These acts of forgiveness are the ones I need to make every day so that I can keep living (living as opposed to surviving) These are the acts of forgiveness that allow us to start each day or week new, happy and expectant instead of bitter, disappointed and resentful.
I started to think about this in the context of the Christian faith. Forgiveness is mandatory for Christians, we are to forgive the big things and the small ones and we are to do it completely, generously, not counting. If we were asked to do this from an emotional place we could never achieve it but the key is to forgive as a discipline. Forgiveness is making a decision not to continually nurse a grievance, not to raise it, not to let it slowly poison me. I can do these things even if I don't feel like it, I can do them just because it is good for me, not much different to exercise or eating salad, really.
Which leads me to other disciplines of Christianity: love and faith. It doesn't really matter what religion you follow or even if you follow one, love is a decision we make and stand by. The day to day work of raising a child or maintaining a long friendship or caring for a difficult person is not always something I do because I feel like it. When I don't feel much like it I do it anyway because I decided to. The Christian imperative to love all as we love ourselves is the same principle but in a bigger arena. Love. As a discipline.
And then there is faith. Faith is what led Noah to build a great boat and fill it with animals, faith is what leads a person to leave their home and become a missionary or a minister or to feel exposed and vulnerable as they preach or give away money or maybe move house, change schools or leave a secure job. Faith is forgiving or loving when we don't want to. Faith is deciding that there is a God who wants the best for us and then living as though that is true, even and especially when we are unsure.
It's interesting that I have known all these things to be disciplines but I have never before thought of them all together. I wonder how many people lose their Christian faith because they don't feel it. I wonder how many struggle because they expect to feel more and how much blessing do Christian people miss out on because they don't have rigour to match their claimed beliefs.
There is a verse I learned as a child. It's no longer fashionable to sing these things but the wisdom of it is unchanged:
By the pathway of duty flows the river of God's grace.