Struggling With Forgiveness


 

“Forgiving people doesn’t mean you necessarily want to meet them for lunch. It means you try to undo the Velcro hook. Lewis Smedes said it best: ‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner is you.’

‘I wish there’d been a shortcut, but the would had to be revealed in order to heal. Lack of forgiveness seemed like a friend, the engine that drove my life, with a hot little motor that was weirdly invigorating. It had helped me survive.”

“…

“Forgiveness is release from me; somehow, finally. I am returned to my better, dopier self, so much lighter when I don’t have to drag the toxic chatter, wrangle, and pinch around with me anymore. Not that I don’t get it out every so often, for old time’s sake. But the trapped cloud is no longer so dark or dense. It was blown into wisps, of smoke, of snow, of ocean spray.”
—Anne Lamott, Small Victories, p 117-118
“Forgiveness means it is finally unimportant for you to hit back.” pp 141-142

The journey with forgiveness, and all of my anger and rage, and general unsettledness, depression, and “not know what to do about it” feelings, is long and tough. Answers aren’t easy, and I practice all of my avoidance, not wanting to really deal with it.
But, I must. I must take it on and get into it. It is always time to deal with my anger, my resentment, and sort it out. Now.

New stuff raises up the old stuff, the stuff long buried, ignored, almost forgotten. It is still there; all of it. Until I deal with it and let it go, it will be around, nagging at me, eating away, and keeping me from moving on and letting go.

I am good at mortaring my brick walls and erecting barriers, keeping my monsters hidden in the basement of my life. But, I am a lousy housekeeper, and now might be a good time for some deep cleaning, and breaking down of the walls I have built over the years.

Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s book on forgiveness is a rich discussion, inviting me to take all of this on, and really deal with it. Their 30 day exercises and discussions on the subject via e-mail are excellent, cleaning out my puss filled wounds and giving me permission to heal.

I have all the tools. I have the time. I have the motivation. And, yes, I do this work. I take it on, and I see the benefits of being truly and fully engaged in the process of forgiveness. I feel lighter, freer, happier. I can move on now, on many levels.

Yet, there are some things I haven’t really dug into, to really work on forgiveness, with some people, some experiences. It is too painful, I say to myself. Yet, there is something else. Perhaps I really enjoy the struggle, the tension, yes, even the hurt. I don’t want to let that go. If I forgive, truly forgive, then I don’t have that anger inside of me, that energy of hatred and distrust.

It is, perhaps, an addiction, a need I have to feel that way. Being pissed off at someone or some experience has become a deep part of myself. If that goes away, if I release that, then what is left? Will I become a lesser person?

That releasing is scary to me. I am not ready, I tell myself. The real answer, however, is that I am afraid of who I might really be once those toxins are flushed away, and I truly heal inside. I hold on to the hate and the hurt, just in case I am not strong enough to live a full, whole life without that flame of rage that still has a place next to my heart.

This is the dilemma I wrestle with, the feelings I must explore, the doubts I must address and really deal with.

Perhaps I need to reframe the question, and look to forgive myself for who I am now, who I have become, and deal with the hurt I have let burn inside of me. Yes, I need to let it go, and be who I really am deep inside. I might even like him, a lot.

—Neal Lemery, 1/3/2015

A Courageous Dilemma


We often think heroes are the folks somewhere else, the people on the front page or on the TV news, people who have done something amazing. They’re the people meeting the President, getting a medal.

But, we have heroes here, right in my town. And, sometimes, I get to be a witness to some amazing acts of courage and determination to just do the right thing.

A friend of mine is facing a serious dilemma. Their work, and their values and morals, and what is truly in their best interest are now at loggerheads. Life isn’t working out the way they want it, and there’s a lot of conflict, a lot of strife.

And, it’s becoming clear that the right thing to do is make some big changes, and to move on. That means giving up some things that are near and dear to their heart. Yet, they aren’t able to fully live their morals and values the way things are now.

They are at the crossroads, and the road is muddy, and there are a lot of questions, and not as many answers.

My friend has wrestled with all of this, and keeps coming back to thinking they need to live their morals and values, and be true to themselves, to honor their core values. And, when they’ve looked at their dilemma in that way, the choices become clear, and the path ahead opens up, and they can move forward.

They’re unstuck, now, and they’ve figured it out. Do the right thing, be true to their values, and find the courage to move ahead, to embrace change. Once they’ve come around to living life according to their beliefs, the choices are a lot easier, a lot clearer.

This conflict hasn’t been easy. There’s been a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of conversation over coffee with friends, a lot of wandering in the desert of uncertainty and doubt. And, in that darkness, they’ve found their stars again, and they’ve refocused on their beliefs and morals. Their compass has found True North again, and they are ready to make their move.

I’ve helped, just a bit, in that journey. I’ve listened, and put my judging and second guessing to the side. My role as friend in all this has been to listen, and to repeat back to them what they are saying, so they can hear their own words, their own values, through another voice.

My friend has figured it out. I don’t need to decide for them, and I don’t need to analyze the dilemma through my own values and beliefs. I just need to let them hear what they are saying, and let they say and hear their own advice, their own solution to their dilemmas.

I’d want that for me, when it’s my turn in the box of paradox, dilemma, and conflict. Someone to hold up that mirror, and let me see myself for what I am, and for what I believe in, and want to achieve. We all need that person in our lives to give us permission to get out the compass, and find our True North.

My friend is moving on, taking steps now in the direction they’ve chosen, and feeling pretty happy about it. They aren’t expecting to get a medal from the President, but they deserve one, for being courageous and for doing the right thing.

Neal Lemery 11/5/2013