N. T. Wright says this about forgiveness:
“Forgiveness is more like the air in your lungs. There’s only room for you to inhale the next lungful when you’ve just breathed out the previous one. If you insist on withholding it, refusing to give someone else the kiss of life they may desperately need, you won’t be able to take any more in yourself, and you will suffocate very quickly. Whatever the spiritual, moral and emotional equivalent of the lungs may be, it’s either open or closed. If it’s open, able and willing to forgive others, it will also be open to receive God’s love and forgiveness. But if it’s locked up to the one, it will be locked up to the other.”
Whenever we find ourselves holding onto something, we are unable to receive. If our lungs are fulled of air, they are unable to receive fresh air, new breath. We are only able to receive if we are open, if our hands are spread wide open.
When I was in high school, I had a pretty good friend. We were able to be honest with each other, and we had a lot of fun hanging out together. We had a lot of random conversations–one where we just quoted the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody to each other (and I’m sure that wasn’t even the most random). One of the things you learn growing up is friendships shift and change throughout life. I thought this friendship would be the exception. Unfortunately a series of events played out, and now we are no longer friends. We aren’t even still friends on Facebook (which if that’s not a mark of true friendship, I don’t know what is). We’re in different states, living different lives. While I do wish things had turned out differently, I also know I cannot hold onto something that’s no longer there. I have to accept that life changes. When we lose friendships, we cannot hold on the negative emotions.
When we go through a breakup, we cannot hold on the negative emotions associated with that person or the breakup. For example, I was hanging out with someone (we hadn’t really reached the dating point, honestly) and he informed me he didn’t see it going anywhere. Instead of being grateful he didn’t lead me on (which is how I should have responded), I instead only said hello to him in passing with a little too much attitude. He could obviously tell when I was saying hello I was also secretly thinking about how I wanted to punch him in the stomach. This is not an example of letting go. I was holding onto anger because I thought he was perfect. He was everything on the List of Things I am Looking For, which is a list you’re told not to create, but we still all do anyway. So I was mad he did not think I was everything he was looking for. Fortunately, the thing about this particular breakup and after I let go of negative I-want-to-stomach-punch-you feelings, I was able to see “stops movies if I make a totally relevant comment and rewinds movie because he’s annoyed I was talking” was not actually on the List of Things I am Looking For.
I am still learning to let go, but the times I’ve been able to let go of negative feelings or words, I have been able to hear the words of truth from God. I am able to love myself. I am able to love others more fully and pray prayers for their success and happiness. I am able to trust God to allow me to feel a little peace once I’ve let go.
This is the art of living in two words: letting go. It’s letting go of judgments, expectations, wanting to be right, wanting to control, fear of discomfort, fear of uncertainty, fear of failure, fear of boredom, comparing myself to others, wanting distraction, being irritated, complaining. It’s noticing when I’m holding these, and letting go. Loosening my heart’s grip on any of these, and letting go. And then letting go again. And again.