Yesterday I wrote about entering the kingdom of God in the present by accepting and sharing God’s unconditional love of ourselves and others, regardless of the often damaging and painful actions, words, and inactions perpetrated. This is a very difficult and challenging thing to do, especially if it is something we attempt to accomplish of our own, independent power and will. At least it has been something I have had much difficulty in doing.
Forgiveness is the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. (Wikipedia)
Forgiveness is letting go of all hope for a better past.
I had to think about that one for a while. To be perfectly honest, I’m still thinking about that one. I have carried, and if I unmask my inner self, I still carry a lot of resentment, indignation, and anger over real and perceived offenses, disagreements and mistakes that others have made which affected me in my life. The reality is that on an even deeper level I am holding myself on the hook for the things I’ve said and done, accidental and intentional, that affected others in hurtful and negative ways. After all, wisdom teaches:
2 For the way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you. Matthew 7:2 ~ Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
What if this isn’t just about God’s final judgment. What if this is about a basic truth about our internal psyche and thought processes? What if it isn’t a warning that God’s going to punish us for unforgiveness but a statement that our brains are wired in such a way that how we think of others is only ever a true reflection of how we think of ourselves and that as long as we stay focused on others and what they have done or are doing, then we are unable to see how much we are doing to harm ourselves and how much we are holding ourselves hostage to?
When I was 12 years old, I went to live with my uncle, who I now understand and realize was only 15 years older than me. So, he was a 26 or 27 year old, young man who had come from the same nomadic, broken, dysfunctional family background that I had. He had his own issues going on in his relationships with his wife, his best friend, co-workers, friends, and other family members in addition to suddenly becoming the “parent” of a deeply wounded and needy pre-adolescent girl. The deck was stacked against him from the beginning. He didn’t know what hit him. I can see and understand this in retrospect.
However, the me that lived with him for the next four and a half years, could only see and understand that she was hurt, angry, abandoned, neglected, and exposed to even more damaging events than she’d already experienced. I was already overflowing with resentment, anger, bitterness, and hatred. It was all self-directed, but I focused it on him and my aunt. Even though they were my targets, the fall-out hit my fellow classmates. I was an easy target for them, for a lot of reasons, and wasn’t necessarily treated well by a few of them. However, others, who were just trying to find their way through their own lives, would say or do something that the hyper-vigilant me would perceive as deliberately hurtful and overreact. I, who already felt alienated, acted in ways that further cemented my alienation from my peers and my family. Then I succeeded in running away at 16.
I carried all of that inside of me and into all of my future relationships, including the relationships with my son who was born when I was 17 and my daughter who was born when I was 24. They began to suffer for my unresolved feelings of self-hatred, unworthiness, and unforgiveness of self and others. I took parenting classes, engaged in a variety of therapies for myself and my children, I turned back to church and religion. In the midst of it all, as the song states, I looked for love in all the wrong places, bringing more harm to myself, and to them. All the while layering on the guilt and self-blame while masking it underneath and hiding it behind blaming and finding fault with others. Doing my best to love my children through self-hatred and trying to resolve it by learning the correct methods and attitudes to present and mimic to the world in an effort to change who I thought I was.
In the end, I created the very thing I feared, loss of relationship with my children.
In India, we have a saying: Everything will be alright in the end. So if its not alright, it is not yet the end.”The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Thankfully, it is not yet the end.
I had an opportunity to meet with my son a few days ago. He will be 26 this year, about the same age my uncle was when he suddenly became responsible for raising a volatile and deeply damaged 12 year old girl.
He told me that God knew me and all about how damaged I was and what I didn’t have to offer my children when they were born and that God made provision for all of us. It’s true. He did. Throughout my life there have been people who showed me, us, God’s love and concern and exemplified His peace, compassion, and healing.
My son also told me that regardless of anything that has happened or decisions any of us have made, my children love me.
Experiencing and allowing forgiveness of myself and others is what is allowing me to accept and share the love being offered.