forgiveness process

“Time,” the Captain said, “is not what you think.” He sat down next to Eddie. “Dying? Not the end of everything. We think it is but what happens on earth is only the beginning.”
Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

If the above statement is true – if there is life after death – then why would I want to go into that life burdened with old grudges and unforgiveness? And, even if there wasn’t anything after the end, why would I want to carry hatred to my grave. Whom does it hurt? Certainly not the person I hate. It only hurts me, makes me ill, makes my passing even more painful in many ways, and my death all the sadder.

I want to go through the Door with joy, not fear or hatred or unforgiveness still in my heart. But how? Can I do a blanket “I forgive everybody” and receive absolution for my grudges? I have nothing against my Catholic brethren that receive death bed salvation / absolution – that may be the last time a person has a chance to come clean before God.

But I also wonder if I carry a grudge to my grave and beyond, will it have an effect on what Heaven will be like? Will I instead go to hell? Not the kind of fire and brimestone hell I grew up on, or the hell of Dante’s Inferno; but the worst hell I can think of is to be eternally separated from God, to never feel His Love again, to never hear His Voice speaking to my heart again, and to never, ever again to feel His Presence.

So what must I do to rid myself of these grudges and move into forgiveness? What is the process? Sure I could read books and ask people for advice but that isn’t me – I like to figure it out for myself. (This is also evidenced by my attempting to make a dog coat. My sister asked me why didn’t I just get a pattern to make it easier. I told her because I want to figure it out on my own. I am stubborn that way; life is more interesting when it’s hard than when it is easy.)

So I will keep thinking about forgiveness and writing about it until I resolve the issue. Or come to some other conclusion. Or forgive everyone. Or start the process of forgiveness. It just occurred to me I have started the process of forgiveness – just by thinking and writing about it is the beginning of that process – for me. A few years ago, forgiveness was nowhere near on the horizon for me and I would have bitten the head off of anyone who suggested it.

So it has begun…what awaits me in this new, uncharted territory? I am grateful God walks with me through this because that means I am not alone and I will walk through the pain because of Him.



forgiveness is a continual work

(on going to a convalescent home) I have been going there for four years now. I don’t even really look forward to it, but I keep going back for reasons I do not quite understand. Perhaps I am subconsciously hoping it will help me get into the Junior League someday. Still, the moment I walk in and smell those old people again, and find them parked in the hallways like so many cars abandoned by the side of the road, I start begging God not to let me end up like this. But God is not a short order cook, and these people were once my age. I bet they used to beg God not to let them end up as they have….and I struggled to find meaning in their bleak existence. What finally helped was an image from a medieval monk, Brother Lawrence, who saw all of us as trees in winter, with little to give, stripped of leaves and color and growth, whom God loves unconditionally anyway. My priest friend Margaret, who works with the aged and who shared this image with me, wanted me to see that even though these old people are no longer useful in any traditional meaning of the word, they are to be loved unconditionally, like trees in the winter. – Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life

When it is time for the winter of my life, I hope to move through it without any regrets, grudges and old angers. I hope to not be bitter when I am parked in the nursing home hallway like a car on the side of the road. I hope to be joyous even if I am an invalid and have to have someone else take care of my personal needs. I hope to be spending my last days anticipating my Home-going and looking forward to see my Heavenly Parent.

The only way to have those things come to pass is for me to forgive. And let go. And remind myself that I have forgiven and let go each time the old pain surfaces, until, finally, there is no more pain to surface. I am beginning to believe that forgiveness is not a onetime deal, even for the same incident. If the pain goes deep – really deep – we’re talking inner self deep – then forgiveness is a continual work. Like the proverbial onion, there are many layers to hurt and pain and with each one peeled off and cast aside, there is always a new one underneath until we eventually reach the core.

With that in mind, I understand that it is okay to forgive someone for hurting me and when something else surfaces that is a painful reminder of the original hurt, I tell myself “I have forgiven that person and I choose to do so again.”
All pain and hurt is relative to the person experiencing it. In other words, what is painful to me is not necessarily painful to another. The deepest pain is the hardest to heal and forgive. Someone else might see my struggle as futile and repetitious just as I might see their struggle and wonder why it is taking them so long to forgive. We all need to be mindful of how we approach another person’s healing process. God is ever patient; so must we be with ourselves and others.

Help me, O Lord, as I pull back another layer of pain in order to forgive.


forgiven and forgotten?

What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty!
In form, in moving, how express and admirable!
In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god!
The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
-William Shakespeare, Hamlet

On Sunday I wrote about holding grudges or to put in another way, refusing to forgive the people who have hurt me. That issue seems to be coming to the forefront an awful lot lately. Maybe it is because it is time to let them go. To forgive and forget. Or maybe just to forgive. Or, maybe even just to forget.

There have been a few hurts I have forgiven but have I forgotten? Sometimes when I am reminded of a past pain, I think I am still holding a grudge. But am I? Maybe all I need is reminding that I have already forgiven and let that pain go.

I don’t know. It is a work in progress for me. Hamlet would not be singing my praises about how noble in reason I am. Or how infinite in wisdom. Or articulate and splendid in thought and deed. Certainly I am no angel or like a god in any way shape or form. But then, who really is?

This is a struggle for me but I will continue to broach the subject and eventually work it out.