A long time ago, someone was a jerk to me over email. I pressed in with earnest communication and healthy boundaries at the time and then moved on, with little more than an inward eye roll on the rare occasions when the jerk came to mind.
Recently, our paths nearly crossed again, and I found out they will run parallel for awhile longer. I felt this awareness in my gut. I felt it when I woke up this morning.
So, because I like to torture myself, I read through every email we wrote back and forth. I needed to check my memory to make sure I still felt vindicated as the good guy attacked by a bad guy. All good so far. Yes, the jerk was more or less a jerk, and I was more or less the recipient of bad behaviour. The sting of injustice still hurts as I think about it.
Then, I read the last email of our correspondence. I said I was committed to forgiving and moving on with a good will.
Oops. I lost my good will along the way. Did I really say I’d forgive?
I’m still angry, still hurt.
But, I gave my word – I put it in writing.
So: I have to forgive again. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, Jesus’ command to forgive “seventy times seven” may not just apply to how many different hurts we have to forgive, it might also apply to forgiving the same hurt, over and over again, each time it comes to memory and wounds us again.
So: I forgive the jerk.
I haven’t quite forgotten the pain, but that’s okay. I’ll keep working on that and trying to forgive again, every time I feel the sting.
I am giving myself permission to feel what I feel,
while also continuing to forgive and forgive again,
while also maintaining healthy boundaries.
Also: when I initially committed to forgiveness in that email, I concluded by setting a boundary. I would no longer engage in communication unless a third person was involved. I would forgive and move on with a good will, but I would not put myself in that position again, where I was exposed to the possibility of further abuse.
These things can go together:
Sincere forgiveness and lingering hurt.
Forgiveness and anger.
Forgiveness and healthy boundaries.
Forgiveness and remembering the wrong done.
I’m not sure what it will look like to journey alongside this person for the next little while, but I am giving myself permission to feel what I feel, while also continuing to forgive and forgive again, while also maintaining healthy boundaries.
It’s a messy path, but God meets me there with compassion and kindness. God meets “the jerk” there with compassion and kindness, too. God might even lead our parallel paths to a crossroads, where true reconciliation becomes possible. In the meantime, it’s okay to be right where I am, putting one foot in front of the other, following the path that God walks beside me.
"'Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.’ For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again.” ~ C. S. Lewis