Friday, June 3, 2011

Concrete block walls held together with super-glue

Bill and I were invited to a get-together last fall by a high school friend of mine.  At the party, it became obvious that everyone there had known each other for many years.  When asked about our family, we told them about our three girls living in Chicago and our daughter who lives in Nashville.  “I have a sister who is a nurse in Nashville,” one woman said. 

“You have a sister?!?” another woman exclaimed.  “I have known you for twenty years, and I didn’t know that.”

The woman replied, “Well, we haven’t even spoken to each other in, oh about, thirty years or so.”  When prodded by the others for the reason why, she hesitated a moment and then responded, “I can’t remember anymore.”

Who is lurking in your closet?

The more time that passes by, the higher and thicker the walls between us.  We seem to think that forgiveness needs to be someone else’s responsibility.  Sometimes we just don’t know how to go about it. And sometimes we just don’t want to let go of the hurt, thinking oddly enough that holding onto the pain is somehow hurting them back.

Forgiveness is recognizing the gap, acknowledging that something happened or something was said that caused pain.  The first step even in Alcoholics Anonymous is realizing that there is a problem.  The second step is recognizing that there is pain.  Yes, it hurt…and it still does.  That is usually when we stop and let it brew longer and stronger.

The third step is determining to do something about it.  Forgiveness does not mean saying that “it’s ok,” or “you didn’t mean it,” or “letting someone off the hook,” or “pretending that nothing happened.”  Forgiveness is letting go of the bitterness.  Bitterness manifests itself in any number of ways that physically and emotionally affect you – and everyone around you, even if you don’t realize it.  When you let it go, it no longer has control over you.  Let go of the hurt.  And do what YOU can to reconcile.  I thought for a long time that forgiveness meant having to go to someone and say, “I forgive you for hitting me, or ruining my life, or fill in the _____.”   Sometimes all that does is stir up the past.  And sometimes the person has no idea that they have done anything wrong.  If YOU are in the wrong, then asking for forgiveness is in order.  If not, sometimes the kindest and most forgiving thing is to just let it go …and move on.  Put the relationship first, not the hurtful action.  And pray that God would show you how to see that person differently.  They may hang up the phone on you.  They may never answer your emails.  They may not hug you back.  But then again… they might.

There are two great movies available about the impact of forgiveness:  An Unfinished Life (2005) starring Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman, and just out on DVD Get Low (2010) starring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray, which is, by the way, one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.   Nothing is more powerful than redemption…and nothing more destructive than a lack of forgiveness.

It is a long way home.  It may be a friend or a parent or a sibling or even one of your kids.  But don’t wait until it is too late.  Regrets are even harder to live with.


Pam S. said...

Excellent post, Karen. You're right: Sometimes we hold on to a grudge or hurt or unforgiveness, thinking we are punishing the other person. The truth is, the hurt is eating us up inside, diminishing our ability to love others and be loved.:]

Pam S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pam S. said...

It looks like I made an unforgiving, unkind comment - and then went back and deleted it! Haha. In fact, my comment posted twice. Sorry.