I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile. I was going over some older posts and one jumped out at me because it related to a recent event.
If you don’t follow basketball, you likely had no idea who Monty Williams was before last week. He’s one of those coaches in professional sports where not a person alive would have anything bad to say about him. He’s a man of high character who wore his faith on his sleeve. He lost his wife in a tragic accident; a heartbreaking event that no one can fathom.
His speech at his wife’s Ingrid’s memorial service went viral. It brought to light the difficult topic of forgiveness. His poignant words resonated with us all.
That family didn’t wake up wanting to hurt my wife. Life is hard. It is very hard, and that was tough, but we hold no ill will toward the Donaldson family. And we, as a group, brothers united in unity, should be praying for that family because they grieve as well.
This a man who is suffering and will continue to suffer a profound loss. And yet, he held no reservation to forgive.
I wrote a few years ago about how forgiveness isn’t a manly thing to do. Men, emotionally, are often the less resilient of the sexes. Men will often cling to a hurt or a loss for years after the initial event. When you’re in pain, it’s nearly impossible to attempt to release the person responsible. Forgiveness, then, becomes an abstract concept.
In many occasions, refusing to forgive comes with the expectation that it’ll make you feel better. People that aren’t in a situation find it easy to say they couldn’t forgive. I think we all let anger cloud our logic. That’s a human response to hurt. However, forgiveness is an act of strength that is meant to help you through the healing.
Forgiveness doesn’t numb or erase the suffering. But it is a necessary starting point for your personal healing process.
There’s a long-standing quote that says “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” I don’t know that that’s true, though. Suffering is fundamental to healing. In fact, I think suffering is the only way in which we can process pain and get through it. You have to suffer until the pain goes away. You have to endure.
Once you extend forgiveness, you allow yourself to mentally detached from rehearsing the pain. Forgiveness is all about freeing yourself from the source of pain.
We all will go through things that are meant to break us spiritually and emotionally. We all will have a moment when we’re pleading for God to tell us why such and such happened. Life (and God) doesn’t tell us the whens or whys. It’s in those times that it’s easy to turn away from God. It feels better to carry a vengeful spirit.
Then you find out that that gets you nowhere. You learn that karma and waiting around for someone who wronged you to get what they deserve is only hurting you. In many instances, the person has moved on. They’re not even thinking about you and your pain. You can’t see it at the time, but you’re prolonging the suffering. You’re blocking your healing.
Asking God to forgive us is an act of submission. His forgiveness is an extension of his grace and mercy; gifts that can’t be earned or taken away. That basic relationship is personal. I view Williams’s forgiveness through a similar lens. As a man of God, he places his understanding in what he knows. He quoted scripture throughout his eulogy. “This will work out” were words he repeated. It stuck with me as I re-watched the clip.
Perhaps for the Williams family, forgiveness isn’t so confounding. Monty Williams has made the spiritual decision to not hold hate or revenge in his heart. He’s made the human decision to accept that not acknowledging someone else’s loss isn’t going to bring his wife back. If you’re a follower of Christ, there is no promise that life won’t be hard at some point. What we do know through faith is that hard times aren’t forever.
Withholding forgiveness isn’t about punishing someone else. It’s not about demanding an apology. And even if you get one, it’s not about holding on to that memory of pain. Forgiveness is a sign of emotional maturity. Forgiveness at its core is an act of self-love. It’s saying “this isn’t going to break me. I’m going to be okay.”