High school reunions can stir up old emotions.
The summer between my junior and senior year of high school I went away to a cheer camp for a week. My steady boyfriend waited until I was gone about five minutes before he cheated on me.
Of course, when I got back my friends broke the story gently. I was furious at both the boyfriend and the “other woman” (girl).
When was the last time I thought about the incident? Last weekend at the reunion when someone else brought it up, because, well, it ceased to matter to me decades ago!
I actually married that boyfriend, my high school sweetheart, when I was about 20. He continued his nefarious ways of cheating, lying, and manipulation which is why we didn’t stay married very long.
Many months after everything was over between us, he asked to see me to talk. When we met, he apologized for all of his transgressions. Everything. I offered up my forgiveness and wished him well.
I’m not sure he ever forgave himself though. And that is sad.
I’m circling back to my post on forgiveness as a character strength. Because I see now that I was a bit flippant when I shared that, according to a psychological assessment, my main character strength is forgiveness and mercy.
I joked about it which clearly wasn’t an authentic response. Looking back, I think I was embarrassed as though somehow that strength made me sound sanctimonious as in, “Why yes, I am highly evolved because I forgive.”
I had reverted to the old habit of discounting myself. When others say: “Congratulations on that achievement!” I may think I was just lucky.
“What a great job!” If you only knew how easy it was for me.
“I love your dress!” This old thing?
The genuine emotion I feel about forgiveness and mercy being a strength is heartfelt gratitude. Being a forgiving person frees me to lead a happy life.
Being someone who refuses to forgive and lives as a “stuck-in-negative emotions” person takes up a ton of time and energy.
That’s why forgiveness truly is the gift that keeps on giving. We forgive others AND ourselves.
Matthew West said it best in one stanza of his song (appropriately) titled Forgiveness.
Forgiveness — It’ll clear the bitterness away. It can even set a prisoner free. There is no end to what its power can do. So let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of grace…The prisoner that it really frees is you.