I had a birthday recently and with it came an unexpected text message from someone I hadn’t spoken to in over a year. Someone I hadn’t planned on ever speaking to (or texting) again. I won’t go into the boring details of our time in each other’s lives. I’ll just say, it was what it was and it ended when it ended and I had finally, happily moved on.

In my mind, all had been truly forgiven and forgotten; yet a simple birthday greeting that didn’t begin with “I’m sorry” brought it all back. 

I heard once that forgiveness is an art, and as with any art form, an artist needs to practice their craft. My reaction to that text message, and my need for it to have begun with “Dear Yvette, I suck!” instead, told me that when it comes to forgiveness, I still have some homework to do. Could I have really forgiven him if I still needed an apology?

Forgiveness is tough. It takes a lot to acknowledge that someone has hurt you deeply, decide to expect better from them in the future, and then… sigh… let it all go. It’s even harder when the person that hurt you refuses to admit that they’ve done you wrong. But then, that’s the trick. Forgiveness is best RECEIVED when asked for and it’s best GIVEN when it’s not.

Life is hard. And we’re all — if we’re decent — trying to make it through unscathed, without taking out too many other folks along the way. Though difficult at times to believe, we must remind ourselves, “No one is truly out to get us.” Most folks are so busy fighting through their own day-to-day struggles that the hurt they inflict is just collateral damage. It takes maturity to realize this.

Though it is probably best to distance yourself from those who are so caught up in their mess that they aren’t aware they’re throwing unnecessary shrapnel your way; holding on to a grudge or expecting acknowledgement of wrongdoing before letting go only hurts you. I’m learning that now.

To forgive is not to say to the offender, “It’s okay that you were crappy to me.” It doesn’t mean that you accept the behavior or welcome it in the future. Forgiveness is simply doing someone a solid by accepting their right to be human; and allowing them all the frailties and flaws that come with that humanity.

Forgiveness is realizing that on a bad day, when we’re not walking as our best selves, we may hurt folks too. 

It took me a day, but I responded to that text message. I thanked the sender and sincerely wished him well. I don’t know if he received it as a genuine extension of true forgiveness, but I know that it was. And after that, it was wonderful to just let it all go…

Yvette Nicole Brown (@YvetteNBrown) is a TV and film actress who currently stars as Shirley on “Community.”

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