I used to brag that if a person wronged me, they would be dead to me for life. But, the truth is, I am naturally inclined to forgive. I’d like to say that it’s because I am following in Jesus’s footsteps (both Jesus Christ and my husband Jesús). But, more likely than not, it’s because I detest confrontation and will do everything in my power to avoid it. Additionally, I am at an age where in order to hold a grudge I have to actively remind myself of why I am even mad. Admittedly, I’d rather use that brain space to keep track of my many audiobook and television plot lines.
Segueing oh so smoothly to audiobooks, I’m currently listening to Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker. This is my first ever Jen Hatmaker book. I’m sure I put it in my audiobook queue after seeing it listed in some Bustle or Buzzfeed listicle, especially if the words “funny” or “memoir” were used in its description. I didn’t know this was a book by a Christian author, and was slightly caught off guard when she brought JC into the mix. I am not opposed to Christian books, I just wasn’t expecting it. That said, so far it has been a perfect mix of funny, relatable mom experiences and how these experiences relate to God’s Word.
I just finished Chapter 18: Forgiveness School, where Hatmaker talks about a troubling situation that occurred in her life a few years ago. (BTW: I was unable to use my Magnum P.I. Googling skills to figure out what this was in reference to.) She said that eventually she had to forgive and start praying for the person who wronged her in order to heal her own heart. Here’s the kicker: forgiveness, Hatmaker says, does not have to mean reconciliation.
Talk about a light bulb moment.
The only real grudge I’ve held onto in my adult life has been out of fear of reconciliation. I realized that I am no longer really angry at this person. What I am is afraid that forgiving them would mean having to befriend them again. This is not something I want to do.
It sounds way more dramatic than it really is. This person never harmed me physically, and I am sure they loved me and had the absolute best intentions. I loved them, too. Unfortunately, our core personalities are complete polar opposites. They are confrontational. I avoid, ignore, agree, and make peace. They wanted to be together always – from Friday nights to Sunday barbecues, to holidays, family vactions, midweek lunches, and Tuesday evening dinners. My body and mind regularly need space to rest and recharge.
In this relationship I often felt bullied, belittled, and judged. I could never say “no” to any proposition without having to give an explanation that they would immediately reject, and then suggest a way that I could rearrange my entire life in order to do what they wanted. If I still said “no,” there would be tension and animosity.
There is so much more to this story, but to cut to the chase, we no longer speak. For years, I have held onto this grudge – not of the relationship ending, but of how I was made to feel while in it. I haven’t wanted to let it go. I didn’t want to forgive because I believed it would mean having to get together, explain how they hurt me, listen to how they were hurt, and eventually kiss and make up. I am not ready for that, and I don’t know if I ever will be.
Hatmaker says that some relationships are not safe and may never be safe, and this is why “forgiveness is a one-man show.” You can choose to forgive without reconciling. You can ease the burden in your heart without putting yourself back in a toxic situation. You don’t need their permission or their blessing. Forgiveness is a one-man show, and today, that’s the show I’ve chosen to attend.