Thursday, April 24, 2008

A story of hurt and forgiveness

Last October I wrote a post about forgiveness, talking about my revelation that you have to be willing to BLAME before you can truly forgive (as opposed to downplaying the wrong, which is what I often do). Many of you really responded to that post, and I vowed to write another post about forgiveness. Apparently, just like I had a hard time making myself sit down and right that first post, the second one wasn't coming easily, either.

But last Sunday our pastor (we have 2 at my church, my husband and this other fellow) preached about forgiveness. Which sort of lit the fire under my seat again. You will still notice that it took me 5 days to write the post. Why do I resist it? I don't know.

Anyhow...

One of the key points in his sermon is that forgiving is giving up the right to tell the story. You've surely heard this point before. If you've read any magazine article or book about fighting fair, you've heard this in terms of not bringing up past grievances. Deal only with the situation at hand. It also applies to telling the story to others. Have I really forgiven someone if I go around telling everyone about the awful thing they did? The "not telling the story" thing doesn't mean it can't EVER come up... sometimes you need to talk about it to share your healing, or move past a certain thing, and I think that if the incident is a pattern, sometimes you need to bring that into focus. But we give up the right to bring up the story to make the other person feel guilty, or to gain us sympathy and a feeling of righteousness.

I'd heard the pastor talk about this before, and felt like I was doing pretty well in this department.

My smugness, of course, was followed by a revelation.

Like many of you, I have lots of incidences where I am called upon to forgive. Most of them come and go fairly quickly, and I'm able to apply all these things I've learned about forgiveness. But I have one that is my sticking point. The one I keep coming back to. And that's where this point hit home. Because even though I don't bring up the story to the people who hurt me, and I don't tell others about it, I tell myself about it all the time. It comes up in my own little brain. In the blackest parts of my heart. I cannot expect myself to forget it. That is asking myself the impossible. But I need to stop telling myself the story. I need to stop feeding it. I need to stop holding on to it. I need to stop relishing in all the little horrible details. I need to stop justifying my years old indignation. I need to stop feeling guilty about it when I do think of it.

When my brain brings it to mind, I need to remember the choice I made to forgive. AND STOP RIGHT THERE. Because telling myself the story again and again in my head? It's the perfect example of another thing my pastor said: "Not forgiving is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die." I get angry all over again. I reexamine the evidence. AND THEN I remind myself that I've made the choice to forgive, and feel guilty that I keep thinking about it. I need to cut out all the stuff in the middle (and that last guilty bit at the end). It comes up? I remind myself of my forgiveness, and then I move on. I know the story. It hasn't changed. Skip the middle and go right to its proper ending:

Forgiveness.

26 comments:

womaninawindow said...

I think that forgiveness is not as easy as a state of mind. I see it as a process, just as grief is a process. Hopefully though as these reminders of old hurts pop up and we soak in them for a moment, then shake our heads remembering, "Oh, I was supposed to forgive that!" Hopefully there is a greater span between those rememberings and a gentler shake of our head as we move on.

crazymumma said...

Hey. Womaninawindow (above) is one of my favorite reads...

I am in this place these days. Trying hard to find forgiveness. She is elusive.

Julie Pippert said...

Great post, great points...so true.

And the biggest stories I need to let go of and forgiveness I need to embrace is that of...myself. I need to quit taking on so much blame and castigation and remembering every time I messed up or allegedly messed up.

That truth, perception, reality, perspective and forgiveness is hard coming.

Alpha DogMa said...

Well this could seriously limit my store of potential blog topics/rants.

I kid.

I kid!

What a great sermon. What a great post!

Rima said...

Alpha dogma is on to something there, but so are you! What your pastor said is right on the mark, but ever so hard to do. And I love the "poison" quote. (And your new blog template! Flowers! Ribbons! Fluffy clouds! It makes me want to twirl around or . . . dance around a maypole . . . or something!)

Chantal said...

This is a great post (I will have to read part one). Is it strange that I never thought about it in this way? But it is totally true.

blooming desertpea said...

The deeper the hurt - the harder to let go. I find it particularly hard if there is injustice involved. I've got this situation myself where I try to put it behind me and it keeps coming back. I guess it takes a lot of time and rehearsal of that mantra you've been mentioning here to make that pain go away for good.

imbeingheldhostage said...

This is a beautiful post-- and what great points you've made that I never really thought about...

Jennifer said...

Isn't it interesting that even when our hearts are ready to move on, our brains have a way of reliving (and reliving and reliving) certain events. It's a flaw in our design, I believe. ;)

flutter said...

I like your pastor, and this beautiful post

Family Adventure said...

"In the blackest parts of my heart."

I so hear you on this. I believe I've forgiven, moved on, and then, something will happen, and the blackest parts of my heart pipe up.

Heidi

Candygirlflies said...

Thank you, PM... these posts have helped me more than you know.

This forgiveness-thing is kind of like a sort of "cognative-behavioral therapy", non? I think it will take time. LOTS of time, maybe. But, it is worth it, to try and stop "telling the story"-- most importantly, to yourself.

Lots of love to you-- CGF xoxo

Don Mills Diva said...

Sometimes I think I really need to work on my forgiveness - thanks.

MamaGeek said...

What a poignant post (and poison quote) PM. I need to work on that myself.

And I LOVE the new blog design - very beautiful!

Jenn said...

We wouldn't be human if we didn't have these struggles.

It's what we do with them that makes us the humans we are.

Beautiful post.

jen said...

your faith, your willingness to be faithful...it's what i love most about you.

Melissa said...

I keep forgetting that part about forgiveness. Thanks for reminding me.

carrie said...

Oh, I struggle with not bringing up those things I am angry or wronged about in my mind as well. It is so hard to mentally, internally, physically get over stuff sometimes and I need to be better about letting go --

Just let go of it. Yes, it is that simple.

Thank you, for this, friend.

Luisa Perkins said...

I REALLY like that bit about not getting to tell the story anymore. Ouch. Very helpful.

Kathryn said...

It is so difficult to really forgive. Forgiveness leaves us open for hurt again and again. I think that is why the retelling of the past hurt keeps happening in our minds. It is a protection of sorts.
Fabulous post!

Bon said...

i never thought about it in this way either, but i see the wisdom in it. in truth, i never thought much or heard much about the complexities of forgiveness before i started reading blogs. and people say this is a narcissistic pastime! ha!

lovely post.

Amy Y said...

What great points... Thanks for sharing this, Mama.
I often feel I've forgiven and make every effort to move on, but definitely have a hard time forgetting... and repeatedly tell the story in my head/heart, if not to others.
Thanks for this reminder ~ it's definitely something I need to work on in myself!

thirtysomething said...

Maypole,
You were so timely writing this post.
I have been wrestling with forgiving my children's father, REALLY forgiving him, letting it go, stop rehashing it over and over in my own head, so I can be released from it's pain. From my pain.
Forgiveness truly is a soul lesson, one we all come here to learn, and sadly, many never really understand what true forgiveness is. It is hard to let that story go, because our black little ego gains a stroke each time we revisit it.
Thank you so much for your insight, your growth, and your willingness to share this with us.

susiej said...

Oh Painted Maypole, I'm so glad you listen to your muse. This is so perfectly timed to help me.

Christine said...

i've never thought of this before. i really am going to take this to heart. i have LOTS of stories to let go of. . .

wheelsonthebus said...

This is a continuing issue for me as a memoir writer. I feel that writing the story has helped me to come to terms with the people in it, but I worry that I need to give up the right to tell the story to really make peace. Yet, I know how much good telling the story can do...