Forgiveness, the big “F.”

Henry Archer Thomas

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 grandparents with their three eldest daughters.

My grandparents with their three eldest daughters.

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. 

Henry Archer Thomas

Arrival at Le Havre, France

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

Back in the day. This is me with my brother back in those early years after high school.

Back in the day. This is me with my brother in those early years after high school.

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.

Dorm at Washington College

Anyone else have a Georgia O’Keefe poster in their dorm?

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. 

 

Washington College in Chestertown, MD

Washington College in Chestertown, MD

 

What about when you’re on the guilty end of this forgiveness discussion?

 

My mother and some of her sisters (all the blondes) along with my cousins.

My mother on the right and some of her sisters (all the blondes), along with my cousins, yesterday at the viewing.

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. 

Oops. 

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.

 

 Compassion

 I think compassion is a huge part of forgiveness.  I ran across this quote from Amma in her book: Messages from Amma. 

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!

Karis and Daisy after their 5K.

Karis and Daisy after their 5K.

 

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?

To be continued

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16 comments… add one

  • Lauren

    Amie — this was awesome and just what I needed to hear tonight. Thank you! And i’m so sorry for the loss of your grandfather.Take Care, Lauren H.

  • I enjoyed reading this Amie. I love what your mom did for her dad just before he died. And I really needed to hear the Wayne Dyer quote. Keep on writing! Love, Monica

  • I love this Amie! Thanks so much for posting it. Looking forward to reading more.

    • Wisefriend

      Thanks Michael. Our aunts always keep things interesting!

  • Melinda

    Thank you for expressing something that I know has been on my mind regarding our “mothers’ dad” as I’ve always referred to him. Quite recently I’ve realized that I need to work on my ability to forgive others, but that it may start with learning how to acknowledge my anger in the first place. It seems that often I allow things to escalate to a boiling point before I will even acknowledge that there is an issue, and that can’t be healthy. As you mentioned, many times when someone has done something to upset or hurt us, that person is totally unaware, so the opportunity for resolution can only exist upon confrontation, and that’s never easy. But the longer we hold things in the worse they seem to get, and having pent up anger toward someone is like a cancer to the soul. So I wonder… is it possible to let go of anger and forgive someone without ever expressing your feelings to them, or is it like having a wound that never quite heels?
    ~M

    • Wisefriend

      You raise some great questions here Melinda. I think you can forgive someone without having to confront them, if that is your only option, or even if it is not. I had to do it, and it was no small issue. It took some time… I had to do a lot of visualization – sending them my forgiveness through the higher realms. It was either that or spend my energy hating them. Before I could forgive them I had to sort of realize how imperfect we all are- myself included, then I could have compassion for them.

  • Cheryl

    Excellent post, Amie Suze! Thanks for sharing your stories and thoughts!

  • Timely and written in a beautiful way, thank you. Headed to the funeral today to say goodbye with the girls this morning. Taking photos today so the ladies can be in the moment and say their goodbyes appropriately. I will share one story.

    I reflected on how much great grand dad affected Sonia and how much she cared for him in such a short time. He seemed to react the same way – really loving her and lighting up when he saw her and was around her. I don’t know if it’s irony…. but the daughter that he left, he later showed compassion when she was in need (with child) by allowing her into his new home, she had a baby son who stayed in St. Louis and was raised with the greatest love by a mom and dad desperate for a baby, and then Phil had a daughter that he loves with every drop of his being who naturally showed compassion to her great grand dad at a time he needed it. I asked Terry if she had noticed this and she had. She said with remorse that seeing how much they loved each other made her think how much her dad had lost in love of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. As we all know, love is something you can never replace or have enough of.

    I haven’t been hurt this deeply or at such a young age so I have no way to relate. But I’m human and I’ve been hurt, angry, and embarrassed. I’ve forgiven ex boyfriends that wronged me and I’ve forgiven myself for hating God when my parents died at a young age. I’m 1/2 Bosnian and we are raised from birth not to forgive those that have wronged us or our families. For centuries. So this is a huge step for me personally.

    At the end of the day, forgiveness is just a very personal journey. And it’s a lot like love. You can’t make someone love you or make your friend love that guy you think is perfect for them; you can’t make someone forgive you or make someone forgive someone else. It happens when the stars mysteriously align and some of us wait longer than others for that to happen.

    • Wisefriend

      Thanks for sharing Anita. I heard that Sonia cried for an hour when she found out that her great grandfather had passed. I was amazed at the closeness and different relationship she had with them compared to his daughters, and even me- his granddaughter. Like Melinda – I didn’t typically refer to him as my grandfather – just my mom’s dad.

      I find it really interesting that Bosnians are raised from birth not to forgive – wow. This type of culture is probably why there is so much ongoing war in the world.

  • Thanks for this, Amie. Have a few unresolved issues I’m still dealing with, both old and new.

    • Wisefriend

      I hear ya. I make mistakes on a daily basis, glad that most people forgive me!

  • Anita Monte

    Bosnians are just people. But people that have had the harshest things happen in their lives – things we can’t begin to contemplate. My dad’s brother gone “missing” and likely killed…neighbor turning against neighbor in a war against communism. My dad placed in political prison (he was anti-communist to the core) for 7 years while his then-wife was left to raise a child with no income, alone…his little daughter dying after getting sick and couldn’t see a doctor. Fast forward to the 1990s and here we go again http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_Genocide.

    It’s stuff you see in the movies but really happened up until recently. For that, they are extraordinarily challenged to forgive and forget. Didn’t want you to think badly of Bosnians. We are Bosnia-Croats. They’re the most fun-loving, joyful, resilient and awesome people I know. Just been through more than a person can imagine.

  • Amie your blog was great. We were fortunate to be at the funeral home on Saturday and see all the Thomas girls and Uncle Brent (I think I took your picture). There was a lot of love and kindness there. It was a true celebration of a long and interesting life. I do believe they are better women then me, and I will continue to work on forgiveness.

    • Wisefriend

      Thanks Rox. I didn’t know it was you who took the picture at the funeral home! My mom just forwarded it to me in a text on Sunday. Thanks for that!

  • Jules

    Hey Amie,
    Great story to read before I settle in. You’re a great writer and you always have such a great perspective in life! Namaste.

  • Theresa, I agree with Dani forgiveness wiohutt forgetting isn’t really forgiveness. We have to look at Christ as our example. I have heard well meaning Christians say, well, I forgive you, but I will never trust you with that again. The heart of that is because you did me wrong, I won’t forget it! ever! The lack of forgiveness only steals from us and opens the door for the enemy to have a foothold in our life. The more we understand our own debt being paid in full with nothing held over our heads as payment, the more we can give back out to others all that we have received.

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