When I was growing up and was too sick to go to school there were two things I could count on. Bob Barker on The Price is Right and Judge Wapner on The People's Court.
I loved watching people come into court with all their receipts, pictures, bills and assorted papers stuffed in a manila folder. They had their ill-fitting dress clothes on and looked like they woke up that morning sweating. They were nervous and primarily preoccupied with one question.
Will Wapner see this thing the way I do?
Nobody arrives at the People's Court positive that they are wrong. Everyone is sure that they are on the right side of this case and the only question is if their "rightness" will be confirmed by the honorable Wapner.
Now, imagine you are on the People's Court (and if you've actually been on this show we need to talk immediately). You put on your best pleated khakis or power blouse and walk into the courtroom prepared and ready. You have documents that support your case and documents to support those documents. You have pictures of the incident, eye witness accounts and character witnesses. Your best friend's-cousin's-aunt is a judge and she says you'll win this case no problem.
But when you show up to the People's Court no one is there. No defendant, no bailiff, no cameras and no Wapner.
You're prepared, you're sure you're in the right but nobody is there to hear the case.
This scene is similar to a lot of our experiences with forgiveness. We're confident we're on the right side of things, but no one is there to be declared guilty and pay damages. Often times we keep showing up to this empty courtroom day after day ready to receive justice and move on with our lives, but no one else is showing up.
We can withhold forgiveness because we feel like it invalidates our rock-solid case or because we're waiting for the person who harmed us to show up and receive their guilty sentence. Forgiveness is the power to lay down the manila envelope and stop showing up to the court house not because we are guilty or wrong, but because it's keeping us from moving forward. We forgive and make peace with the past because of the freedom it offers.
This perspective is about understanding forgiveness as freedom. We come to understand that we can both be justified in our pain and we can also move forward. One doesn't negate the other.