Thinking About Forgiveness

It’s been a while since we had music in our house. We used to have a surround sound system for our TV – a relic of my husband Jon’s single days. It was hooked up to our CD player and computer network as well, so we could listen to our music on it. However, between spending two years TV-free, kids yanking on the speakers, our switch from CDs to iPhones, and on and on, we decided to get rid of the system. The result is that we haven’t had much music in our house for years.

Not long ago I bought a cheap little pair of speakers to listen to music on while I cleaned. While quiet may be conducive to working for me, it doesn’t really help me get moving when my kitchen is dirty. Jon couldn’t stand the way the music sounded on those speakers, though. He wanted better sound quality so he invested in a Sonos system. For about a month now we’ve had the speaker in our kitchen, which combined with an Rdio subscription means we can listen to pretty much whatever we want. I’ve been building playlists, and one day when I was looking for a different song I stumbled across “Beautiful Day” by Joshua Radin. I’ve been listening to Joshua’s music a lot since, but this first song I discovered is still my favourite:

(Side note – I also love Parenthood, the show it was featured on, but somehow I didn’t make the connection between the two until I found this YouTube video.)

One of the song’s verses contains these lyrics:

Gonna turn my enemies into friends
What’s broken gets stronger when it mends
When we all come together this song we’ll play
We’ll sing it’s a beautiful day.

I was standing in my kitchen one sunny morning about a week ago, having just dropped the kids off at school, and I turned the song on to get me in a good frame of mind for the day. As I sang along with that verse, I found myself choking up and crying. Something about those ideas, at that moment, on that day, just spoke to me on a deeper level. The theme of forgiveness was calling to me.

The truth is that I’m not a terribly forgiving person. I can let little infractions slide, and shrug off little annoyances … but only for so long. When those little things add up over time, or when someone does something that really hurts me, I have a hard time letting it go. And, unsurprisingly, the person I am hardest on is myself. I hang out with myself all the time. I have way more opportunities to annoy myself, get in my own way, or hurt myself than pretty much anyone else.

I’m reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin right now, and I’d been thinking of doing my own happiness project in 2014. That morning in my kitchen, however, what I realized is that what I really need more of in my life is forgiveness. However, I honestly had no idea where to start. I wasn’t even sure I knew what forgiveness means. I decided to start by checking out the Wikipedia entry on forgiveness. It says this:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as revenge, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offence from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

crafting my life forgiveness friday heart flower

I’ve read it over and over, and the truth is I’m still at a bit of a loss. I think you could say that what I generally do is excuse someone until I just can’t anymore, and then I hold a grudge. Oh boy, can I hold a grudge. I have a very good memory, so I can recall each and every transgression in very good detail, even decades later. I sometimes beat myself up over stupid things I did in high school, or even in elementary school. The fact that I wouldn’t hold my own eight-year-old responsible for her actions in the same way that I hold my own eight-year-old self responsible doesn’t really sway me.

I’ve found a bunch of documents online about what forgiveness is, and how to do it. I’ve found scholarly articles about self-forgiveness and its pitfalls. I’ve found spiritual articles about forgiveness, repentance and absolution. There’s no shortage of things to read that can help me. It’s a big task, though, and I think it’s going to take a long time.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a blog theme I’ve stuck with for a while. I had Mat Leave Mondays for a long time, and then I moved to Crafting my Life Thursdays, which became Enviro-Mama Thursdays. While I still care about all of those things, and I absolutely still write about green living because it’s important to me, I’m ready to embrace a new theme. This time it will be Forgiveness Fridays.

I need help in getting started. I’m hoping you’ll share your thoughts about forgiveness. Are you good at it – and can you offer me any ideas to get me started? Have you read any books or found any resources that were helpful? Do you find it harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others, like I do? What benefits do you feel when you forgive? I want to hear it all. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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    Comments

    1. Thank you SO much for that song! I’m a Parenthood fan too :) It reminds me a shirt I purchased last year that I just have to wear on certain days…in fact, I’m going to go put it on right now! It says “Everything will be amazing.”

      The biggest lesson I ever learned about forgiveness is that it is a feeling; it doesn’t have to be conversation. That was very freeing.

      Happy Friday!
      Shirley Weir’s last post … Packing for Perimenopause: Fasten your seatbelts!My Profile

    2. This post touched a nerve with me Amber. I look forward eagerly to your series. (I think you do series style blogging very well, by the way).
      Alison @ Bluebirdmama’s last post … Reality TV & Bus DesignMy Profile

    3. And I thought I was the only one holding grudges against myself for grade school infractions! What a button pushing post this is for me. I’m also in need of some forgiveness work (notably for myself but others too) so I eagerly await your new weekly theme.
      Dana’s last post … Children’s Book Review and My First Giveaway!My Profile

    4. Hi, Amber, This is a tough topic for me too. As time does heal wounds, I have found that situations that bothered me in the past do sometimes fade away and I can rebuild a relationship with someone. In other cases I’ve not found success. I approached this topic from a slightly different angle in a piece I wrote (Gratitude: Sometimes It Takes Awhile). Looking at the topic this way, I was able to reconnect with someone for whom I’d had unsettled feelings for many years. The challenge my boss gave me (that I mention at the beginning) is one to consider. Perhaps there might be a jumping off point in there somewhere.

      Different topic – congrads RE going back to school! I went back to grad school in my early 30s. It was a great experience.
      Pamela’s last post … Building Websites in the 90sMy Profile

    5. My father told me that forgiving someone is not for the person who committed the infraction, but for yourself. When you forgive, you let go of the pain you felt when the infraction occurred. If you don’t let go of the pain, it turns into resentment and comes out on whoever is there. That person could be completely innocent, but they take the brunt of your pain and unresolved anger. It could be your own child. This knowledge allowed me to forgive my dad. I didn’t want my resentment to come out towards my son. When my dad begged for forgiveness, he was thinking of my child. Forgiveness like this is a hugely spiritualand cleansing feeling. You do cry. I just wish I could forgive myself for many mistakes. I will end up resenting myself. Good luck to you.

      • I’ve re-read your comment several times, and I see a lot of wisdom in this. There is definitely a lot for me to think about and learn. Thank you so much for offering your insight and helping me get started.

    6. A couple of years ago my new years resolution was to ‘let go’. I too am able to hold on to all things unhealthy for me. It was, and still is a process that I have to remind myself of at times. I can honestly say though that by making a concious effort to let go I am a happier person. And I love the Happiness Project, and Happier at Home.

      I remember with my 1st round of PPD picking up a book from the library that talked about happiness being a choice – and it fed my soul. I hung onto that belief through all the lack of choice I had during my depression. As soon as I started to get better though I worked at making better, happier choices for myself…and these years later I think I am a much happier person. Now to teach my children this. Emma is an anxious worrier like me. Helping Emma to be happier and learn to let go is my resolution this year I think.

      • My daughter is an anxious worrier as well. I am hoping that in learning to forgive – and let go – I’ll be modelling that skill for my children as well. Maybe I can make things better not just for myself, but for them, too.

    7. One thing to think of too… Sometimes it is difficult and painful to even think of forgiving. The best advice I have heard? Pray for the desire to forgive…and if you need to, pray for the desire to be able to pray for the desire to forgive. :)
      robbie @ going green mama’s last post … Giving and receiving: When your loved one is strugglingMy Profile

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