“Understanding is often a prelude to forgiveness, but they are not the same; and we often forgive what we cannot understand (seeing nothing else to do) and understand what we cannot pardon.”

— Mary McCarthy

Which is more difficult?  Which requires more love – to forgive something we can understand or to forgive something we cannot comprehend?

I have tried to teach my children to use the words, “I forgive you,” instead of, “that’s okay,” when someone apologizes for hurting them.  It is never “okay” to lash out and hurt another person — even when the resulting hurt is unintended; and I do not want the people I love to use words that imply to their subconscious that being hurt is excusable.  What I do want them to know is that it is forgivable; and I want them to understand that it is a powerful thing to speak the words of peace — “I forgive you.”

If we are to be love to our world, then we must master the art of forgiveness.  If we intend to bring love to every situation that comes our way, then we must learn every way there is to love; and when all other loves have failed, we often find ourselves faced with the daunting task of forgiving.  It is simple, when we are unprovoked or stirred by kindness or responding to beauty, to say “I love you.”  It is more challenging, when we face conflict or see the way someone’s thoughtless behavior harms another, to speak the words of love that might illuminate another path and inspire a response that draws out the offender’s love in return.  Most challenging of all is to love when evil leaves us speechless, when no amount of kindness touches the soul of the other, when no apologies are made and no recognition of a need for change enters the mind of the one who delivers hurt to his fellow man.

The only love that can enter into the irretrievable situation is forgiveness.  Some may tell you that it is weak to forgive what cannot be excused.  Some may tell you that an unrepentant bully does not deserve to be forgiven; but the truth is that we do not forgive in response to another person’s actions — we forgive as an intentional expression of our own strength and power and love.  Even if our final action is to walk away, forgiveness leaves behind the scent of love and gives evil a reason to think twice.

Never say, “that’s okay” when evil harms you or someone you love; but reach into the depths of your soul, fill your heart with love, and forgive.