There is a couple I know. I’ll call them Jake and Francine. Several years, and a few children into their marriage, Francine had a major indiscretion. She was remorseful, worked hard to make amends, and Jake truly forgave her. They made a lot of effort to heal their relationship and grow, when Francine had a relapse in poor judgement. Her actions radically harmed the trust they had rebuilt. It was a different kind of transgression from the first time around. The sense of compounded betrayals was overwhelming. It was almost as if Francine’s broken pieces were determined one way or another to sabotage all the good in her life.
While I was shocked to hear what poor Jake was going through, what was even more surprising was that he was willing to stay together and keep trying. I’ll never forget how he asserted to me, however, that he was completely entitled to leave Francine. No one could fault him if he chose to part ways. Most people would have, and perhaps that would be the better path for him. Yet, somehow, he believed in her goodness more than her sinfulness. His decision wasn’t passive, it wasn’t about letting himself be a victim. Rather his choice was more along the lines of active, ongoing forgiveness.
Author Bryan Stevenson writes in his book, Just Mercy, that “Mercy is most empowering, liberating and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.” This mindset of clearly knowing one is more than justified to retaliate, punish, or abandon another but instead chooses to relinquish that right is astounding. Waiving entitlement in this way takes tremendous courage, a bold faith, and deep trust — not in the person who has harmed you, but in the power of forgiveness.
May you be inspired!