Sometimes I think people misunderstand the meaning of the word forgiveness. Dictionary.com defines forgiveness as: the act of forgiving or the willingness to forgive. It goes on to define forgive as: to grant pardon for the remission of an offense, or to give up all claim on account.
As I look at forgiveness I think about the last definition mentioned, the one referring to giving up all claim on an account. That means no more holding a grudge, or “you owe me”. To me it means that I have given up claim on whatever the person did to wrong me. But it does not mean that I have to continue to allow them to wrong me.
Sometimes this is where our society gets a little messed up. I have been in abusive relationships in the past (far more than I would care to admit) and I am trying to focus on forgiveness as a release of any claim that connects me to my abuser. I forgive those people who abused me because I need to get them out of my life and not allow them to have control over me. Forgiveness does not mean allowing them to continue to abuse me. Instead it is about me releasing my connection to them.
One of my past abusers is someone who has remained in my life, my brother. While I choose not to see him, spend time with him or include him in my life, he is still a part of my parent’s life, and therefore I know what is happening with him and I do occasionally have to see him.
I recently learned that he is suffering from cancer. He is going through radiation and chemotherapy and is in a hard place in his life right now.
I admit to not knowing exactly how to feel when I first found out he had cancer. I wasn’t really sure how to react. I wasn’t happy or relieved as I thought I might be. I also wasn’t sad or despondent as I might be for another one of my family members.
My first reaction was worry and concern. Worry for my parents, as they are the ones who have taken on the responsibility of caring for him. Concerned for my nephews, his sons, who are also the ones who have to deal with this first hand.
I am at a place in my life where I can honestly say that I forgive him for what he did to me. It has definitely taken me a long time to get there, but I do forgive him. But in a selfish way, I did it for me, not him.
I used to fear him. I used to hate him. I used to make myself sick thinking about him. But in my forgiveness I found freedom. I am no longer fearful of him. I no longer hate him. I no longer get sick thinking of seeing him.
I am working on forgiveness of my ex-husband. That one is more raw but I know that I need to forgive him for myself to move forward.