To forgive is to set the prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner was you. ~ Lewis B. Smedes
How much time needs to pass until you forgive someone, a day, a week, 60 years? Never?
My grandfather left my grandmother, along with my mom and her five sisters, when my mom was just a toddler and the youngest was still in diapers.
My artist grandmother was left to take care of six little ones on her own. Ouch.
So do we define my grandfather by this one selfish act? This one act had lasting repercussions in his daughters’ lives.
Or do we define him by the life he led once he left them? He remarried and went on to have two sons. He stayed with that family, raised his sons and stood by them. Do we define him by this?
How about his service in WWII? He got numerous medals and awards such as the Purple Heart.
When he left my mom and her sisters, it was probably sixty years ago. That’s like a lifetime ago.
So did my mom and her sisters forgive their dad? Some forgave him sooner than others, each in their own time, varying by decades.
My mother and all of her sisters are at his funeral this weekend. He lived to be 99 years old.
Earlier this week, each of them got to speak to him shortly before he passed. One of his sons held the phone to their father’s ear. My mom said she could hear him breathing, but he was not able to talk, so she did all the talking.
She told him that she loved him and that he was a good person and that he would be safe and loved in the afterlife. She spoke with him at 3:30 pm, then he spoke with another sister, and at 4:30 pm he passed away.
I love that my mom sent him off with kind and loving words. She has a big heart. I’m sure that her forgiving him was of great benefit to both of them. I’m so inspired by her.
I am not in any position to tell people who they should forgive or not forgive.
All that I know is that when you don’t forgive someone, it feels bad. It feels like you’re keeping a fight going – at least on some internal energetic level.
I was with my father earlier this week. He told me this little story about seeing two loud cicadas this summer. They were so noisy he looked up to see what all the fuss was about. These two cicadas were scrambling and fighting each other, clicking and clacking, wrestling and just generally battling each other.
Then… a truck drove by and rolled right over them. They were fighting and then they were dead. The end, that was it.
What a weird coincidence that he would see this scene play out. If we spend all our time holding on to a battle… where will it get us?
Just what you needed
But what about the idea that sometimes when people do unpleasant things to you, it turns out to be exactly what you needed to propel yourself forward. Here is an example of how powerful a few small careless words can be.
After high school I was skittish about committing to signing on for big student loans in order to go to a four year college, so I put that aside and went to a community college. I played it safe. Then some other things happened, and before I knew it I was “taking a semester off,” and waiting tables.
I ran into a guy that used to hang out in my circle, we’ll call him “Buddy”. I asked what he was up to and he said he was transferring to this small private liberal arts school. He went on to describe it, and I said, “Oh that sounds perfect for me.” He quickly remarked that it was probably too expensive for me and it was pretty hard to get into. Oh, uh huh, I see.
Well next semester I found myself enrolled at that little college and I ran into him in the dining hall. Great to see you Buddy.
All I needed was a little insult to propel me into action and motivate me. Yes, I really do forgive you Buddy. No problemo.
I like this one from Wayne Dyer:
Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.
What about when you’re on the guilty end of this forgiveness discussion?
So, I phoned my mom today to check in on how she and her sisters are doing during this funeral weekend.
She reported that the sisters are all staying in one condo, waking up together in their pj’s, sitting on the edge of each other’s beds, sharing their thoughts – just like when they were little. They are having some good bonding moments.
I told her that I was interested in what stories and morsels of wisdom they had in regard to the concept of forgiveness. I figure there’s enough of them that they should have some pretty varied experience with the topic.
My mom texted me back shortly after our conversation, saying that she brought the topic of forgiveness up, and it was like a can of worms. Unbeknownst to her, one of her sisters was still having trouble forgiving her for something she had done three years ago. Something my mom was completely unaware of. Oops, oops, oops.
Skip ahead to part 2 now about this “can of worms”… or continue below for a few more tidbits.
If you fall into a hole, you don’t poke your eyes because they have failed you. Why not tolerate others’ faults as well?
When you hurt your hand you don’t reproach it, you apply medicine and nurse it with care. So too should we care for others, never blaming them for their faults.
I like this one too:
Be like the honeybee who gathers only nectar wherever it goes. Seek the goodness that is found in everyone.
Forgive me, I’m a mom
Ok, so forgive me a second here for getting a little Facebook-ie on you, but I’m going to have to give a little shout out to my daughter (on the left) and her buddy Daisy for doing the Girls on the Run 5K this morning. Go girls! I am proud of them!
OK, stay focused… forgiveness
How do you feel when you harbor resentment or anger towards someone? Who do those negative emotions hurt more – you or the person you feel them towards? What about when you can’t forgive yourself?