Yes … you read the title correctly. I decided to call it The Art of Forgiveness because it truly is an art. It’s not something you can haphazardly go after. It is something that takes time, determination, precision, and something that you continually have to work at … just like a piece of art. If you were a painter or a sculptor, you would not give up so easily with the wrong stroke of your paintbrush, nor would you destroy your creation by an error made during the process.
Let’s explore a little more in this regard, shall we?
Since I enjoy painting, I will imagine you sitting in an art class with your white, crisp canvas before you with all of the pretty colors on your palette. Oh, they are mixed just beautifully, darling. There are soft colors and vibrant ones waiting to leap onto your canvas to create your best masterpiece yet.
You lean forward as you carefully place the tip of the paintbrush onto the canvas in a sweeping motion. Within minutes, it comes to life with a beautiful scene taking shape right before your very eyes.
Now, some can freehand the image while others have to draw it onto the canvas beforehand to get it “just right.” Regardless, you sit with superb posture, leaning in then back again as you take in the sight before you. You hold your mouth in a way that shouts determination. You wrinkle your forehead slightly as you lean in once more. Then all of a sudden your paintbrush slips and paint splatters where you certainly did not intend for it to go. Oh no! Your masterpiece is surely ruined.
Or is it?
In frustration you stop and draw in the longest breath of your life. You hold it for a moment and then slowly release it as you contemplate how in the world you will ever fix this mess. You sit back slowly in your chair looking at the painting. When once you had such high hopes, now all you can see is the destructive mark made by the paintbrush when it slipped from your hand.
You have a variety of feelings coursing through you at this point. Frustration and anger mount as you fuss at yourself in your head for making that mistake. Oh, why did you have to be so careless, you scold … why couldn’t I have paid more attention? Why didn’t I try harder?
You glance at your neighbor’s painting to see them smiling as they delight in their piece, and yet, here you sit.
Then, you gather your composure and try to figure out how to make something beautiful out of this … Surely everyone will be able to look at this and see the error I made so why do I even bother? you ask yourself. And without blinking, the thoughts Because it’s my passion and it’s worth it in the end! rush in.
And so you pick up that paintbrush and begin again. You forgive yourself for the mistake you made, for the accident that happened, for something that was beyond your control at that moment in time … and you work hard at correcting it on your canvas. Where once you imagined a hammock, now you think of a way to fix the paint splatters and so you work toward placing a beautiful flowing tree blowing in the wind near the banks of the water … all of this slowly begins to take shape now on your canvas as you correct, as you forgive the mistake you made and make something beautiful out of it after all.
If you get in a place where you simply cannot imagine how you’ll fix THAT part of the painting, you can always call in the art teacher for surely they know the answer when you tried desperately to fix this on your own.
And you create your masterpiece after all.
How in the world does this tie in with the art of forgiveness? Well, my friend, I’m glad you asked.
We are only human, and in this life we are going to mess up. We are going to make mistakes. There will be people along the way that will hurt us, and we will hurt others, too, but certainly not on purpose. Things will happen that will injury us and will pierce the hearts of those we love dearly. We would never inflict pain upon a person intentionally, but in all of our humanness, it happens.
Just like you would not destroy the painting or punch a hole through the canvas just because you made a mistake, you most certainly wouldn’t end a friendship or a relationship when a person has wronged you. At the first sight of trouble, you wouldn’t pack up and leave the relationship, just as you wouldn’t trash the painting for a few splatters of paint. No, instead, you would try to salvage it. You would give it your all in trying to mend the relationship. If you’ve hurt someone, you would go to them and ask for forgiveness and hope that some day it would be granted to you … just as you would hope that someone that offends you or hurts you greatly would come to you and apologize asking for your forgiveness as well. You would take responsibility for you actions, even if that meant stopping to take a good, hard look at yourself in the mirror to see the error of your ways.
You might even wring your hands or run your fingers through your hair in desperation as you cry out …
And just like the teacher that stepped in when you had done all that you could possibly do, our God will do the same if we only ask Him. For some reason, the one that holds all of the answers seems to be the very last person that we turn to when we’re in trouble. We worry over situations and agonize over things for days. When we’ve tried everything humanly possible, then and only then do we go to the great Almighty … when we can do no more to fix the situation, we turn it over to Him. He will fix it all for us, if we only ask. Some times it might not be in the way that we would like, but it is His will and what He knows is best for His children.
Forgiveness takes a lot of soul searching, and you do grieve and hurt when someone wrongs you. When you are offended or injured by someone’s words or actions, it takes a lot to finally say okay … I’ve reached a place where I feel forgiveness is possible. You can look yourself in the mirror now and say I forgive you as you ease up on yourself for the mess you’ve made in this life. You turn to your family or friend, your spouse or your co-worker and say I’m sorry … please forgive me and you mean it with your whole heart. You own it, and you take responsibility for your actions. You no longer make excuses for now you’re striving to mend broken hearts. You pray over the people and you pray over the situation. You cry until you feel as if you cannot cry any more, and then you turn it over to God. He picks you up and holds you in His loving arms as He comforts as only He can …
And then, something magical happens.
Slowly, things feel better. Maybe just a little at first, but the hurt isn’t as intense any more. As more time passes, you can touch that part of you and it doesn’t send you wailing to the ground in a heap. You no longer tremble with fear of what has happened. You begin to forgive yourself for the part you played in the situation, and you begin to forgive the other person.
It takes time … but hearts can be mended. Forgiveness can be sought and granted. Lives that once felt shattered can be put back together.
Do you have someone in your life right now that you know you’ve offended and would like to make things right with? Think on this and consider reaching out to them. Think of your part and examine yourself. Pray about it and ask God to help mend broken hearts and put you two back together, if at all possible. Then look yourself in the eyes in the mirror and forgive yourself. Now reach out to this person and also ask for forgiveness. Humble yourself before them whether it’s in an email or a hand written letter … but preferably in person, if possible, where it will have the most impact. Pour your heart out to them and see what happens. Know going into this that you cannot control another person … you can only control yourself. Be willing to accept that they may not be in the same place as you are right now, and so forgiveness may not be as easy for them as it seems to be for you at this moment in time. Realize that you may have to offer your sincerest apologizes and feel the person still harden their hearts as you turn to walk away … but know that you’ve done your part. They will think back on the situation, and they will think of your apology in the days to come. You will make an impact in their life.
If someone comes to you in this same way, if you don’t feel ready just yet to let go of the offense, then you have that right to carry it with you. But, ask yourself how it is helping you or the situation to hold on tight to this? Wouldn’t you feel better if you forgave the person? Wouldn’t it make life easier if you vowed to begin again with them? I’m not saying to wipe the slate clean and pretend nothing ever happened or forget and go blindly back into the same situation. No, but what I am asking you to do is to pray about the situation and consider the times you have messed up and have sought forgiveness. You would want the person to forgive you and offer you another chance. Or, even if you two didn’t remain the best of friends or continue on in the relationship, wouldn’t it help to know that you two forgave each other and could go on peacefully in the world after having that forgiveness granted?
Prayerfully consider the art of forgiveness and see how it improves your life. Holding on to bitterness, resentment, and anger does nothing to hurt or injure that person … but it hurts you in the end. It imprisons you. Release yourself from this prison and consider the art of forgiveness today … extend it to anyone who may have offended or hurt you in the past, even if that person was yourself. If you’re holding on to regrets, consider forgiving yourself today.