“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?