Forgiveness

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
– Lewis B. Smedes

I’m week 4 into my internal medicine rotation, and was speaking with one of my patients. He’d told me a lot about his life, and his experiences. A retired corporate lawyer, now working on his deteriorating health. Since he was just waiting in hospital for placement in the community, he doesn’t have any acute issues, so he was one of the last patients I saw for the day. I usually sit with him for an hour or so because we have pretty unique conversations.

We were discussing some of his experiences in law school, and practise. He told me some of the reasons why he was averse to family-practice and divorce-law, and he replied “I never want to be in the middle of two people that hate each other immensely.” So I told him how I couldn’t believe that two people that vowed for undying love would turn to hatred. I asked him whether it had to do with communication or trust. “No, its about forgiveness. People hold on to the smallest things of lttle significance, and its like a spur under a saddle. It builds resentment over time. If you can’t let go of the little things, the resentment builds and turns to hate, and when something big happens – everything falls apart. It happens because people can’t forgive. Some are just incapable of it, and hold on to things simply because they don’t know how to let go.

Forgiveness is a lot harder for me than trust. It means not bringing up someone’s past and using it against them. It means taking a step back and appreciating why someone may have betrayed your trust. To me, that is hard to fathom. But I realize that forgiving someone is acknowledging the fact that friends and loved ones are human, and make mistakes.  I think more importantly, without being able to forgive, we shut out people in our lives that could have made a world of difference, and we limit our ability to grow and expand.

However, if someone truly hurt us, in the most deepest, intimate and unimaginable of ways – is forgiveness appropriate in that situation? Because even if forgiveness takes place, betrayal changes a relationship (of any kind whether with family, friends, a partner – it changes trust. So how does true forgiveness occur in that circumstance?

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3 comments on “Forgiveness

  1. SB says:

    Interesting to find a man who avoids those types of conflicts specifically, and it’s pretty awesome that you’re able to have such great and involving conversations with him.

    I think he’s right on the money when it comes to peoples’ inability to forgive when they somehow feel wronged by the actions of another, be it spouse or otherwise. The problem is that forgiving too easily leads to a dangerous slippery slope as well, so it’s a catch 22. As always, moderation is the best course of action, so yeah forgive the small things, but if someone does something to you that is pretty big, you should let them know that it hurt you and that things have changed because of that. Otherwise they go on hurting without a second thought.

    I’m sadly in the awful position of trusting too easily and forgiving too easily… Which of course can come back and bite me in the ass, but I feel that there’s no point in holding grudges unless someone outright ruins your life or hurts you in an incredibly deep way, as you mentioned. In that case, you may forgive, but you should never forget.

    • cherysh says:

      haha Thanks! It definitely is a catch 22. I also think it takes trusting the person, given that they express remorse and want to change, to forgive and forget. It’s a lot easier said than done though.

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