Getting Frank About Failure. Heart Failure.
Is your failure related to someone else failing to understand you?
Many times, we take on failures that are actually sourced in other people. When people scorn us or hurt us, we may feel mistreated. Because our heart does not match their heart. Or we feel we weren’t treated with care and that the other person doesn’t know our heart. I think the biggest realization of adulthood can be people’s stubborn hearts.
Forgiveness has a stigma. Arguably, it’s a positive stigma. Forgiveness is “being the bigger person” or being a “good” person. I’ll be Frank here and say, this type of forgiveness is only about saving face and never about preserving ourselves.
In actuality, the word forgive in Greek is alphiemi, which means to send away. I’v seen this explained as: “Setting someone free and finding out that…it’s you”. So why is forgiveness one of the largest jails of our joy?
Forgiveness is not being careless with yourself.
Recognize that your inability to forgive affects everything. When I can’t bring myself to forgive, I’m not as thoughtful because I am using my brain capacity to be obsessed with how I’ve been wronged. My thoughts become immersed in justification. The more level-headed we can justify being our feelings of anger and hurt, the better we feel still carrying it. We aren’t irrational, we tell ourselves. We’ve reasoned with others close to us as an objective third party. And so, we have determined we have a right to be angry and hurt— it’s been legitimized! The misconception of forgiveness lies in this very dichotomy.
Forgiveness does not take ownership and power away from us.
No one gets to decide whether or not they hurt you. Only you do. You own that. However, forgiveness keeps that hurt from becoming a systemic issue.
Most often when we don’t want to forgive, it’s because we want to harbor ownership over a situation for which we did not have tons of control over (ie- someone else made choices to hurt us). In reality, none of us want to carry that burden, but we hold onto it with white knuckles. Why? Because we want our moment to stand up to the situation that blindsided us, and say: “NO.”
Forgiveness is a refusal to continue to carry the offenses of others and a decision to send it away. Forgiveness puts power into our hands!
Forgiveness doesn’t equate to forgetting.
Another misconception we migrate to is that if we send away the burden with forgiveness, we are saying we won’t revisit it. It is very hard to not remember being hurt deeply, especially by someone we trust. Forgiveness doesn’t ask for that. It seeks instead to keep your heart’s capacity open by only drawing out that situation for purpose. Giving grace is hard to do. But you cannot do it if you are using your heart to continue to charge yourself with past debts.
Forgiveness does not say that what that person did to you is okay.
But forgiveness does say, “I am not going to let what was done to me harden my heart so much so that I begin to do that to others.” It is choosing to reflect grace and pass it onto those who have wronged us.
I’m not as kind when my heart capacity is being used up by holding the debt of scorn I carry. That debt is not mine. It’s the other person’s. So why am I carrying it? Because I’m stubborn and vulnerable.
What is the opposite of a stubborn heart? An open heart. An open heart is
- willing to admit failure
Choosing to forgive is choosing to reflect the grace I’ve received and pass it onto those who have wronged me.
In the past year, there have been two key instances where I was challenged by heart failure and forgiveness failure. The first, was very intense. It was a time where I became truly aware of how large the heart system is. The way I was hurt by someone I trusted started to affect everything about how I approached others and myself. My heart was being hardened by the anger I carried. I thought to protect my heart, I should close it off.
Forgiveness Failure is Heart Failure
Forgiveness is a decision to not let your burden harden your heart. It took some time to understand that, but taking ownership of sending the offense away allowed me to love my enemy in that situation. It was not easy. It took a lot of time and failure.
Now more recently the second time, I thought I was a pro on forgiveness since I had been tested so intensely. This time, I realized that being unforgiving is a symptom of a closed heart. It affects everything about how you treat other people. The interesting aspect this time around was that I was reminded heavily of the last time I was hurt in this way. How easy it was to remember old feelings and want to aggregate them together, punishing someone who was hurting me in the present with all of the pent up offenses from the first person. Offenses that (I thought) had been laid down by me. This time, it was a question of, did your heart truly change and learn to be open? I was afraid to answer that. I was also afraid it would take just as long of a time to forgive this time around.
Your Heart is a Muscle
Ironically this year I chose Give as one of the words to live by. I intended it would be about giving in the nature I originally thought: more philanthropic and generous without hesitation. Now I can say, I have also learned to give even more grace. Building muscle tone is all about breaking muscle. If I want a heart that is truly fit, I need to continually break new ground. I need to continually face situations that want to break my heart. Working so heard the first time on addressing the systemic issue of my heart rather than the situational issue of my anger gave me a solid routine of protecting my heart. When the second situation rolled around this year, I had skills in my arsenal. I was able to minimize more quickly and with more finesse the situational issue of forgiveness because I knew it was a symptom of something bigger.
Situational issues = Symptoms that affect you = You lose control
Systemic issues = The condition of you = You hold the power
Forgiveness is not about giving up or giving in. It’s about taking ownership and fielding gains. Forgiveness failure is a symptom of Heart Failure. The Heart is the system, and Forgiveness is either the symptom operating within it. A stubborn heart is contagious. It impacts your overall health, and that of all the systems you touch. The “saving face” kind of forgiveness allows us to scorn others with our jagged edges. The “giving grace” kind of forgiveness allows us to deliver others with our open hearts.