Forgiveness

Writing Prompt: August Scrawls Day 7

Letting Go

Thoughts of you won’t go away
Feelings won’t be annulled
My heart’s freedom, obliterated
None of this in my control

I judged myself insensate
My obsession as obtuse
My desire for you puerile
My hope, confusing to deduce

Now I understand the truth
There’s neither fault or blame
I know it was a fantasy
Though I’ll never be the same

It will take as long as it will take
For my heart to heal and grow
I must now forgive us both
If ever I’m to let you go

Writing Prompt:

August Scrawls – annul

IG: hopelessperriott

Attitude: Minimization or Amplification? How does your attitude affect your life?

There are a lot of quotes and conversations floating around “out there” about attitude and it’s impact on our lives.

I had the opportunity to watch two different Google Hangouts where the role of attitude came up. The first was a conversation between Robert Kennedy III and Julia Neiman, “What Success Looks Like.”  The second hangout, with Marc Schelske and friends, looks at, “The role of attitude in spiritual growth.” 

At 10:20 into the conversation with Julia Neiman, Robert asked, “What do you do daily to encourage or inspire yourself?”

Julia referred to a daily practice she has, “The 10/10 List,” where she spends time every morning going over ten things she’s grateful for, as part of entering into a daily, “Attitude of Gratitude” for the rest of her day:

“If you are in an attitude of gratitude, you are in the zone. And you cannot help but feel happy if you are grateful. When you’re feeling grateful and in an attitude of gratitude . . . things come to you, when you are grateful for what you have.”

I used to hear this kind of thing while I was busy being anxious, depressed, stressed, and miserable. The only things I could focus on that I had, were my troubles and difficulties. The disruption, pain, and chaos from my past, which had come to define who I was and was an ever present part of my existence.

“So, I’m supposed to be grateful for ______?!?” Fill in the blank with the problem du jour, and you have a pretty good representation of my attitude: incredulity, disbelief, disgust, and bewilderment. I couldn’t see the value in being grateful for the painful, difficult, unjust, and downright ridiculous issues I had dealt with most of my life.

I know a lot of people like this. I’ve known them in all eras of my life. People who hold onto their pain, contempt, disdain, and offended sense of everything that is wrong with the world, their lives, and the people around them. The critics, the victims, and the ones we tend to carelessly, however justified, label as manipulative, crazy, and hateful.

I had a conversation with my oldest daughter the other day about such a person. A woman who is my age, and the mother of a couple of my daughter’s friends. Apparently this woman uses, manipulates, and abuses anyone and everyone she comes into contact with. During a text conversation where she was threatening and abusive toward my daughter, she sent screen shots of the conversation to one of her daughters. When our daughters met up, the friend said something like, “She was completely in the wrong for doing that. But you know how it is, it’s my mom. It will blow over and she’ll be okay.”

She was really frustrated and bewildered because she couldn’t understand how this woman’s behavior could be excused or accepted in any way, shape, or form. She’s convinced that because everyone around her lets her get away with the behavior, that she’s never going to change or be different and that it’s the fault of those who put up with it and accept it.

I suggested that it sounds as if this woman might have some mental/emotional health issues and a personality disorder or two. Her response was rather explosive. The idea that people who have these kind of challenges being allowed to have a “pass” on disruptive, destructive, and devastating behavior, simply because they have a mental/emotional health problem and everyone else just has to be okay with it, is one which my daughter finds distinctly unpalatable.

For me, this all hits me in tender areas in my heart and mind, spirit and soul.

Matthew 7 3 5

Matthew 7:3-5
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
3 Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you have the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye!

I’ve been this kind of person in the lives of others at various times in my history, in various ways. Every single person I’m related to and whom I love, have had these kinds of things show up in their actions towards myself and others.

How do I condemn another for something I can recognize inside of myself? How do I hold them accountable and not hold myself accountable? By what measure do I determine where to draw the line?

The position, or attitude, that focuses on the wrongs of others and external things as the source of our misery or happiness is one that minimizes the role we play and the effect we have on our own lives through our choices based on thoughts, beliefs, and experiences.

Like the overwhelmingly strong and powerful adult elephant in the circus who is kept docile and harmless by a braided rope, we are kept limited in our effectiveness, by the experiences and beliefs we gained from them when we were younger, weaker, less knowledgeable, and under the care and responsibility of those who may not have had our best interest at heart.

Sovann Pe on spiritual growth

We have the ability to do some self-examination and self-reflection to identify where our own limitations and boundaries are false beliefs limiting us, creating and attracting all the negatives we perceive as keeping us down in our lives. When we are ready to stop focusing on everything and everyone else, when we become willing to look at the log in our own eyes, that is when our attitudes and the things that form them can begin to change.

I know this because it is the path I’m on now. I am discovering that the more I adopt an attitude of acceptance, self-awareness, forgiveness, and trust the more powerfully I am able to accomplish constructive and positive things in my life and the more I am surrounded by others who are engaged in similar journeys.

What attitudes may or may not be working well in your life?

Additional Resources:

Pre-forgiveness: Continuing the conversation

A few days ago, I posted a SUPER long post about forgiveness in response to a writing prompt from my friend, Marc Schelske. Later he requested I respond to the post he had written, “OK, I admit it. I hate forgiveness too,” as a result of responses he had received regarding his original post, Does the church hate forgiveness? (Like Jonah).

He talked about things, which I think we all struggle with, Christian or non. Things like holding onto woundedness and the need to have the offending party “pay the price” or “feel the pain” for the original offense.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve spent a lot of my life caught up in that kind of thinking.

As a teenager, having “lost” my mom when I was twelve years old and being in my uncle’s custody, a lot of things that shouldn’t have happened did and a lot of things that should have happened didn’t. I was made to be responsible for and exposed to things that a young teenager should be insulated and sheltered from, in an ideal world.

I wanted out. I wanted away from my “white trash” beginnings and the dysfunction of weird, convoluted relationships, alcohol and substance use and abuse. I wanted to have a life where I didn’t have to move every year or two and try to integrate into a new school with new kids. I wanted to be involved on the flag team, the gymnastics team, and the dance team. I wanted him to show up and care, to fill out the forms, attend the events, and offer me support and encouragement for the things that meant something to me.

He wasn’t able to do those things, for a lot of reasons I couldn’t see or understand.

I watched him pursue and engage in toxic and co-dependent relationships with bent, broken, and damaged people while neglecting his responsibilities to me and to my baby cousin. I watched my grandmother take responsibility for us when she wasn’t well enough to do so. For a brief period of time, which felt like forever to my 15/16 year old self, I handled parenting and life responsibilities, which were his, because he was absent. Yet, when he showed up, I was subject to his authority.

It was bewildering, infuriating, and absolutely unfair. I desperately wanted to graduate from high school, get my college degree, and leave everyone and everything I was going through far, far behind me.

Instead, I wound up running away from home at 16 and became a mom at 17. Then I had a second child when I was 24.

I repeated all of the same patterns and made similar choices that passed on the damage I had experienced to my children. All the while I held onto the stories of what I had gone through with all the resentment, bitterness, judgment and unforgiveness which had become imedded in my heart, mind, and soul.

I watched myself say and do things that wounded and harmed people I loved with all my heart and I fought as hard as I could, trying to change the direction of our lives. Church, counseling, education, and 12 Step Recovery processes (secular and faith-based). None of it ever seemed to change what I was doing or what I was experiencing.

When my son was about fifteen years old, he chose to move out of my home because of how overwhelmingly dysfunctional and painful it had become. I saw myself and my uncle and the things that had transpired between us. It was then I realized, the harm he’d done had happened because he, himself had been wounded and damaged, and that he did not know any better than I did how to make the changes that needed to be made.

In the last eleven years, I have learned to do two things, partly as a result of the 12 Steps:

Make-life-easier-assume

1. AIM – Assume Innocent Motive: Whenever someone, anyone, says or does something that affects me in a painful and destructive manner, I think over all the times I have done the same, without ill intent but just because I was too screwed up to do different. I know that, most of the time, whatever it is that has been done was not intended to cause me harm. Yes it still hurts, but it helps me to let go of the false belief that their choices and behavior are about me.

SEEK-FIRST-TO-UNDERSTAND

2. Understanding. By seeking to understand who the other person is, where they are coming from, and the things that are informing and driving their behavior, I am able to let go of expectations for them to be other than who they are.

Finally, it has taken me the better part of the last 17 months to work through a lot of deeply rooted guilt, shame, bitterness, and resentment. It has been a long and arduous journey to truly believe and receive in the forgiveness of God through Jesus. Until I could internalize that, I was filled with self-hatred and unforgiveness of myself.

What Jesus did on the cross, the plan that God set in motion from the foundation of the world was a supreme act of Pre-Forgiveness. Once I understood that, I began to choose, in advance, that whatever pain and suffering I experienced at the hand of others, especially those I love, I was going to forgive and let go of. I love them. I want them in my life. I want them to know that, no matter what, I am not going to forsake or abandon them as I have done before. I am going to be with them in all ways, the way Jesus promised to be with me, with us, always.

Pedestrians, Drivers, Church, and Forgiveness

I suppose you want to see where I go with the, doncha’? Well, so do I. So, let’s get started.

Approximately an hour before I began writing, I was ranting, raving upset over an encounter I’d had, as a pedestrian, with a driver who decided it was appropriate to yell at me as I was crossing the street, holding my little girl’s hand and carrying a heavy tote bag of groceries.

“Why don’t you walk as slow as you can? It’s not EVEN a crosswalk!”

“As a matter of fact, it IS a crosswalk,” I yelled back at him as I hobbled the rest of the way across the road, glancing over my shoulder to notice the nice, shiny, red pickup truck he was driving. “You need to read your Oregon Driver’s Manual,” I muttered and mumbled under my breath. I planned to come straight home and write a rant post about it. I am not going to rant, although I AM going to provide the chapter and verse of the 2012 – 2013 Oregon DMV Driver’s Manual, which specifies who has the right of way in these kinds of circumstances.

Section 5: Sharing the Road, Pedestrians, pp. 79: Drivers must recognize the special safety needs of pedestrians. Drivers should be especially alert for pedestrians who are young, elderly, disabled, or intoxicated. . . Generally, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections. There is a crosswalk at every intersection, even if it is not marked by painted lines. [emphasis mine] . . . By law, the area included in the unmarked crosswalk is not less than 6 feet wide and exists even if there is no sidewalk or shoulder. . . At an intersection where pedestrians are crossing, you must wait until the pedestrians have cleared your lane and the entire next lane before you may go. . . . You must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians on the sidewalk when entering or leaving an alley, driveway, or private road.

The area where I was crossing had the sloped ramp for wheelchairs to get on and off of the sidewalk. I was crossing a one-way road along the pathway of a street, which often appears to the uninitiated to be a private road from the medical complex that goes into a parking area for medical center staff and visitors. It is actually a street, complete with a street sign. I was in an unmarked crosswalk, with my extremely tired and less than cooperative four year old daughter (very young) and I have fibromyalgia and have provided medical documentation to the transit company to qualify for an Honored Citizen Bus Pass (disabled). I had waited for the bus to move and began crossing when it appeared oncoming traffic was more than a block away.

Yet I was yelled at and criticized for “taking my time” to cross the road where no crosswalk was labeled.

I was hot, literally from the 85+ degree weather we had today, as well as emotionally and psychologically, in physical pain, frustrated and exhausted from trying to cope with an overtired, hot, cranky, and recalcitrant four-year-old, I wanted to do WAY more than just yell at him that I had been in a crosswalk. Knowing or believing that it is unlikely he will ever read whatever I wrote, I had it in my head that I was going to write a full-on, scathing rant about drivers who think they own the road because they have a quarter ton of metal surrounding them on four wheels.

First the child had to get settled in. Groceries needed put away. I tried to take a five minute break to myself, which got interrupted. So, I got into the shower to wash the dried sweat and layer of griminess that invisibly coated my skin. Finally, I sat down at the computer and my phone rang. It was a friend experiencing a bit of a crisis and he just needed me to set aside my mental to do list and be a friend in that moment.

*Sigh*

33 minutes later we said our goodbyes and I was left wondering what exactly I was going to write about this whole thing, because something inside of me was saying I needed to write and I needed to write about this incident, even though I no longer had the fire of passive-aggressive, righteous indignation fueling my ire.

Why? What’s the point? It’s not like that driver is likely to ever see this blog post, right? Perhaps. Okay, then, well, why?

Then it hit me, forgiveness and church.

Say what? How in the world is this connected to THAT?

My friend, Marc Schelske, an author, blogger, and pastor of Bridge City Community Church recently welcomed me into a circle of writers who are willing to engage in discussion and conversation about matters of spirituality, faith, church, the bible and other topics which may come up along the way to intersect and relate to these. He posted a prompt question that was derived from a recent blog post of his, Does the church hate forgiveness? (Like Jonah). The question is, “Do you hate forgiveness?”

My simple, straightforward answer is, “No, I need it every day.” I need it when I snap, snarl, and yell in frustration at Luna because something she did, just because she’s a four year old little kid, inconvenienced me or tripped my last nerve because I was beyond my limits and ability to cope. Sadly, embarrassingly, exasperatingly, I have to confess it happens daily, often multiple times a day. I’m doing a lot better job with her than I did with her older sibs, but there is still a LOT of room for growth. I’m a good mom, but even good moms lose it more often than they like or want to admit to themselves or anyone else.

Here’s how it relates back to the incident with the driver vs. pedestrian scenario. I’m also a licensed driver, I just don’t own a vehicle. Occasionally, I get to drive and when I do, I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve failed to yield the right of way to pedestrians . . . even though I know better. Occasionally, a pedestrian or two have shared unkind words and gestures with me when I’ve unintentionally scared them with my failure to follow the words written in the Driver’s Manual.

The Driver’s Manual is a list of rules and the instructions for following those rules with identified potential consequences for failing to heed the words in the book. It’s fairly straightforward and everyone who obtains a driver’s license must pass a test in order to legally get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive. Each licensed driver signs off and is certified that they know the rules of the road and agree to obey them.

Yet, there are still so many drivers who do not share the same understanding of what a crosswalk is and what their responsibility is to pedestrians, even though it is laid out in no uncertain terms.

The Bible is often identified as an acronym, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It contains rules, instructions, and consequences too. However, there’s narrative, metaphor, literal and figurative all wrapped around the rules, instructions, and consequences. There is so much disagreement there are multiple religions that use it and within each of those religions there are sects or denominations that can’t agree on numerous points.

However, the bible says anyone who believes on/in Jesus is part of the body of believers and the body of believers is the church. That’s it. No test. No signed commitment or agreement to follow the rules. Believe in Jesus and let Him in. This means I am the church and anyone who claims the name of Jesus is the church, even if we interpret it differently, forget to do what we know, or get to caught up in what’s right in front of us too much to pay attention to what’s happening around us.

It’s possible Mr. Red Truck is also a believer who was having a bad day. Even if he isn’t a believer, my instruction manual tells me to forgive him.

Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you.” ~ Contemporary English Version, via Bible Gateway

These words are attributed to Jesus. He not only said it, he gave the strongest example of it when he hung on the cross, facing the jeers and cheers of his fellow Jews, watching some of his friends and confidants, his students and fellow travelers turn their backs on him and deny him.

Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive these people! They don’t know what they’re doing.” ~ Contemporary English Version, via Bible Gateway

Whoever he is, whatever he believes, the guy in the red truck did not know what he was doing. He didn’t know me, my situation, or my circumstances. He didn’t know how his actions and words affected me. He obviously didn’t know that particular portion of the Driver’s Manual. Neither do I know him or what’s going on in his life. None of it matters. Enemy or friend, stranger or brother, I am called to forgive as I am forgiven. I receive grace and forgiveness daily. That means I have plenty to give, once I stop to think about it.

Love them all. Let God sort it out

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I grew up in Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry Era, back in the days when John Wayne was the cinematic epitome of “old school” manhood and gritty, gruff men like Charles Bronson were the questionably unquestioned good guys in their take no prisoners cop roles on the silver screen.

During this era, is probably when I first heard the phrase, “Kill ’em all. Let God sort ’em out.”

Sadly, this sentiment actually dates back to the 1200’s during the massacres of so-called heretics, back when the church was the governing political power in Europe. Basically, stating that it doesn’t matter if good and righteous people couldn’t be distinguished from the so-called heretics. Kill everyone as a potential source of heresy and when they were dead God would know His own.

800 years or so have passed and WE still think like this.

Whether it is about religion, guns, corporations, banks, assistance recipients, or those in the criminal justice systems. It is gender bias, national & tribal prejudice, and a myriad of other social injustices and inequalities. Teenagers vs adults, women vs men, LGBT vs straight, have nots vs haves.

We declare that people are selfish, ignorant, or uncaring and criticize their mistakes based on our assumptions are of who they appear to be to our naked eye. All because we were delayed or inconvenienced in our own personal pursuit of our personal desire or mission.

I believe the time has come to make a radical shift in our thoughts, our assumptions, our words and our actions. Especially if we claim to be Christians.

We proclaim the biblical declaration in John 3:16 that ” God so loved the world…” THE WORLD.

God loves the entire world and all who live, have ever lived, or will ever live. He doesn’t love evil, hateful, abusive, and murderous thought or action that may be in the hearts and minds of anyone, but He loves EVERYONE.

He had mercy on a brother killer as well as an adulterer who was also a manipulative abuser of power and a murderer by proxy. He included a woman who has been considered to be a prostitute into the lineage of the One whom many call Savior. He turned a narrow-minded religious zealot who persecuted and wrongfully killed many people because they came to believe in a different spiritual path to God.

I venture to suggest that if the people, who committed such heinous, hurtful, and unwholesome acts were redeemed and redirected into becoming people of faith and love, then we don’t get to decide who is beyond redemption. It is not our place to look at the crimes and errors in a person’s life and decide he or she is not worthy of love and compassion.

Certainly, we are within our rights to limit their ability to continue to do harm, if their actions indicate they are dangerous to others, especially those least able to defend themselves. However, do so without vicious hatred and contempt.

As difficult as it is, the law I chose to live by is the law of love. I have gotten it wrong and forgotten that directive a lot of times. Each time I have done so and spoken or acted out of my own woundedness and pain, I have caused more damage than I mitigated.

I have to remember and open myself to Divine Love in order to choose to act and speak in love to the people in my world whose words and actions cause me to want to withdraw in fear, hurt, disgust, embarrassment, anger, helplessness and discomfort. It is my job to love them all and let God sort them out.

The time has come to let go of human judgement and allow Divine Love: forgiveness, grace, compassion, empathy, reconciliation, faith, and hope to infuse and permeate the mind and heart and flow into constructive thought and action.

Experiencing Forgiveness

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 resentmentindignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.[1][2] (Wikipedia)

A pastor friend of mine, Marc Alan Schelske, shared a Facebook photo about forgiveness with the following quote:

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:

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.