My Word for 2022: Forgive

After writing my last post, it got me thinking a lot about forgiveness. It’s been a topic that has been surfacing again and again in the last few months, and I’m thinking that I need to take note of it. 

I have a hard time with forgiveness. I’m sure everyone does to some extent, but I realized recently that my personality is wired to make it extra challenging. I’m an Enneagram 1 – and Ones are described as having a “strong, innate desire for fairness, accuracy, and order. They tend be bold advocates for the rights of others and when healthy, may challenge the status quo to make push for reforms and equality.” 

The book The Road Back To You calls Enneagram 1s “Reformers.” But another word that is also accurate is “Perfectionist.” Ones don’t like mistakes. They want things to be fair. Getting taken advantage of, or seeing another person get taken advantage of, is extremely aggravating for Ones. Ones often have issues with resentment and unexpressed anger.

All of that mixed together in one personality can make it very hard to forgive. I think a lot of Enneagram 1s also find it hard to offer forgiveness to themselves, due to their constant inner critic. 

Fairness and justice are wonderful things. Being an advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves is awesome – and hooray to Ones for upholding those values. 

But it sure makes the world a hard place to live in sometimes. Life is not fair, it’s not always just. People are selfish and make mistakes. 

My personal focus for last year was “spiritual bravery.” I wanted to have more faith and courage in God. I wanted to release my desire to control everything all of the time. It was a good focus, and I’ve grown in faith and spiritual courage this past year. 

As I thought ahead to 2022, even though I was not super excited about it, all signs pointed to one word: Forgiveness. 

What were the signs, you may wonder? I had recently attended a Bible class at my church, and the teacher made the following statement:

“If you read everything that Jesus said in the Bible, and there’s not something that bothers you, you’re not paying attention.”

Randy Harris

He was specifically referencing Jesus asking us to forgive others, even those who don’t deserve it. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Then less than a week later, I found myself in a situation where I was really angry with a friend and needed to forgive her. I thought of a lot of reasons not to, and tried to rationalize with myself that she didn’t deserve for me to forgive her yet again. But then I remembered that Bible class, and I remembered what God calls me to do: forgive others. 

If I’m honest, I don’t want this to be my focus. (And that’s part of the reason why I am confident this is supposed to be my word for this year!) It’s going to be a challenge, and something that I am confident I will fail at many times.

But I know I need to be more intentional about fostering forgiveness, and I need to practice it more often so that hopefully down the road, it won’t be as difficult as it feels today. Honestly, I think the only way I’m going to make any progress at it is going to be through the grace of God, and his transforming power.

If you’ve grown up going to church or reading the Bible to any extent, you’ve probably heard many verses and sermons about forgiveness. So at this time, I won’t go into all the reasons why, from a Biblical perspective, we should forgive. (But if you’re interested, I found a site that goes into depth on 10 reasons why the Bible tells us to forgive – or you can always grab a Bible and do your own studying.)

My top reasons for wanting this to be my focus for this year do revolve around God and personal spiritual growth. But even if you don’t consider yourself a religious or spiritual person, there are still some great reasons to forgive others.

You’ve probably heard that quote (or some version of it) that says, “resentment is like drinking poison and then expecting the other person to die.” When we hold onto grudges and anger, we’re most likely just hurting ourselves.

A great article from John Hopkins Medicine states that, “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed.” It goes on to describe how refusing to forgive puts one at a greater risk of serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and overall lowered immunity.

Now more than ever seems like a great time for the world to be a more forgiving place. With COVID-19, there have been a lot of reasons to be angry with other people – everyone is so polarized on issues like masks, vaccines, shut-downs, and quarantines. There’s a lot of hurt in the world right now. And a lot of finger-pointing and blaming of the “other” for our problems.

It’s tempting to want to surround ourselves only with like-minded allies, and then inevitably start bashing the people who think differently than us. We’ve got to stop doing this if we ever want to truly heal and live in harmony with other people. As Dr. Stephen Covey says in his book, we need to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Part of the reason I’ve had such a hard time with forgiveness in the past, is that I’ve always believed that we need to hold people accountable for their actions. I wasn’t able to see how forgiveness and accountability could work together, they felt at odds with each other.

Now, I feel differently about that. We can still hold someone accountable after forgiving them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean being a doormat for others to walk on. It means letting go of any bitterness and negativity surrounding that person, and also potentially setting up bigger boundaries with that person than before.

In thinking about examples of this kind of forgiveness, what popped into my mind was the trial for Botham Jean’s murder – specifically when Brandt Jean (Botham Jean’s younger brother) hugged and offered forgiveness to the police officer, Amber Guyger, who shot and killed his brother. There were a lot of mixed feelings regarding this trial, and it sparked some debate over the tension between holding white people accountable for racism, and offering forgiveness.

I don’t think it has to be either/or. I think Brandt probably did what he felt he needed to do to personally heal and move on. But I think people who have seen and experienced racism, and have watched white people get off the hook much easier than people of other racial backgrounds, have a right to be concerned and to push for justice.

Jemar Tisby, bestselling author of The Color of Compromise, offered a compelling statement in regard to the trial by saying:

Black people, when they experience injustice, there’s almost an expectation that we will immediately forgive and therefore can sort of move on. So I think a lot of people are reacting — that we have a right to be angry, a right to grieve, and a right to want justice.

I love how Tisby says that people “have a right” to be angry, to grieve, and to want justice. He validates those feelings – they are okay and they are there for a reason. I think it’s possible to agree with Tisby, while also validating Brandt Jean’s feelings. What Brandt felt compelled to do was also valid. And just because he forgave doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t still feel anger, grief, or a desire for justice.

Forgiveness is hard. Fighting for justice is hard. Finding the right balance between the two is hard.

But I want to try. So, here’s to 2022 – I’m interested (and nervous) to see how my focus for the year plays out.

Thanks for reading.

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