By Lydia Davey, Spirit & Place Festival Intern
I thought I understood risk when, as a 23-year-old Marine, I volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan. I felt certain that I knew the meaning of the word when I climbed into a HMMWV turret to serve as a gunner during a series of convoys. My heart pounded so hard I could feel it in my brain. My hands trembled. My mouth was full of dust and my eyes never stopped scanning everything.
“The uncertain endeavor of extending forgiveness to others is perhaps an even greater risk than donning body armor, loading your weapons, and mounting up to hunt the enemy.”
But during this past year, I’ve come to understand risk differently.
The uncertain endeavor of extending forgiveness to others is perhaps an even greater risk than donning body armor, loading your weapons, and mounting up to hunt the enemy.
Forgiveness, as I understand it, means forgiving not only the act that offended you, but everything that the act has meant in your life. It means making a verbal contract with the other person to not bring their failure up to them, to yourself, or to others if at all possible in the future. It means expressing your expectations and hopes – however large or small – for your future interactions with that person. Forgiveness can seem as impossible and heart pounding and hand trembling as anything you’ve ever done.
Forgiveness is scary because when you extend it, you honestly acknowledge the power another person has to impact your life and your heart. It’s risky because in the wake of that acknowledgement, you essentially make yourself vulnerable again – you’re no longer the owner of the debt they owed you.
“The other side of forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It is freedom. It is the deepest breath you’ll ever take and the most satisfied exhalation you’ll ever know.”
Certainly, there is a place for healthy boundaries and wise choices as you forgive. Forgiveness is not blind trust. It is not the acceptance of evil. Instead, it is an honest assessment followed by a contractual release followed by hope. Oh yes, it’s risky.
But the other side of forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It is freedom. It is the deepest breath you’ll ever take and the most satisfied exhalation you’ll ever know. Forgiveness doesn’t require you to forget the grief and pain of hurt, but it does enable you to look back on those aspects of your story with peace; you are gazing at a closed wound. Forgiveness is transformative – maybe not right away, but eventually, as you live it out, it will change your life and the lives of those you extend it to.
What experience of forgiveness has been the most powerful in your life? Was it significant because you gave it or received it? I’d love to hear your story!
Lydia Davey is a Marine Corps veteran, a freelance writer, and the owner of Moriah Creatives – a communications consulting firm. She loves snowshoeing, coffee, cold-weather camping, and promoting ideas that bring life, color, justice and creativity to the world.