A couple weeks ago I did a presentation on forgiveness and since then I’ve been thinking about how important it is to our wellbeing to give and receive forgiveness. Although I think about the subject of forgiveness often, this time my thoughts took a different direction.
Coming from a little country where the degrees of separation between people range between 0-2, forgiveness is a sticky matter. Chances are the person you need to forgive is family to, or friends with, people you continue to interact with regularly. It is not uncommon that after initially expressing shock at how someone has hurt you, those in your circle ease back into relationship with that person. They forget your hurt because it wasn’t done to them, in the same way you forget other people’s hurt because it wasn’t done to you.
On the other hand, in Belize we have the concept of ‘swet feeva’, a term that expresses an extremely strong alliance with another person as they go through something difficult. One way to explain this phrase is to say someone feels your pain so much that they will sweat on your behalf when your fever breaks. They are so aligned with you, it’s as if they are one with you in your pain. They are angry and sad on your behalf, period.
In our small country, as you walk through pain caused by someone else, you will have both of these – those who forget, and those who fight with you – and then there’s yourself, who remembers it all, and have to deal with the effect it has had on your life. As time goes by, whenever you mention the hurt, those who’ve forgotten will wonder why you haven’t gotten over it already; those who swet feva with you will burn with anger. And life goes on no matter how you handle the matter.
I’ve come to the conclusion that to forgive is best
After years of balancing these two in my life, the conclusion I’ve drawn is that all I can do is to forgive the ones who hurt me and the ones who’ve assumed that enough time has passed and that I must be over it all by now. They don’t know or understand the damage that’s been done to you, and that it takes years of work for anyone to be emotionally healthy after being deeply hurt.
As I’ve been contemplating this, people in and from our country have come to mind, as I’ve remembered their hurt and loss, and how they’ve pleaded with people to remember. Maybe we forget, or choose to forget, because if we remember it’ll force us to take action in some area that is uncomfortable and that will rock our boat and affect our future. It is also possible that in some cases, we are forced to move on from another person’s hurt simply because our country is so small, and we interact with each other because it is inevitable.
So much of working through deep hurt and loss in our country is lonely work. We are lacking therapists and counselors to help us through, and are surrounded by people who expect us to get up and get on with it. We are expected to work and interact with people who say they care for us, but who themselves are also doing the balancing act of maintaining relationships with us and those who hurt us.
I know I’ve painted a bleak picture of the reality for so many Belizeans. So many of you come to mind as I write this. I’m writing this for the group of us who know what I’m talking about; who struggle with forgiving not only those who hurt us, but those who’ve forgotten.
It is healthy for you to forgive those who’ve forgotten how you were hurt, and by whom.
The lonely, inner work that you continue to do has to include this forgiveness. Forgiving someone and continuing to be in relationship with them are two separate things. You can forgive and also end the relationship, or set new boundaries for it. Forgiveness happens on the inside of you, what happens to the relationship is external.
Forgiveness is a Jesus principle that is actually an expression of emotional health. When you forgive, it releases you from the grip of anger and negativity. You may think that you’re letting someone off the hook when you forgive them, but the truth is that you are the one being set free. When you forgive, an unclenching happens inside of you, and freedom begins to run through you.
I encourage you, (and so I encourage myself), that while you continue to do the lonely work of forgiving those who hurt you, to also forgive those who’ve forgotten how you were hurt and have moved on. Let yourself off the hook of trying to hold everyone accountable. If you don’t, the unforgiveness will kill your body. Set yourself free of the expectations you have of people to swet feeva for you. Appreciate those who do, and as for the rest: forgive, forgive, forgive!
Just do it!
Every time you say the Lord’s Prayer, you acknowledge that your desire for forgiveness is tied to the fact that you, too, make the choice to forgive others, (Luke 11:4). It’s difficult, lonely, repetitive work, but it is good for you. Whether you forgive for your own health and sanity, or to follow Jesus’ command, or both, ask the Holy Spirit to help you, and just do it!
© Debbie Mendoza, August 2021