I forgive you.
I used to believe that forgiveness was possible, but over the past few years, my hope has been disappointed. My experience of forgiveness in the past has been hopeful. When I was in high school I had a falling out with a close group of friends. Years later, I reconnected with one of the women and we became friends again. I was even in her wedding. That experience remained with me for years, evidence that God can bring healing and reconciliation.
Lately though, the situations I am witnessing and experiencing seem beyond the hope of reconciliation. The fighting over politics in our country is discouraging. Our fighting seems nastier, more vitriolic, and never ending. Over Christmas, there was a huge fight in my extended family. I want to reconcile with them, but from what I see right now, it seems impossible. These situations seems much more extreme than some high school friends reconciling. Without quite realizing it, I have stopped expecting forgiveness to take place. But then I witnessed a moment this past weekend that reminded me forgiveness is possible.
Two women were yelling at each other. I walked past, but felt a tug from the Holy Spirit: don’t turn away. A few of us in the group I was with stopped, unsure of what to do and in shock as the situation escalated. One of the women was filming the altercation on her phone. She had called the other person a derogatory name. That person was furious (understandably). The fight felt like it was mirroring so many of the altercations I have witnessed in the past few years societally. I feared that the fight would turn violent. I watched and prayed, because I tend to pray in situations when I have no idea what to do. Then, my friend stepped forward, and excused herself into the conversation. Her tone was peaceful and inviting. She began by identifying each person in this now triad as a human being, from one human being to two other human beings. She reminded them that despite their differences and ideas on what this looks like, each person wants to offer and receive love.
Then, the woman who had been called the derogatory name did something radical. She forgave.
I forgive you.
The situation immediately de-escalated. The two women walked away peacefully. I stood there, still in shock, but this time for a different reason. Here, I had stepped into a familiar situation and expected a familiar result. Instead, I saw a powerful act of forgiveness. I haven’t been able to shake the experience all week.
I have no wise words on this experience. All I can say, is that forgiveness is much more powerful than we realize. Our world will not change without more radical moments of forgiveness like this. And when we witness moments these moments of forgiveness, we must testify and bear witness.