“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
— Lewis B. Smedes
Intentional living is a journey with varied terrain. Sometimes we can see where the horizon meets the earth so we go full speed ahead and make radical changes and immediately feel the benefits of purpose and meaning in every detail of our lives.
Other times intentional living goes along slowly, thoughtfully, winding up a rocky mountain trail and we ease our way into the calling we’ve discovered of a well intended life.
Depending on what phase of this pursuit you find yourself either approach can have great impact. Whether you are the turtle or the hare (remember though, it’s not race) there is one thing most of us miss along the way.
I listened to a podcast the other day about writer/blogger/artist Wendy Piersall’s experience of the evolution of her creative work after years of success in business and blogging and then devastating failure during the 2008 recession. She talked about the emotional emptiness she felt during the peak of her success and how through the darkest period of losing her home and stability she found inspiration to create her art again.
She said it was through forgiveness that she was able to declutter her emotions of anger, failure and disillusionment and draw herself closer to the richness of her gifts, her faith, and purpose.
She said she spent days writing down every single bit of anger from her childhood up to that moment in her life, even forgiving the bank that foreclosed her home, and she went about the business of forgiveness work until her mind and heart felt free enough to fly on the wings of hope and true personal contentment.
She learned the act of forgiveness freed her from what had been holding her back and attracted a wealth of peace, contentment, and gratitude.
My first step into intentional living was minimalism. I discovered that letting go of the unused, unloved, and ill-purposed possessions I owned there was a more fulfilling and liberated life on the other side. As the stuff made its way out the door I came to realize minimalism and intentional living go much deeper then donation bins and trash bags; it’s soul deep.
Part of letting go of the belief system that “more must be more because what I have isn’t enough to make me happy” is the messy, painful, and beautiful work of forgiveness.
Where to Begin
As I listened to Wendy’s experience I looked at my own life and wondered how forgiveness could impact my journey of intentional living, knowing that forgiveness requires intention — deep soul-powered intention. I asked myself who do I have to forgive and what wrongs do I need to forgive?
Here is how I answered those questions:
1. Who do I have to forgive?
I forgive myself for caring more about what others think of me than what God thinks of me. I forgive myself for believing if I have the right style, the right body, and the most beautiful housewife/mom kept home that Pinterest can find — then I matter. I forgive myself for the attachment to stuff that has stolen joy and contentment. I forgive myself for denying my introverted character and forcing myself into activities and social settings that make me miserable.
I forgive myself for doubting my creativity. I forgive myself for allowing shame and resentment to build up for not being what I thought the world wanted me to be. I forgive myself for not following through, for quitting when things got hard, for questioning my purpose and for undercutting my abilities due to fear.
I forgive myself for doubting my faith. I forgive myself for wanting more than I need. I forgive myself for being ungrateful.
2. What wrongs do I need to forgive?
I forgive the wrongs of our culture. Wrongs like selfishness, comparisons and unreasonable expectations. I forgive the idea that perfectionism is the goal. I forgive our society that teaches young girls they have to look a certain way so the right kind of man will love them and for not teaching young men to rise up.
I forgive the employers who laid me off. I forgive the bosses who took more than they gave, for the co-workers who tore me down to build themselves up.
I forgive the woman who betrayed us in a hospital room at the most desperate and vulnerable time of our lives as an infertile couple. I forgive the adoption agency. I forgive the people who made me feel inferior for being quiet and reserved. I forgive the distant friends who seem to have forgotten me. I forgive my church for being full of humans who aren’t perfect.
I forgive time for moving too fast. I forgive my body for tirelessly trying to destroy my thyroid with an autoimmune condition. I forgive my legs when they tire on a long run, and for my breath that gasps.
What Forgiveness Really Means
The why of forgiveness is summed up in one word: Grace.
If we pursue an intentional and meaningful life grace must reside in the foundation of our practice. Grace with ourselves, with others, with the world around us because when we really get personal, and we really dig deep into our hearts, we are nothing without grace. Undeserved, purely gifted grace is where healing begins and where we encounter the most freedom.
Forgiveness is not to give reason or validity to the wrong behavior. It’s for us. For our lives to move in a forward and humbled direction so that we may live fully without chains. It’s to extend grace that has been extended to us and the grace we extend to ourselves. When we can forgive ourselves over and over we learn how to forgive everyone.
Surely forgiveness cannot be stumbled upon or given on a whim, without doing hard soul work. Wendy Piersall called it the work of forgiveness. Certainly there may be things you’re not ready to forgive and that is okay. But start the work. Start moving towards the why and see how far you get. Every inch will matter.
And remember, forgiveness is a daily decision. It does not heal all wounds immediately or erase memory, but in time with daily intentional work it will produce fruit that nourishes your soul and makes it all worthwhile.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
— Mark Twain
However you approach your intentional life, with intensity or with calm, include forgiveness. Let it be like a field of wildflowers in spring, the sweet aroma wafting up and filling the air with grace. As we forgive and it becomes a regular practice of our intentional living pursuit we will discover the heights of our potential in the process.
How can forgiveness deepen your intentional life journey?