Last week, the comedian Dave Chapelle hosted Saturday Night Live. Addressing the deep division in America following the most recent political election, he urged Americans to find a way to forgive each other.
I was talking about this with a friend, who took issue with Chapelle’s logic. This friend has been very active in politics and many social movements over the last year. He wondered, “Why does the burden of forgiveness have to fall on the people who were hurt to start with?”
It got me thinking, what does it mean to forgive?
It does not mean that you condone the behavior of the person who hurt you, or that you weakly offer yourself in humble supplication to them.
Forgiveness is not for them at all.
Consider how it feels to marinate your heart in the vinegar of your own suffering and rage. No matter how righteous your indignation may be, what is it doing for you? Is it adding richness to your life? Does it change the past? Are you happier carrying it around with you?
If you pay allegiance primarily to your suffering, it defines you. We all suffer and experience pain; this is the human experience. But your identity is so much more than the collection of bad things that have happened to you, just as the person you are forgiving is more than the offenses they have committed.
Forgiveness is not a burden, it is the release of burden.