Jan 8, 2018 by


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

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future” – Bernard Meltzer

“It is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody” – Maya Angelou

“Forgive yourself for your faults and your mistakes and move on.” – Les Brown

Forgiveness. What is it? What does it mean? Why does it even exist? And who are we trying to forgive? The dictionary definition: “No longer feel angry about or wish to punish” is too simple, too clinical to be of any real help in understanding why people forgive or why it’s important for our humanity.

Psychologists talk about forgiveness as “giving the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger.” That’s better, has more depth to it and has more humanity, but still feels clinical.

Don Henley’s song “The Heart of the Matter” really hits the point

I’ve been trying to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness

(several points: 1:32, 3:12, 4:00, 4:25) (lyrics)

The Heart of the Matter is the point. We forgive so that we don’t have to close our hearts to anger, sadness, or our humanity: Our Hearts do Matter. That is why the relatives of the Charleston church shooting victims forgave the shooter. That’s hard to get to, that type of forgiveness. It provides a clarity and understanding that is rare amongst us fragile humans in this world. A clarity of vision of the pain and hurt that all of us go through and that has brought us to this moment in time.

Maybe we are afraid that forgiving means we accept and allow the bad behavior to continue, it doesn’t
Maybe we are afraid that forgiving means we pretend that the hurtful things never happened, it doesn’t
Maybe we are afraid that forgiving means we continue to allow others to take advantage of us, it doesn’t

Forgiving another means to truly see into the spirit of someone else for the pain they’ve endured, even if they haven’t acknowledged that pain, and accepting all humans are imperfect and in pain and are beautifully flawed … That’s the real Heart of the Matter. And that forgiveness allows us to truly move on and not be consumed.

So if forgiving others is about releasing ourselves from the prison cell of anger or sadness, what does it mean to forgive yourself? Why is forgiving yourself for everything you think you have done, true or not, so hard? Maybe because the only real way to forgive ourselves is also to see into our own spirit and acknowledge the pain we’ve gone through. And that’s tough. That requires us to look into the Black Mirror and see all the cracks and muddle through and acknowledge our own pain and how we received that pain rightfully or wrongfully. That can be terrifying because sometimes those cracks are so deep that they open up into an abyss that we think we may never crawl out of, even if the reality is the only way to start the journey out of Hell is to pull up on that first rung.

But that is where true humanity comes from. Our ability to forgive others and ourselves and start to heal from our soulful wounds. Will those wounds ever completely close? Probably not. But once you look at them and start to tend to them they start to heal and the pain starts to diminish.

So here’s my question(s): “Who do you need to forgive that has hurt you?” “Who do you need to forgive that you have hurt?” “What crack in your soul is still bleeding that needs tenderness?” I know these are tough questions, but just asking them, really asking them, in the quiet of your room, with no distractions, and just sitting waiting for the answer to bubble up, if only for a minute, is the only way to be gentle with your humanity.

See you on the wire

— Steven Cardinale

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