More and more, it strikes me that we make healing much more difficult than it has to be.
We get it into our heads how something should look in action. We try to understand God’s intentions in our own best intentions, only to find that we’ve gummed up the process in the process.
I do these things.
You, on the other hand, may get everything right.
I can’t imagine how old I will have to be to be able to get to that point of getting anything right with God.
I have one redeeming feature, though. At least I know when I’m wrong.
That’s kind of easy for me. I am wrong all the time.
All. The. Time.
Let’s just take my most recent “study”: forgiveness.
I remember in the good, old days when new-age-ish counselors just recommended writing out your forgiveness:
I, Julia, hereby forgive, you, [asshole], for [being a . . . . ]
I should probably stop there.
It was either like an after-school punishment, writing out your “punishment” sentence on the board a hundred times, or it was like writing a contract down, over and over and over again, in order to convince yourself that it was true.
Just how much is seventy times seven again?
And that’s my point: too often, I think, we take on forgiveness as a kind of punishment.
Not the other person.
Not the harm-er.
No. We very diligently set out to punish the harm-ee.
And the very first thing we do when we decide to “be good” and forgive our enemy – or neighbor, or friend, or. . . – is to shut ourselves up. Zip goes the lips.
Our first forgiveness command could very well be, Speak no evil.
When we try to communicate our pain and sorrow to our enemy (or. . .), we work painstakingly hard to make ourselves sound fair to the other person. After all, we’re giving this enemy (or. . .) the benefit of the doubt. We’re trying to communicate.
We are doing our best to put “love thy enemy (or. . .)” into action.
Right from the get-go.
I’ve decided to forgive you. So now I love you.
So where does the [asshole] part get to go?
Anger gets stuffed.
Our accusations get stuffed.
Our screaming at the universe gets stuffed.
Our not-niceness becomes Pollyanna’s best efforts at cheering up a curmudgeon.
We’re going to heal this relationship.
If it kills us.
(Too bad it won’t kill you.)
I guess that was an oops.
Our hurt is not healed by our well-intentioned acts of forgiveness.
Our pain is not relieved by our changing our behavior to putting on a happy face.
It’s just shoved over into a corner and covered over by an old sheet.
No one look there.
I’m still angry. But I’m in the forgiving mode, so I’ll pretend not to be.
Recently I’ve discovered that, indeed, this is nonsense.
This little goody two-shoes act is just a mask that we put on to convince our enemy (or. . .) that we are just so much better than him that God is getting our gold star ready as we speak.
That’s not, I’ve found, what forgiveness is.
Forgiveness is this:
When you find yourself in a situation where you can cause that enemy (or. . .) any sort of pain, when that blessed moment comes that gives you opportunity to take your revenge, forgiveness is consciously putting down the weapon in your hand.
It’s not about smiling.
It’s not about speaking in gentle tones.
You can still say, You, sir, are an asshole and I hate you. I don’t hate certain things about you. Oh, no. I hate everything about you.
And then you put your sword down.
Doesn’t matter how you feel. Doesn’t matter what thoughts are trickling through your steaming brain.
You choose to not act against your enemy.
You choose to not act against your neighbor.
You choose to not act against your friend.
You choose not to act.
And that’s when you are free from the harm that was once done to you.
Some people actually take this a step further. They acknowledge their anger, their hatred, even, and decide to serve their enemy (or. . .) when the time comes.
When That Person is in need or in trouble, the forgiving person chooses to offer a hand.
I have heard and read many stories of people who have sat by the bedside of their dying parent, a parent who caused them untold amounts of anguish during their relationship, and actively cared for that parent.
And the result, as far as I can tell, is a kind of reconciliation.
The awareness of the pain doesn’t go away. And perhaps not all the feelings of resentment and blame aren’t completely resolved.
But the parent becomes a person with whom the child can have a relationship. Can be reached out to or and be able to have a hand held, or a hug received.
The prayer for forgiveness, then, should sound more like a request for a time of reckoning. A time to turn the relationship around.
The focus should not be on us. On reconstructing our feelings to create something we want to call forgiveness.
We should just let the reality of the situation be.
Healing comes after the denouement. After the temptation to harm the enemy (or. . .).
After the time is presented when reaching out a hand with a minimum of force you could push your enemy (or. . .) over the cliff.
With those no longer with us, then, this Moment of Truth has to come to us through our prayers, our visions. We have to focus on the situation over and over and over again until, in spite of being aware of the suffering caused us by this person, we can, with grace, keep our hands at our side, and not present this person to God to be condemned.
This is where our focus on forgiveness should rest.
Becoming a companion to our enemy (or. . .) in the face of God.