Pitfalls of Forgiveness: Part Two

I wanted to subtitle this one: “How NOT to forgive somebody.”   I got this crazy idea that  if somebody whom I have resented would only answer a few questions for me, I would finally “understand” the situation, and therefore finally “forgive” the guy.   After all, isn’t there a French proverb that reads: “To understand all is to forgive all?”   Sure there is!  Therefore,  if I could only understand this fellow’s baffling behavior toward me, then naturally I would finally arrive at a moment like this:

“Oh!  I get it!  That’s why you said all those weird and totally hurtful things!  I understand now!   It all makes sense!!  Finally, I forgive you, man!!!”

Believe me, this is not the way to approach the matter.  However, it did result in my compiling a rather amusing questionnaire.   (Names of people, places, and things have been changed.)

Hey Tom –

As you know, I’ve been having a very difficult time forgiving you for nearly two years now.    Largely, this is due to a single conversation in which you suddenly decided, among other things, that you were not really my good, close friend, but only a “casual acquaintance.”

Being as we have had many close conversations over a twenty year period of time, this demotion seemed a bit unfair.  Come to think of it, however, it was only I who kept revealing all kinds of personal information to you, thinking you were one of my very best friends.  Perhaps this explains why you would often take the information I conveyed to you in confidence and freely distribute among your many associates.  Had I been your friend, and not just some random guy, you might have been more loyal.

It appears that either you are one of the most malicious people I’ve ever met, or one of the stupidest.  I sure hope the latter is the case.  If you are stupid, then you simply don’t realize the implications of your statements, and therefore it is more difficult for me to find fault with you.

All right.  Here are the questions.  Please help me to forgive you.  It’s true that I hate you now, but if we work together, and you adjust your behavior accordingly, we will eventually reach the place where you are no longer hated.  I will then bid you adieu.

Best Regards,



1. The reason why I demoted you from being a very close friend to only a “casual acquaintance” is:

(a) You became homeless right around the time when I was starting to become a millionaire, and it embarrassed me as a millionaire to have a homeless friend.

(b) Friendship implies an even exchange, but because of your problems, we have not been able to have that exchange.

(c) You have always only been a casual acquaintance of mine.  I felt I finally had to inform you of this, because it appeared you were treating me as though I were your very best friend.

(d) I meant to say something like “close acquaintance” or “frequent associate” but it came out wrong.   I was nervous at the time.

2.  The reason why I identified my upbringing as “lower middle class” is:

(a) I did not know the definition of lower middle class, and did not realize that being brought up in an affluent area, having a dad who owned an automotive business, a mother who was a successful piano teacher, and an opportunity to attend one of the highest tuition schools in the nation spells “upper middle class,” not “lower middle class.”

(b) I do know the definition of lower middle class, but I still insist that we were actually lower middle class, despite the aforementioned factors.

(c) I saw people when I was growing up who clearly had bigger houses, better jobs, etc., and naturally figured they were the ones in the higher classes.

(d) I was afraid to admit I was upper middle class because I see that you hang out only with other poor people.  So I was afraid of being left out.

3. The reason I had to notify you that you are only a “casual acquaintance” of mine, and not a “close friend,” as you seemed to believe, is:

(a) You were digging too deeply into my personal doodoo, and I felt I needed to finally let you know that you weren’t one of my closer friends.

(b) I did not know the definition of “casual acquaintance”  I had meant to say something more along the lines of “close acquaintance” or “frequent associate.”

(c) I believe that people who have made money in this world, especially those who have done so by hard work as I have, are innately superior to lazy bums like you, Andy.  When you became homeless and I became a millionaire, well — it just didn’t look good.  I was afraid you might show up at the golf club looking like a hobo and hitting me up for a five dollar bill.

(d) I sincerely believe that your problems — whatever they are — disqualify you from being friends with a guy like me who clearly has far fewer problems.


4. The reason why I apologized to you for “thinking you were bipolar” is:

(a) I figured out on my own that you couldn’t be bipolar because all the mood swings and so forth could easily be explained through severe drug abuse.

(b) I am unaware of psychiatric diagnoses in general, and the words “dual diagnosis” have no particular meaning for me.

(c) I remembered that you had repeatedly asked me not to tell total strangers that you were “bipolar” and I confused this for your insisting you were *not* bipolar.  Just a brain fart, my bad.

(d) I figured that since I consistently broke your confidence and told everybody you were bipolar, you would now conclude that I would now begin to tell everybody that you were a drug addict.  I did this because I figured it would freak you out so much that I would finally be able to get rid of you, you worthless hum-bum, you.


5. The reason why I used the pronoun “one” instead of “I” when I said: “One hesitates to answer your question for fear of your reaction,” is:

(a) I sincerely believe that everybody else responds to you, Andy, the same way that I do.

(b) I do not know the correct usage of personal pronouns.

(c) I intentionally wanted to put you down and make you feel worse about yourself.

(d) I earnestly believe that I am an innately superior being to you, Andy, and that you and I are not equals in the eyes of God.


6. The reason why I changed your classification from “bipolar” to “drug addict” is because:

(a) I have never personally smoked marijuana and I did not know that not every person who occasionally takes a hit of weed is a drug addict.  Sorry about that.

(b) All homeless people are drug addicts.  How else could somebody become homeless?

(c) Not having used any illicit drugs, I don’t really see how a person can possibly resort to such substances and not be a drug addict, even though I drink like a fish and insist that I am not an alcoholic.

(d) I was intentionally trying to make you totally paranoid that I would now tell everybody you were a drug addict just like I used to tell everybody you were bipolar.


7. The reason why I helped me with a few bucks to get out of the Bay Area and start a new life in Idaho was:

(a) I figured you were so talented you will probably become famous and then later I can take some credit for it.

(b) I just wanted to do something good for somebody, and you seemed like someone I could help.

(c) I actually liked you and thought of you as a friend at the time, before your many problems converted you into only an acquaintance.   I did not like to see my friend suffering.  Now that you’re only an acquaintance, of course, you may suffer all you wish.

(d) I was trying to get rid of you.  Figured the best way at this point was to ship you out of State.

8. The reason why I suggested you seek funding from a religious organization to produce your non-religious musical was:

(a) I didn’t know what your musical was about, but I assumed it was a Christian or religious musical, because you have those leanings.

(b) I didn’t put together the obvious fact that if I didn’t know what your musical was about, it made no sense to suggest it be funded by a religious organization, because it might not have been a religious musical.  Sorry Andy, I hate to admit it, but I’m really not very bright.

(c) I simply like to give advice, and this just happened to be a rare instance in which the advice I like to give didn’t make sense.  You know, when you’re a chronic advice-giver, it’s hit and miss.

(d) I was only trying to help!


9. The reason why I called you on New Years Eve driving home from a gig, even though I had already notified me that you are only a casual acquaintance of mine is:

(a) I do not know the correct definition of “casual acquaintance.”

(b) I like to call my casual acquaintances on long drives, to kill time.  I usually make over 100 such calls on a particularly long drive.

(c) I was bored.

(d) I actually like you, Andy.   I don’t mind talking to you for hours on end every now and then, but please Andy — you’re a Poor Boy.  I’m a Rich Man.  Stay in your place from now on, please!


10. The reason why I haven’t talked to you for over two years now is:

(a) You freaked me out.

(b) You are an asshole.

(c) As I said before, I’ve been trying to get rid of you.

(d) I earnestly believe that I am a superior being to you due to my innate superiority, and I only wish to retain contact with my equals.


11. The reason why I don’t read the Bible much and am not familiar with Scripture, though I claim to be a Christian, is:

(a) The Bible is hard to understand and I don’t believe I’m smart enough to grasp its contents.

(b) I don’t think a person needs to read the Bible in order to be a good Christian.

(c) I don’t really think of myself as a Christian.  In my world, you have to be both a Christian and a Republican to gain acceptance among those in my social class. It’s just a game I play in order to find friends.

(d) I have seen what a lot of Bible reading has done to guys like you, Andy, and I don’t want to become that way.


12.  The reasons why I kept lecturing you on how to live your life is:

(a) You kept taking my lectures seriously and following most of the advice I was giving you.  Most people don’t do that, because most people don’t like to receive advice they haven’t asked for.  You were different, and I appreciate it, because I really enjoy helping people out with all my (unsolicited) advice.

(b) I sincerely know how you should live your life in order to get past all these many issues of yours and become a guy like me who obviously has no issues.

(c) I was only trying to help!

(d) I hate to break it to both of us, but the bottom line is that I am simply too stupid to realize that I shouldn’t be giving a constant stream of unsolicited advice to every Tom, Dick and Harry on the block, especially when most of them are about five times as intelligent as I am.

Mercifully, I did not send the questionnaire.   In fact, by the time I finished it, I no longer wanted to.  I looked at the bulk of the evidence, and decided that Hanlon’s Razor is right:

Scrummaster Needed Desperately at LAST Conf 2016 in ...


Of course, this begs the question: “Why on earth did I listen to all these uninvited lectures in the first place?

The answer is this.  When you’re homeless, and you’re out on the streets, and you’re not sleeping very well, and you’re being treated left and right as though you are a totally worthless scum bag with no clue how to live your life, you eventually begin to believe it.

So you turn to those who appear to be doing well, and you eat up their worthless advice as though it were manna from heaven.  Somehow, you don’t realize until you finally get inside that their advice pertains only to the world of the wealthy.  It has no relevance whatsoever to the world of the underprivileged — the world in which you actually live.

As far as forgiveness is concerned, as Bryan Wagner has pointed out, it has nothing to do with the other person at all.   The idea of requesting that someone alter their behavior in order that you might forgive them is absurd.   Had they been willing to do something like that, you’d have never resented them in the first place.

Forgiveness is an inside job.  It can only be accomplished in that place inside you where you meet your True and Highest Self.  It can only be accomplished in the heart.

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Lonely Hearts

This one is from my daughter Angela (whom I call “Echo”).  We were talking on the phone this morning when she began to write a song about me.   This afternoon she expanded it into a larger song called “Lonely Hearts” and has now posted it to her youtube.   


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Got to Get You into My Life

Another clip from the Beatles show, very early on.  Obviously, I’d not yet grasped that I don’t need to hit those electronic keys quite as hard as the keys on the Baldwin Grand.  (Not that I exactly need to hit the Baldwin keys as hard as I do either.  I just like it like that.)

Dave Harlan is the sound man, the guy who helped put the music stand back on the piano after I hit the keys so hard it fell over onto the floor.  (He also happens to be the director of Eden in Babylon.) Paul Anders on the Cajon, and one can even detect my pastor Norman in the audience, as well as the very kind woman Marilyn who gave me my Howard upright piano for free.   Even covered the piano moving.   Lots of nice people in da hood.

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Pitfalls of Forgiveness: Part One

As most of  you know, I am of a genetic heritage (Sicilian) that is noted for resisting the notion of forgiveness.   Some of us seem to have an alarming capacity to take our grudges to our graves.   However, because I am a Christian, and I take the Bible seriously, I would like to make sure that I forgive those whom I still begrudge.   Yet I frankly find forgiveness of these people to be next to impossible. 

But I’ve got to forgive them!   Even if I didn’t identify as a Christian, I’d probably still feel a need to forgive them, if for no other reason than that a lingering resentment doesn’t feel good.   Resentments against others eat away at one’s mental health.   If I weren’t a Christian, I would want to let go of these grudges for my sake.   But because I am a Christian, it is not only for my own sake that I must forgive.  It is for God’s sake — for the sake of all that is good and just and kind in this world.  Look what Jesus said:

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.
–Mark 11:25-26

So if we want to be forgiven, then we need to forgive.   That much seems simple and sound.   But whether or not you are conversant with Scripture, these words of Jesus are likely to strike a puzzling note.   Aren’t we Christians the ones who believe that we simply are forgiven?   As in, no matter what we do?

forgiveWell, yes and no.   There are Christians and there are Christians.  A Calvinist might believe this.  An Arminian might not.   We could get into Romans Six and all that, but this single Scripture definitely appears to contradict numerous biblical references to the security of the believer. Have our names not been written on the Book of Life since “before the foundation of the world?”  If I am a Christian, and I believe that God has already forgiven me, then why would I need to forgive anyone else in order to secure His forgiveness?   

Although I’ve read numerous studies on the matter, they seem by and large to be rationalizations.   One suggested that Jesus speaks in this context not to “believers” but to “people in the world.”   But that doesn’t hold water.   Jesus is simply speaking to everybody — to whoever has ears to hear — whether they believe Him or not.

So I pondered this apparent contradiction for a long time.  Finally, I arrived at a reconciliation within myself, as a result of performing the following dialectic:

Q. What’s bugging you?

A. I think I might be going to hell.

Q. Why?

A. There are three people in my life whom I have not forgiven.  

Q. But aren’t you a Christian?

A. That depends upon what you mean by “Christian.”

Q. What do you mean by Christian?

A. A Christian (according to me) is a person who is in the process of being saved.

Q. Saved from what?

A. From the just consequences of our many misdeeds.

Q. Can you document this scripturally?

A. I can try.   Romans 10:9 states:  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  According to this Scripture, these are the two prerequisites for salvation.

Q. Do you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord?

A. Sometimes.

Q. Do you believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead?

A. Always.

Q. Then why would you not be saved?

A. Because I haven’t forgiven these three people, and God says I have to forgive them if I want to go to heaven.

Q. Do you want to forgive them?

A. Oh yes!

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. I keep trying, but I keep winding up going back to the grudges.   It’s not that I don’t want to forgive them, it’s that I don’t feel I have the power to do so.

Q. But as a Christian, doesn’t your power come from God?

A. Well, if it doesn’t, then it ought to.

Q. Then why not ask God to empower you to forgive them?

A. Good idea.   I will do so immediately.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.

Q. What?

A. As I asked God to empower me to forgive the triumvirate whom I begrudge, a thought came to mind.  Something I’d never thought before.

Q. Really?  What thought is that?

A. Since God knows all things, maybe God knows that ultimately, at some time in my life, I am going to forgive all three of them.   Therefore, though I haven’t forgiven them yet — and would certainly go to hell were I to die on this very day — I am still nonetheless going to go to heaven on some future day, because by the time that future day rolls around, I will have forgiven them.   And God knows this!  I may not have forgiven them yet, but I will forgive them.  I will then be free to depart gracefully from the present planet, and take up my throne in heaven.

Q. Your throne?   Isn’t God the one on the throne?

A. 2 Timothy 2:12 & Revelation 20:6, dude.  We’re all gonna be reigning in heaven.   Remember: you are dealing with a person who actually reads the Bible.   I’m not a person who blindly swallows every lie that comes out of the mouth of the preacher on the pulpit.  Nor am I of the camp who absolutely refuse to open the Book, for fear of its contents.   Nor am I —

Q. Excuse me!! What about 1 Corinthians 8:1?

A. Oops — I forgot.  You actually read the Bible, too.

Q. Well, what about it?

A. What about what?

Q. Don’t dodge the question — what about 1 Cor 8:1?   Paul clearly states that the pursuit of knowledge leads to arrogance, whereas the pursuit of love leads to encouragement and spiritual growth.

A. All right, I’ll admit it.  My problem is that I’m too hung up on learning, reading, absorbing, acquiring information, and gaining knowledge.   And despite all of that intellectual focus, the plain fact is that I just don’t have enough love in my heart.   

Q. And Who is Love?

A. You know the answer to that.   Luke 15:9 & John 4:8 come to mind.   God is Love.

Q. Then Whom shall you seek, if you are to learn how to love?

A. Deuteronomy 4:29 & Jeremiah 29:13 hold the answer to that one.

Q. Wasn’t that a bit indirect of you?

A. Was Jesus always direct?

The Questioner is silent.  

Obviously, I’ve arrived at a resolution that is quite pleasant, if tenuous.   It would seem that my next move along these lines should be to forgive the three people whom I continue to begrudge.   So, in Parts 2-4 of this series (if I ever get around to writing them),  please expect me to go through great efforts to forgive the triad of traitors who so treacherously trapped, tricked, and traumatized me.   I’m not going to mention them by name — of course.   But I’m definitely going to delve into it.

Why?  Because I must.  It’s not just being Sicilian.   It’s that I spent way too much time on the streets.   There, the concept of achieving peace of mind over a troubling individual was virtually synonymous with the notion of getting even with them.   If I wanted there to be peace between me and someone with whom I was quarreling,  I didn’t even think about forgiving them.  I thought about intimidating them until they were too scared to mess with me.   It was only then that I would breathe my long-awaited — though highly temporary — sigh of relief.

Let’s put it this way.   I may have Mafioso blood, but I sure didn’t have anything against any of these people before I had to spend twelve years on the streets.


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Gratitude List 1195

1. Slept from 9-2a, and again from about 4-8. Am feeling rested.

2. Nice breakfast, Courtyard Cafe, price has gone up to 3.19 with tax now. Two nice cups of Pikes Peak coffee.

3. Beautiful Idaho summer morning.

4. Doppio, quiet cafe, new table, new friends.

5. Record 98 views on Eden in Babylon yesterday:

6. We got at least three good clips from the show Friday night, although they were all early in the night, and we were just beginning to get warmed up by Eleanor Rigby, which was the end of the first set. Nothing from the second set unfortunately, but still a memento of a beautiful evening, for which to give thanks.

7. My daughter should be up soon and we will probably enjoy a nice conversation.

8. Played at the United Church yesterday. Was able to do the Canticle of the Turning and was blessed; I believe others were blessed as well.   Enjoyed the sermon, too, about the Good Samaritan.  

9. Enjoyed playing at the nursing homes again yesterday afternoon.

10. God is Good.

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Eleanor Rigby

The woman who joins in singing on this one is Kelsey Chapman, who is playing Taura, the leading female role in our production of Eden in Babylon.  There’s a kind of a subtle fury in this one; I like the way it came out.

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