When I write a blog, it usually is a result of something I have read in the morning that I feel God is prompting me to write about. Most of the time it is a direct result of something I am battling with myself ,and you, my dear friends, get to be the victims of me “reasoning things out” on paper. But today, I want to share a few things that have been on my mind since I watched a movie last week. It was called “A Light Between Oceans.” It isn’t necessary to recap the plot in order to help us reflect on a quote that I just can’t quite get out of my mind. In part, I think it is because I am realizing that even though it sounds good and beautiful, it’s missing a very important component that unfortunately, I have learned first-hand in the past several years.
A couple different characters use this eloquent reflection on forgiveness and why it is always the best choice over resentment. Let me tell you the quote and you see if you can find the flaw: “It (forgiveness instead of resentment) is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things. No…we always have a choice. All of us.” I do have to say that I am very proud of this movie for posing this as the best solution. We so love movies that have an exciting revenge plot! Just “letting it go” is not that glamorous and seems pretty unfair. So, in that respect, kudos to Hollywood.
But here is what I have found in my challenge to forgive: There is no way in heck that it’s a one time job.
Depending on the depth of the hurt or betrayal, choosing to forgive might be something I have to decide to do every single day for the rest of my life. And often, several times a day, at that.
Is it just me? And I have to say that the choice to forgive has to be a selfish one. What I mean by that is that I do it for my own peace of mind and serenity. If I had to rely on my desire to do it for the person I need to forgive, I’d never get there. There is something miraculous that happens when I make the decision to “let it go” for my own sake. It becomes a habit and, over time, I might actually have some softer feelings to match.
Resentment, I agree, takes a lot of work to hold on to. And yes, clinging to it causes me to rehearse and re-rehearse the offense. I heard a speaker liken it to the sports announcers using the instant replay machine in a sporting event. Have you ever watched them review an injury on the football field? They play it over and over, in slow motion, and in the end it looks even worse than the first time it happened. That’s how resentments work. And yes, they are exhausting. I love these lines in my Courage to Change book on Recovery: “When my thoughts are full of bitterness, fear, self-pity, and dreams of revenge, there is little room for love or for the quiet voice of guidance within me…I know that when I hold on to resentment and blame, I occupy my spirit with bitterness.” I love the way they put that: ” I occupy my spirit with bitterness.” It is up to us to de-clutter our spirits from resentments so we can find more fulfilling and nurturing way to fill ourselves up.
So, I would just add an addendum to what the movie is trying to say regarding forgiveness. BOTH choices will most likely present themselves to your heart and mind on a regular basis.
Every time you choose to resent, to replay that resentment machine over and over and over in your head, you will occupy your spirit with bitterness and it will keep you captive – unhappy and angry and very, very, very tired (I know this from experience also).
But even though forgiveness is not a one and done event, there is a wonderful thing that happens the more you do it. You become more and more free. You will be able to hear that still small voice of God that gets drowned out when resentment rules you. You will be lighter in body and spirit because each time you do it you will unload a little bit more of the baggage you have been hauling around with you–sometimes for years.
And the good news is, you don’t have to mean it. But, sweet friend, eventually, you probably will. My prayers for those I need to forgive may have started with “Lord, help them go to heaven tonight”, but today I find I can legitimately pray “God, give them all the good things in their life that I want in mine.” That progress did not come from giving in to rehearsing resentments day after day. It came from choosing, again and again, to forgive.
But the movie and I agree on that one truth, that in the end, forgiveness is always the least exhausting choice.
(even if you have to do it 70×7)