Forgive Now Not Tomorrow

Forgiving today or when an injustice or misunderstanding occurs is not always as easy as it sounds. But the passage of time can be an enemy to resolving issues and establishing a better relationship with a loved one or colleague. Tomorrow doesn’t guarantee that we will have the time or the courage to deal with or “fix” what happened or should have happened. And jumping in to rectify or apologize for something right away may not always be the right answer either. But letting time get away from us can only create a rift that with each passing day or week will only make it more difficult to repair. So, we should consider a time when we can – at our earliest moment – either forgive and move on, seek to apologize, or at least pray for direction on how to proceed.

Not Forgiving Steals Years

Over the years, I have experienced several situations which, if I could go back in time, I would have handled much differently than I did. Here are a few:

Once, over thirty years ago, I let a sister misinterpret something I had written in a letter. To do this day, I’m not really sure exactly what the content or reference was about. I just know that she got upset and refused to communicate with me about it for what seemed like years. We gradually got back together and what happened didn’t seem that important anymore. At the time, I felt she didn’t want to hear me out or believe that what I had said was not what I had meant and that I had been completely misunderstood on her part. I was tired. I was stressed. And I had so many other things on my plate to deal with – including a toddler, husband on shiftwork, temporary job situation (and unknown and debilitating food allergies) – that I just let it go. If I had it to do over again, I would have – in my simplest words possible – apologized for the poor wording of my original letter and encouraged her to know how much I loved her and how much our relationship meant to me. And I would have continued on in my same loving self until she accepted me back into her life. Instead, I shucked it up to her inability to hear me out and went on my “merry” way to live out several years of my life without her presence in it.

Another time, I was told by my baby sister and then later on by my momma, that they were making a certain decision about their life and they would like my support. Instead, I was like, okay, but that isn’t going to fix things, to do the opposite would make much more sense to your current situation and long-term happiness. Well, despite leaving both conversations feeling as though they had agreed with me, all communication was severed. In my sister’s case, it would be for years, and my momma’s for only about a year to the day. In both cases, I took their silence as their answer to the love I thought I was showing them. They didn’t want to hear that I felt a different decision was better for them. Instead, they wanted to hear that I supported them. Today, I am in communication with both of them and am happy and grateful for it. If I had it to do over again, I would have continued to call and write them, expressing my love for them and asking how things were going with the decision they had made. I can see now that not having enough courage then in expressing my love for them kept me from years of their presence in my life.

And my last example: There was another time about twenty years ago when a good friend of mine and I just couldn’t see eye to eye. I was trying to tell her one thing and she was trying to tell me something else. Somewhere in-between all the miscommunications and the missed cues, we must have both decided that we needed a break. Years passed and we still haven’t connected again. I have tried to reach out to her by sending birthday cards and leaving messages for her when someone else asked me to contact her. But my failure to be the friend she needed at the time all those years ago drove a wedge between us that time cannot heal. I am only guessing that either she decided I wasn’t what she needed in her life or the hurt she felt when I let her down was too much to bear and let me into her life again. I still think of my friend often and pray for her and know that we would enjoy our friendship once again, if given the opportunity. But, sadly, the energy and time to continue to pursue it has kept me from reaching out to her in recent years.

Learning to Move Forward

There have been other times, really tough ones, when either I or a friend or sibling has been disappointed with each other for intentionally or unknowingly acting in a way that set in motion dynamics affecting us, and even others, and forever changing the way we felt about each other. It isn’t always easy to maintain relationships or to know how or when to reach out and try to mend what once was, whether it can be fixed or not, or can ever be the same, much less possibly better. The important thing we must remember in all this is to not let these intersecting and dissecting moments keep us from our best selves. We must learn to rise above, let go of the incident, giving it room to breathe, and move on to do what we can with who we are and what we have to offer ourselves and others. To hold onto these less-than-moments only keeps us planted in place, not growing upward or forward, and does nothing to re-establish what once was. When we decide to let the situation mellow a little bit, we actually do ourselves more good than we realize.

So how do we forgive now and not tomorrow? We do this by accepting responsibility for our part in things and pray for direction on what to do next – let go, move on, apologize, seek forgiveness, show mercy, or put our self in their shoes and see if that helps shed light on anything. Whatever we do, we must choose not to lay blame. We are all human. We are all trying our best. And if the other person isn’t stepping up to the plate toward healing but instead hanging on to a slight or even just ignoring it, all we can do is pray for them, hope for the opportunity to explain ourselves or listen to their perspective or perception of what has happened, and pray that we can be merciful and kind in the face of hurt, disappointment, deceit, or whatever has caused an upsetness between us and the other person.

So forgiving now not tomorrow has to do with not holding onto the grievance, not letting it penetrate us, or make us angry, resentful, or vindictive. Just as quickly as we were hurt, we must forgive, move on from that emotional moment, and seek a time when we can view the situation with a clear mind – and heart. If this is not easy to do at first, we must then practice it. Like the lesson I have gleaned from my granddaughter at the tender age of three, we must pretend we are okay. This does not mean to let someone off the hook if they have been unkind, thoughtless, or self-absorbed. All I’m speaking about here is being kind enough and have enough respect for our self not to let the bad moment ruin the rest of our day or week or life. We can practice rising above bad moments to a place of inner peace where we know we are loved by God, family and friends, and our own self until we can figure things out and actually be at peace despite someone else’s actions or our own failings because we, and they, are simply human.

Speaking from Experience

I can offer these suggestions because I have been there. I have felt the confusion of being knocked down by first graders just trying to get into the classroom first. I have felt the uncertainty of friendship when being asked to choose one friend over another due to race (it’s like asking me to divide myself in half – it doesn’t work). I have felt the pressure of growing up responsible for younger siblings and not knowing how to speak with my parents about it. I have been disillusioned many times by someone who I thought was a friend but who instead did what it took to gain other friends at the cost of unfriending me (yes, back in the day before social media). I have had to forgive hubs for making a decision about my health that wasn’t his to make at the time (or any time). I have lost friends and family for not being more connected to their needs. And I have had to forgive myself for not knowing how to respond better. For not knowing I should be mad for being pushed down and left with bloody scraped knees and elbows. For not knowing I should have courage to voice the stress I felt for carrying too much responsibility unnecessarily around with me for years and years. And for not being a better friend.

Life is life. We cannot fix everything, but we can learn to forgive what we can now and live a better life rather than hold onto what we cannot change and waste years hurting about, grieving over, resenting someone, being disappointed, and refusing to see that we are letting something beyond our control – control us. Let today be the day you choose to search your heart and let go of anything that may be keeping you from your best life. Whether you are regretting not seeking reconciliation with someone in the past or perhaps the fact that you can never make amends, let it go. If you need a listening ear, seek out a gentle soul, someone you know you can trust to not be judgmental. Start today and let go of anything that is holding you back from your best self. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Let today be the day you forgive, if not someone else, then yourself — and be free from the hurt that is holding you back.

Deciding to Forgive

Part of forgiving today rather than tomorrow is mindset. Choose not to let what anyone negatively does or says affect you, no matter what it is. So much of what a person says or does is about them, not you or me. If you need to call them out on it, then fine. But do not let it affect you to the point of keeping you from personal happiness, showing kindness to others (or to that person), or getting a good night’s sleep. Choose to walk away. Take a deep breath before replying. Take a walk or work out. Do or say something which distracts the person you’re with to focus on something else until each of you has calmed down (if necessary). Focus on what you need, not what someone else is doing or not doing. Eventually, you will rise above the negativity that is either right in front of you or in your own mind, heart, or soul. And then, once you have taken time to ponder that one thing that is holding you back and release it, you will be better able act more positively in the future.

I’m no expert. But I believe in living a life free from anxiety. And to live in peace, we must let go of what is keeping us from that inner peace. We must practice and to learn, even pretend at times, to seek the higher road and be willing to remove the thing or things that keep us from being happy, from sleeping at night, from thinking straight, from leading a life of virtue. We must learn how to forgive now not later. Not just because we may not have a tomorrow, but more because we want our tomorrows to be filled with love, joy, peace, and deep affection for those we love and who love us. We cannot take everything back that went wrong so long ago, but we can choose today to handle things differently. We can calm down. We can give space. We can let go. We can trust that everything will be okay, even if it doesn’t happen or turn out like we thought it should. And we can love better and more fervently by trusting and having faith that our loved one wants us in their life as much as we want them in ours. But, like us, they just don’t always know how to express it fully.

Forgive Now and Choose Joy

Make plans today to consider how you can start forgiving more readily. It can be the difference between years of grief or years of joy. Life is too short to hang onto “old stuff.” Open your eyes to the beauty all around you and start seeing how you can help others seek to forgive now not tomorrow. Be a listening ear. Lend a soft shoulder. Use words of comfort. Have courage to change lives from sorrow and disappointment to lives of joy and peace. Being a friend means all these things and more. When we care, we share the load, and we help others to open up and let go of what once was, so they can instead lead lives filled with peace, joy, love, and forgiveness.

We cannot always fix the past, and we cannot always make amends in the way we think things should be done or should have been done, but we can learn to let it go. We can choose to just let go and let the other person off the hook. We can also choose to let our own self off the hook. Sure, we can take responsibility for our own doing, but we cannot force anyone else to do what we think they should. We can live our own life, right where we’re at, and do what we can – now – to forgive and move on. And whether the other person or persons ever asks for an apology or not, we can be our happy self and keep on living and loving life and others just as we are meant to be. We can do this. I know we can. I have faith that we can move forward and let go of what we cannot change. We can change our mindset, our focus, our hearts. We can live, love, and forgive now – not tomorrow. And we will be better for it.

Until next time, keep smilin’, keep lovin’, and keep forgivin’…..

Love & hugs, Virg

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