Weeks ago I started out contemplating a list of seven words that led me to some universal life truths.
I wrote about two: kindness and compassion. I had three more columns written and in the hopper when one of life’s universal truths happened. My computer crashed and all my information was lost, including the written, albeit unpublished, columns.
Welcome to life.
As the days wore on, my viewpoint of those seven crucial and critical words changed. The columns I’d so carefully crafted about the key words were no longer key. The words changed because my perspective changed.
Because the world changed. Because it is always changing.
I wish I could tell you I have it all figured out, but I don’t. I’m still figuring it out and I’ll continue to attempt to communicate this figuring as I go along.
One of the words I wrote about was forgiveness. In it, I explained that forgiving others liberates us because harboring ill-will tethers us to others in a negative sense.
That’s still true, but I no longer believe forgiveness is necessary to a life best-lived. Here’s why: forgiving isn’t our responsibility, or even our right.
Big thought, I know. And a big thought deserves a big answer.
We aren’t here to forgive. We are here to live out our own story, without a focus on the good or bad deeds of others. Believing someone needs forgiveness gives them a power over us that I don’t think we want to give. Simply put, it’s a waste of time.
People will come and go in our lives. Sometimes, from our perspective, they will do us wrong, but forgiving isn’t necessary for our continued growth or well being. Most often when someone “wrongs” us, they have no desire, intention or even knowledge of this wrong. Even if they do, their actions aren’t based on the outcome that affects us, but more likely the outcome that affects them. We are a byproduct, yet we see ourselves as the center of the action needing forgiveness. Welcome to the human condition.
Even if the wrong is intentional, especially if it is intentional, it isn’t our responsibility or prerogative or even our duty to forgive.
It is our duty to move on.
And, while doing so, maybe, instead of forgiveness, I suggest empathy. Forgiveness implies me versus you; It implies I am right and you are wrong. Empathy implies us. To empathize is to understand the perspective and the situation of another. It is putting yourself in their shoes to literally feel the blisters. It is hurting when they hurt. Because they hurt.
Sometimes we all hurt.
It is understanding their mistake, because we all make mistakes.
It is even understanding their selfishness because we have all been selfish at one time or another.
There is a quote that ties in with this idea. It is attributed to a Christian pastor named Steven Furtick, but I believe it is a thought that goes beyond religion and illustrates my point on forgiveness nearly perfectly. “Even people who betray you are part of the plan. Jesus couldn’t get to the cross without Judas.”
Harboring ill-will is burdensome. It weighs us down. We have the notion that forgiveness alleviates that weight, but what if we never harbored the ill-will in the first place? What if we realized that it isn’t for us to forgive, because it isn’t?
If someone needs forgiveness, it can come from only one source: themselves. True forgiveness must come from within. Often forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest things to do, because self-forgiveness takes the focus off the self and onto others. It is examining our actions and feeling empathy for how they may have affected and hurt others. It is taking the focus off me and putting it on we.
It is coming to the understanding we are all in this together; so much more so than just on our own. We are better together, especially when we buoy each other up, even when we have been wronged.
And together is the only way we will get there — blisters and all. I’m rooting for us.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.