A few years back I had a friend who I helped out, letting her stay with me at my apartment for a month or two while she was having family issues. Her family really hated me for it, and I remember both her mother and sister leaving me rather unpleasant voicemails on my cell. My friend eventually worked things out with them and moved back home. So that was it? No apology for how cruel they were towards me? Was I supposed to just forget the nasty voicemails and distain I knew they felt towards me?
Somehow, I knew, even back then, how important it was to forgive them for what they had done to me. I knew deep down they were only fiercely protecting their daughter/sister and I probably would've done the same thing if I was in their situation. Yes, I helped my friend and I wouldn't change that. I'm glad I did. But more than that, I'm glad I chose to forgive them without waiting for them to ask for forgiveness.
I clearly remember how free I felt after making that small decision in my heart to forgive them. It was so liberating. I wasn't waiting on anyone, and I didn't feel the need to justify my decision. I was free. It's true what they say, that to forgive is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that the prisoner was you.
How many times I have held onto a grudge, being completely justified for doing so, and wishing, waiting for that day I know they will come crawling back to me, begging for forgiveness. Your mind quickly forms a downward spiral every time you think about that person... hoping they are miserable, knowing if you can't stop thinking about it, they must be thinking about it too. "It's just a matter of time," we tell ourselves.
All the while, a prisioner in our own mind.
I find myself in a similiar situation right now. A friend needing my forgiveness - but not asking for it. Being hurt by someone you care about, being rejected because you tried to help, and being ignored out of fear are realities we've all experienced. I cannot control the choices others make, even though sometimes how I wish I could. Don't we all want to play God at one point or another, taking away someones free will because we know they are only hurting themselves? How desperately I wish I could free them from their chains, if only they would allow it.
How ironic that I can clearly see the hurt someone else is doing to themselves, and yet cannot see the hurt I am causing myself by withholding forgiveness. God must get a little smirk on his face when I talk about this sort of thing; about how I wish I could free someone else, when I myself still need to be freed.
My only other choice is to knowingly become a prisoner, and that sounds very unpleasant to me.
Because one day, that mother and daughter did come back to me and ask for my forgiveness. Years later. I wasn't waiting on it, expecting it, or even hoping for it. I was kind of shocked, actually. Because I was already free, hadn't thought of that situation in years, and had absolutely no hard feelings against them.
So what did I say when she asked, "Stephanie, will you forgive me?"
"I already have."