I was thinking a lot about forgiveness this weekend, after I had a discussion with a retired minister. The conversation started with us discussing something my husband, Martin, did. A couple of weeks ago, when I came home, Martin greeted me with, “How much do you love me?”
Hmmmmmm. As a conversation starter, what does that inspire in you? My reaction was A) What did you buy? or B) What did you do? In this case, it was B; he’d seriously messed up one of my finished pieces (y’all know I knit, right?). It was a gorgeous wool vest that shouldn’t be machine washed because it shrinks – seriously shrinks, as in, fits-a-child-shrinks.
Anywhoways, the point is, hubby did something and was worried about my reaction. Sweet, right? I couldn’t get mad; it actually made me laugh to look at it. (It also made a bunch of my fiber friends laugh…) And therein lies the point of the discussion with the minister.
She (yes, she; bet y’all thought it would be a he…), she said that this was very forgiving of me, as if it cost me something to not get mad about the ruined vest. I thought differently – it would cost me wayyyyy more to get mad. Here’s why: First, I appreciated that he felt bad (after all, he did ruin it) but I also felt bad that he felt bad. People make mistakes and we need to give each other room to do so without judgment; empathizing with them is part of this and judging others degrades your relationship in my view. And really, what’s more important to you, the relationship or the mistake? Getting angry about it would put the emphasis on the mistake and not on him. Since he’s so much more important to me than any object, it makes sense, right? It also helped that it made me laugh (one reason I married him) and that he didn’t mind when I shared a picture of it with some friends and we laughed ourselves silly. I ask you, did forgiveness cost me or benefit me?
Why this topic, this day? Because today is when we honor the Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior. He’s famous for many things; one of my favorite quotes on forgiveness is his:
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” – Martin Luther King, Junior.
Not every instance of forgiveness is easy. It’s usually quite difficult but that’s beside the point. Forgiveness is often more about how we think of the world and forgiveness, or a lack of it, affects how we act and how we influence others. If you get a moment today, think about forgiveness. It’s one way to honor Reverend King’s legacy.