things); therefore, ALL must be controlled.
Truthfully, almost no one would agree with that statement, inasmuch as it is the overarching demand of their belief system. Nonetheless, an unforgiven heart is one dead set on the successful control of what is outside of them for internal happiness.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” —Maya Angelou
Unfortunately, externals, especially other people, are outside the scope of one’s control; you can suppress, oppress, and mentally finesse them but their internal domain is out of reach and thus they remain unpredictable.
Consequently, this leaves the would-be-controller in a constant state of duress and insecurity.
Think of it like this: if you can not control others they will cease to do what you desire, which is, of course, a recipe for a bitter heart. Similarly, as the old AA adage states, “an expectation is a down payment for a resentment.”
Your Mind Is Like A Society – What Laws Govern it?
Let’s call these anarchic law-breakers who fail to meet the desired expectations “improv actors” or “script-deviatiors”.
Secretly, these subtle expectations imply a script or screenplay; a law or standard by which to set expectations.
But just how does one come about acquiring this law?
Is it reliable?
Can it be trusted?
Does the resenter who is enforcing said law even know the basic tenets of it?
Surely the unexamined life lives by a law and it knows not what that law is.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”
Let me illustrate: Imagine living in a land that enforced its law diligently yet had no idea what the law was. It would be sheer pandemonium; total chaos.
Imagine the fear?
It would be off the charts.
Now, this metropolis is in one’s mind – it is the mind.
So in terms of an internal law, one must consider recovery as REFORM.
The reform is a mental legislative overhaul; cleaning the slate and clearing the records, or for the sake of this article, forgiveness.
Reform brings about the new law or the rebirth as it were. The old law by which the previous transgressors were condemned no longer exists; thus, the resentment can no longer rationally exist.
In this way forgiveness is not some emotional exercise but the outcome of rational assessment and practice. In short, forgiveness is the raw material in which a new internal life is molded.
The following are excellent resources on forgiveness:
- Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall
- No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu
Timmy G. (2019)
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