We talked about forgiveness in church this week. We do that quite often. Probably because it’s hard, it’s relevant, and it’s desperately needed. Talks on forgiveness always seem to strike a chord with people. I guess at any given time most of us need to forgive or be forgiven or possibly both.
I wasn’t teaching this week so I tried to just enter into the message as a hearer. I started thinking about the people I’ve needed to forgive in the past year or so. None of these people meant to hurt me. In fact, every one of them I’d consider a friend. Still, in the messiness of relationships there are wounds and inadvertent elbows and disappointing choices that hit us when we’re least expecting. I’ve been hurt. And I’m confident I did my fair share of hurting too.
I know that sometimes forgiveness doesn’t mean that you need to trust someone again or that you even need to continue in the relationship. Sometimes it is necessary to walk away. If there is abuse, walk away. Thankfully, none of the wounds I’ve experienced have called for that. In every case, I’ve wanted the relationship to continue. Still, the choice to not hold someone’s wrong against them isn’t easy.
I’ve learned something about myself this past year when it comes to forgiveness. It’s the critical thing I’ve realized I need in order to have any hope of moving past the wound to a place of restoration.
If I want to forgive someone, I have to choose to put myself in proximity to that person.
You see, when I’m away from the person, it’s too easy to just focus on the wound. Righteous indignation flairs up. Hurt transforms itself into anger. I become a master of the unspoken cleverly worded argument.
But in proximity everything becomes a little more human. I discover my own brokenness in another person’s eyes. I am reminded that beneath misguided actions there is almost always a heart that is good. I recognize the traces of the person I love.
I now know that when I’m struggling to get over it and let someone off the hook, the best thing I can do is choose proximity.
Maybe it could help you too?
It might be the last thing you want to do. It might be the most important thing you could do.
Is there someone you need to meet for coffee?