and waiting for the other person to die.”
Much like the old poem finding occasional rebirth, now and then a certain quip will burst forth from the mundane dialogue of life as the most poignant morsel of wisdom.
This is a line from this past Friday’s episode of my favorite TV show, “Ghost Whisperer”. As I’ve mentioned before, I love ghost stories. And I mean * LOVE * ! Ghost stories! If you love ghost stories too check this show out. Anyway, last week’s story involved a man of, let’s say, undesirable character, who had died and sought to relieve a personal burden by seeking forgiveness for some offenses before he could leave this world. He had made the above statement, a realization that had come to him all too late but was soon enough for him to pass to those he was leaving behind.
I have mused about forgiveness before, but this quote brought it all back to me in a new voice. It is difficult to forgive someone who has deeply hurt us, even altered the paths of our lives with their actions. I work hard at my battles with this very thing. I only have a few storms in my life of which I can’t seem to fully shake the resentment – but man, are they powerful. I say I forgive, but with those few experiences I will sometimes catch myself returning to feelings of bitterness and anger when I think upon them. I’ve often thought of unforgiveness as a veritable pair of cement shoes, preventing me from moving on to happier days while others, including those who hurt me, leave it (and me) all behind them.
But to put the concept of unforgiveness in these terms – the metaphor of a grudge poisoning you yourself rather than the person who hurt you – is, quite simply, perfect. Just a perfect description. We like to think that sending mental daggers at those who have hurt us is beneficial – somehow assembling a signpost so that bad karma will find them. But to not forgive really doesn’t affect the offender in any way. Chances are, as the resentment eats away at your heart and soul and you harbor the bitterness years later, the offender has moved on and all but forgotten the entire event. Meanwhile, like a runaway kidney stone, the grudge calcifies your insides. Sometimes people even forget how to separate their hard feelings for one situation from all the rest.
So what’s the purpose? Just to poison yourself?
Even putting the teachings of my personal faith aside (which indeed commands me to forgive if I expect forgiveness from the Almighty), the ability to forgive those who have broken my heart in one fashion or another is emancipating on multiple levels. The shackles of a grudge weigh down no one but the harborer, and the venom only turns back on them and their own present life and immediate company.
I don’t want that. I don’t know who would.
Forgiving isn’t forgetting, and it isn’t saying what someone did was all right. But it does release the power the offense holds over me. No doubt many tasks of forgiveness take some time and great amounts of effort. But as this quote captures in its simplistic simile, it’s a goal well worth pursuing.
The next time the bitter bile of a grudge bubbles up within me, I'm going to remember this new perspective, and work on detoxing myself.