Tuesday, August 14, 2007

LIFE LESSONS ON FORGIVENESS


One of the true blessings of a more relaxed summer pace-of-life is the joy of reading and some introspective soul searching. Having that time to reflect on who I am now, where I have been, and where I need to go is a refreshing and yet at times painful "Time out"! :)

Somehow my time at Cannon Beach always produces a "theme". That topic of learning, for both Sharon and me, may come from a speaker or a book we find at the Cannon Beach bookstore that "calls our name!" This year my soul was so hungry for nourishment of all kinds...spiritual nourishment, physical nourishment, intellectual nourishment, and emotional nourishment. Several books provided food for my soul. Forgiveness by Jerry Jampolsky and Grace Eventually by Ann Lamott were mainstays in my Cannon Beach diet. Both of these books focus in part on forgiving yourself and forgiving others. And then the icing on the cake was reading a post my daughter Jessi made on her blog about forgiveness. Yes, it was truly time to once again re-visit that topic.

I must admit that I always ponder how honest to be as I make blog entries. This isn't a diary and it's not, for me, a way to vent personal issues. How much do I say? How vague do I need to be. Yet one of the joys of being 60 is that authenticity seems to lead the way. Personal growth is a goal. So after saying a prayer...here goes.

I loved my parents dearly and they loved me. They showed up in my life in amazing ways. They had my back. I was adored. Yet they were human, just like I am. They both came from very broken backgrounds. My Dad was abandoned early in life and sent on a train at age 8 to live with a father who didn't want him. My Mom's Dad committed suicide after a terrible auto accident and was found by my Mom and her brothers. Their stories of courage, determination, and hard work parallel their stories of pain and abandonment. They had such hurts around family. The common scenario was to have a fight with a sibling or parent, get estranged, stop talking, never deal with conflict, try to drink the pain away (my dad), never truly forgive, and then after their parent's or sibling's death carry a deep, bone marrow depth grief until their own death. My Dad did not speak to his father for 27 years and my Mom didn't speak to one of her brothers for 15 years. The issues that brought about these estrangements were human hurts caused by human people. This pattern terrifies me to the core of my being!

I learned many positive things from my parents. However forgiveness of self and others was not a part of my family culture growing up.

When I was born with one hand, my dad, in deep despair, left. He left my Mom in the hospital to deal with her own grief and he left me. He, to his credit, came back. I carry that "leaving" in my soul. And I have forgiven him. But the little girl inside me still grapples with having a Daddy who totally loved her not as she was. I have spent much of my life trying to be more, to be better so people would love me. I often wondered if just being me was truly enough.

And then in 8th grade I went to Malibu. Recently at church we have sung the song "Thank you God for blessing me!" I have wept each time we have sung it and cried so hard that I thought I might break!

The words of this song have brought back a vivid picture, long forgotten, of that scared 8th grade girl who pretended to be OK on the outside, but was truly damaged and afraid on the inside. At Malibu I learned that God loved me, just as I was. And God forgave me. And Jesus died for me and won't leave me. My whole life changed! This wasn't about theology or which church to go to. This was about feeling and knowing God's love for the first time. I began to "get" that forgiveness and God's grace, while undeserved, were there for the taking. For the first time I forgave myself for having one hand. For the first time I felt "whole!"

Since that time, so many years ago, I have had two goals...and neither are easy. My first is to love the Lord with all of my mind, heart and spirit....and to love my neighbor as myself! I made a sacred commitment to work on both of these goals. While these words may sound like a cliche'...they are the benchmarks of what matters to me. And taking this walk daily is the hardest thing I have ever done!

I am so utterly, horribly and wonderfully HUMAN! I struggle to give my heart over to God and to truly love others (all others) unconditionally. I struggle with forgiving myself for the huge and small mistakes I make. I struggle with the hurts I receive from others.

Just like my parents...I struggle with forgiveness!

Jerry Jampolsky's book Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All, that I found at Cannon Beach , has helped me in looking at this topic. In the book he makes several statements about forgiveness that really resonate for me. Here are just a few of them:

What we need to forgive in others may be something in ourselves that we have hidden from our own awareness.

We can choose to have peace of mind as a clear goal.

We are responsible for our own happiness.

Forgiveness means seeing the light of God in everyone-regardless of their behavior.

The happiest marriages are built on a foundation of forgiveness.

To not forgive is a decision to suffer.

To be happy, all I have to do is give up my judgements.

The power of love and forgiveness in our lives can produce miracles.

The key word in learning to forgive is the willingness to forgive.

Knowing that God loves you and forgives you is a starting point for loving and forgiving others.

Lots of food for thought! I know in my heart of hearts that all of these statements are true! Living them just isn't easy.

As Ann Lamott says, "I have so many bad thoughts in my head about people that it could make Jesus drink straight gin from a cat dish!" I LOVE this line!

My critical and judgemental voice sometimes just won't shut up! I'm critical of myself and critical of others. Even if the criticisms aren't voiced ..they are there.

I learned at Cannon Beach, some time ago, that criticism is spiritual murder...it murders the spirit of the person being criticized and it murders your own spirit to be filled with critical thoughts!

As I leave Cannon Beach I set up a yearly goal...a spiritual growth area for me to work on. This year my goal is forgiveness. Not a surface forgiveness, but forgiveness at the core! Who do I need to forgive? Who do I need to ask forgiveness from? How do I start this process? It's a HUGE topic for me!

Some of this journey to forgiveness will be found on this blog. Stay tuned! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic...over coffee or on this blog.

God Bless! Love Linda

4 comments:

Kim Ellis said...

Okay Linda - You got the tears flowing a little early this morning for me.

Two things that hit me in your message - "....and to love my neighbor as myself" - this is a problem in society and I think that's why people treat each other so poorly. If people don't love themselves and believe they are worthy then why would they treat other people better than they treat themselves? Thank you for the reminder because I had not put all of that together until I read your post.

Second thing that hit me really hard was "... criticism is spiritual murder...it murders the spirit of the person being criticized and it murders your own spirit to be filled with critical thoughts!" The flood gates opened up on this one and I realized how my criticism of others is wounding them. And I suppose my lack of patience doesn't help either.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and encouraging me to live a better life.

The Farrell Family said...

It seems like forgiveness is on many hearts lately...that is great. I think that this will be a blessing for those who need forgivenss as well as those in need who need to forgive. Burdens will be lifted!

Thanks for your thoughts... as always...thought provoking.

Love you!
me

The Farrell Family said...

...as well as those who need to forgive... guess my brain took a break on vacation :)

jessithompson said...

I am working on this so much lately... letting go, healing, forgiving, and asking for forgiveness. This is tough stuff- but surely a journey worth walking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom. I always appreciate the role model you have been about continually working on yourself. You have taught me that no one never "arrives". We are always on a journey, and hopefully thoughtful about what we can do to become better. I love you.

A Reminder of What Matters...

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