My friend G nags me no end about writing a book on forgiveness. “I have an interesting story for you,” she dangles a carrot in front of me. “I have friends who have other heart-rending stories,” she dangles more carrots.
This has been going on for five years. But each year, I'd write a book on another subject. She’s probably wondering why I have not considered it, forgiveness being a brave act every person on earth agonizes over.
I have considered it. In fact, I have been chewing it in my head since that day G broached the idea. However, I could not put a finger on what it is exactly. Is it saying “I forgive you” to someone who has deeply hurt you? Or is it moving on and ignoring it with these idiomatic attitudes?
“Swallow the bitter pill.”
“Sweep it under the rug.”
“Leave him/her ‘out of the picture.’”
“Treat it like an ‘elephant in the room.’”
Forgiveness was demonstrated to us on the cross, and it is inimitable. Only the Son of God could say to betrayers, sadists, punishers, executioners, jeerers, haters, and corrupt judges, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
So how can humans do even a semblance of this selfless act?
The Bible has the answer: Turn the other cheek. “But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39
Let me cite Q, a battered wife. Through her married life (25 years), her husband humiliated her by openly flaunting his girlfriends to the world, unmindful of her feelings. One day he left her and lived with a string of beautiful mistresses, one after the other.
Now with his nth mistress, he fell ill, diagnosed with a degenerative disease that needed full-time caring. Guess who offered to give him exactly that? Not any of his mistresses, but Q. She nursed him through his sickness, without rebuke nor reproach for what he had put her through.
On his deathbed three years later, he sobbed, “Will you ever forgive me?”
“I already have.”
He slapped Q on her right cheek and yet she offered the other.
Her friends sneered, “Martyr complex.”
Q thought otherwise. She saw the essence of forgiveness: offering the other cheek.
This forgiveness story ended the way my childhood books did. And Q “lived happily ever after.” A life of peace, soaked in grace.