In Spirituality and Health Magazine, I read an article written by Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu, about the virtue of forgiveness. According to the Noble Peace Prize winner, “by letting go of past hurts, we can heal not only ourselves, but our families, our communities, and our world.”
Desmond Tutu was raised with an abusive father and grew up in a segregationist South Africa. He knows a lot about pain, anger, and suffering. Above all, he is a compassionate and passionate humanist.
When I read that kind of article I think something like, “Wow, what a great man. He is so right about forgiveness.”
And then I go back to my regular attitude.
Even if the message resonates in me, I am not close to earning a Noble Peace Prize, and I am definitively not a saint. I can tell you one sure thing about me: there are yet some butts I would love to kick!
Why should I forgive? What does it mean? Forget all about it like nothing ever happened? Forgive and forget like they say?
I refuse to forget. It would be too easy!
Some people in my life did hurt me. They caught me in their FOG and made my life difficult. I was confused, manipulated, and I did suffer because of them. I am still angry with them because they hadn’t had enough with me, and they kept their doings on my kids and husband. Anyway, even if I said to them, “I forgive you,” they wouldn’t understand why. They are so sure they have done nothing wrong.
Forgive will be for me to let them go along with their attitude without an apology. Forgive would be like saying that my pain has no value, my feelings worth zero, and that they won again. But, a relationship is not about winning or losing, and in a bad relationship, there are no winners, just losers.
“Know that what was done to you was wrong, unfair, and undeserved. You are right to be outraged. And it is perfectly normal to want to hurt back when you have been hurt,” said Desmond Tutu. “But hurting back rarely satisfies.”
I could kick all the butts I want, yet it’s not going to help me feel better.
Not even a little slap or a sharp quick answer?
Nope. It would keep me attached to them, and they would still control me. They have power on my balance, and I have to take this back.
Forgiveness is the way.
“We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves,” continued Desmond Tutu.
Great. How I can do that?
Even if it’s hard to believe, those people who seems to enjoy making our life so miserable are miserable too. They don’t act toward us like that because they are happy, but because they have their own vortex of sadness and frustration. Does it excuse them? No, it’s not ok to hurt someone. But it helps to understand that we are all humans, we are imperfect and we can hurt others too. If we try to step a little in their shoes, we would discover their own pain.
They look less bad, don’t they?
As Desmond Tutu said, “Forgiveness is truly the grace by which we enable another person to get up, and get up with dignity, to begin anew.”
That means that we are not a victim anymore; we are the ones who hold the keys to their happiness. It gives us a wonderful sense of power. Sometimes it’s complicated to pardon them directly, but we can free ourselves from them anyway.
More and more scientific research shows that forgiveness has a positive impact on our health. It reduces our stress and its side effects on our body. It increases hope and reinforces our self-confidence. We can let go of anger and frustration. Free from a heavy heart, we become more soulful.
All this being said, it is not easy, I know. I am still tempted to do some kicking.
But, if forgiveness makes us happy, it’s worth a shot, not a kick.
And a quiche!
The drawings are from the comic book Bone by Jeff Smith