10 Mar The Process of Forgiveness
Many years ago, my husband worked through the sale of his company. The process of the sale lasted for over two years. During that time, my husband was the chief legal counsel for the company, and had many work hours already. Instead of the usual 60 hours a week of work, he was working close to 80. Our children were very young, and I was diagnosed with a heart condition that required surgery.
Things were very stressful at home for me, and at work for my husband. My husband took comfort in the comments one of his owners would make to him. She assured him that after the sale of this company, that my husband would be “taken care of. That he would be set for life.” She hinted at a bonus of one million dollars for all of the time and effort and travel he was putting in. On the day the company officially sold, she walked into my husband’s office, thanked him, and gave him a candy bar as a thank you for all he had done.
My husband was stunned. A variety of emotions ranging from disbelief to rage encompassed him. He could not believe that the reward for two years of service was a candy bar! My husband stewed over that experience for 18 months. His mind was poisoned with the anger he felt at this woman for going back on her word, and insulting him with the gift of a candy bar instead of the money she had promised him. Finally he realized that he could not keep living like he was. It was consuming him and he couldn’t think of anything but how badly he’d been burned. So one day he decided to let it go. And he did. He even saw his former owner at a restaurant some time after that and told her that he forgave her for what she had done. While she didn’t care what he thought, he didn’t care. He had finally let it go. He was free.
Many have experienced the process of forgiveness. I have received forgiveness, and have forgiven. That does not mean I am a perfect person. Far from it. Forgiveness is a lesson I keep on learning. I believe that for all of humanity, it is a lesson that keeps on teaching, and that we have to keep learning.
For example, last October, there was a rash of break-ins in my neighborhood. Cars that were left parked outside on the street and were left unlocked were the targets. One of my neighbors had left nearly $700 cash in their car. The culprit, one of my other neighbors sons, was the one who was finally arrested. He had barely turned 18 in December, and had already spent six months in jail. (He has prior arrests.) In February, he was released. None of the neighbors who had been stolen from or vandalized would press charges. They asked the court for mercy on this young man. That in itself did not really amaze me. (I have incredible neighbors.) I was so pleased to see my neighbors give this young man a second chance. It was a tremendous and powerful example of forgiveness over revenge. I believe that mercy was shown to him on large part because his parents are fine people, and as a neighborhood, we know each other well. I think that had a lot to do with him being forgiven. These poor parents who were doing their best to raise this young man, were going through hell. And I saw the mother break down and weep with gratitude when she saw many of the neighbors come over and hug her son after he had been released from jail.
I don’t know how the story will end for him. Hopefully he will permanently turn his back on crime after being shown such tremendous mercy and compassion. But for my neighbors, they were able to let it go and move on. Forgiveness is always in process. We may try to stop it. We may decide to encourage it. The choice is up to us.