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.   To illustrate this, I’ve prepared a fictitious email, sent to someone named “Tom” who hypothetically had offended me.  The nature of the offense is based on truth, though the names and variables have been altered and mixed, for the sake of discretion and taste.  Observe the absurdity of such an entreaty:

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.

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,

A.

Do you see how ludicrous that would be?  If the situation were reversed, and I knew that someone hated me, and the person who hated me was insisting that I alter my behavior in some form or another, until he would no longer hate me, how would I feel?

I would be incensed!  It is not my purpose in life to adjust my behavior to please him who hates me.  That person who hates me is not God, and has no right to insist that I change in any way.

Scrummaster Needed Desperately at LAST Conf 2016 in ...

But the aphorism above comes to mind and is wise.  This person whom I am calling “Tom” also had a way of lecturing me.  Lengthy dissertations on how to live my life, flavored by little gifts he would buy me — running shoes, a cell phone, and lunches.  It took me a while to realize that he must not have been all that bright.   People who give a lot of advice generally mean well.  They’re just not smart enough to realize that they shouldn’t be doing it.  

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 whatever to the world of the underprivileged — the world where 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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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.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Tuesday Tuneup Fifty

Q. What’s been bugging you lately?

A. Remnants and reminders.

Q. Of what?

A. Not of what — of whom.  Of the last person who lived here with me.

Q. What kind of remnants?  What kind of reminders?

A. Oh – a dresser.  A book case.  About fifty books. A bunch of foodstuffs that seem unusual to me, grains collected in canisters, things that look like rice that don’t taste like rice, and other stuff I don’t want to touch.  Unreceived mail, a pair of very nice dress boots.   And many knick knacks.  A tapestry that reminds me of her.  A carpet that reminds me of her.  And an upright piano that I never play, because it reminds me of her.   It doesn’t belong to her, but it reminds me of her.   

Q. Can’t you just ask her to come get her things?

A. She hasn’t answered a text or call from me for several months.  I have asked her many times.  Once she even came up to get them, but left almost all of it in the house, inexplicably.   And that also was nearly a year ago.

Q. Why did she leave all of that stuff with you?

A. I don’t know.   It may be a hardship for her to get up here and get it.  It might also be that she left it here to “ensure her return.”

Q. Ensure her return?  What do you mean by that?

A. When people inwardly suspect that the day will come when you don’t want them around any longer, they have a tendency to leave some of their belongings with you, so that you can’t say “no” when they want to come back.

Q. Have other people done that with you?

A. Yes.  Usually either very insecure people, or scammers of one kind or another.   But to be frank, it hasn’t happened very often in recent years, because I haven’t had a place to live.  For many years, I was homeless.   So it’s particularly disconcerting that it’s happening now, when I finally do have a place to live.  

Q. Isn’t this all a bit inconsiderate of her?

A. It would seem that way, yes.  I doubt she considers the issue.  It doesn’t seem like she gives it a second thought.  I’m pretty sure she assumes that I’m easy about it — if she even ever thinks about it at all.   I don’t think she thinks about what effect it might have on me to feel as though this home of mine that I was so lucky to get after all those years on the streets is her home and not mine.

Q. What do you mean?  How can it be her home and not yours?

A. Because I feel as though I am living in the type of apartment that she would have, all done up the way she would do up an apartment.  It’s not the way I would do up the apartment.  Her personality, her spirit, is all over this place.

Q. Is that a problem?

A. It wasn’t when we were still together.  When we were still together, my spirit was her spirit.  We were One.   But now that we’re not together, my spirit is my spirit.  And it’s a new spirit, which is not compatible with my old spirit.

A. So how can you solve this problem?

Q. By renting a U-Haul for about $50, boxing up all her things, putting the bookcase and the dresser in the U-Haul, and taking it all down to the basement of my church.   We’ll mark it for safekeeping, and it will be safer there than it is in my house.

Q. Why would it be safer in your church basement?

A. Because I occasionally allow homeless people to stay at my house, which is a risk.  One of them ripped me off.

Manliga och kvinnliga tecken, Vektorbild - Clipart.meQ. May I ask you something?

A. By all means.

Q. Do you love her?

Pause.

A. That depends upon what you mean by love.   

Q. Did she hurt you?

A. Yes.  She says she didn’t intend to, and I believe her.  But I wound up getting hurt, and I’d rather not be hurt if I don’t need to be.

Q. Do you think that you hurt her?

A. I can think of some things I have done that probably hurt her.  But I didn’t intend to hurt her either.   This is why I believe her, when she says she didn’t mean to hurt me.   Different people are hurt by different things.

Q. Are you saying that you and she are incompatible?

A. Yes!  And that’s the best way to frame it.

Q. Are you still hurt by her?

A. Only on a bad day — and only because all these remnants and reminders of her are strewn about my house.  If I get lonely, if I get depressed, I keep having to look at the remains of her spirit.  It can be painful. 

Q. Aren’t relationships usually painful?

A. I have no idea.  I’ve only been in one meaningful relationship.  Come to think of it, however, even the meaningless relationships that I’ve had eventually turned out to be painful.   

Q. Do you want to be in a relationship?

A. I don’t know.   I don’t think in terms of relationships.   It’s not in my nature to pursue them.   

Q. Do you prefer being alone?

A. That, I don’t know either.  I don’t have much to measure it against, other than the one relationship to which I refer.

Q. What about sex?

A. What about it?  It’s a nice thing to contemplate, but in reality, it’s unwieldy.  Not to mention, I space out.  I don’t focus well.  I focus better on other things.

Q. Like what?

ABlack Grand Piano Clip Art at Clker.com - vector clip art online, royalty free & public domain. Like playing the piano.

Q. But the piano is only an inanimate instrument, isn’t it?

A. I beg to differ.  The piano responds to me.   The piano reflects me.  I animate the piano with my will.  But making love is different than that.  To animate another person with my will would be nothing but a control issue, a manipulation.  I refuse to do that.  I am not God.

Q. Why am I getting the feeling you need professional help?

A. I’m already getting professional help.   I have a therapist, and I’m also involved in pastoral counseling.

Q. What does the therapist say?

A. He says she probably has Borderline Personality Disorder.

Q. But what does he say about you?

A. He says that I don’t like to address my mental health issues directly because I feel that they make a positive contribution to my Artistic efforts.  He says it’s more important for me to create beautiful Art than it is for me to work on developing a beautiful personality.

Q. Is that true?

A. Well, he’s not the first person to have said it.  It’s gotten me to thinking, but I will say that I honestly try to be respectful of others, and to treat all living beings with kindness and dignity.  

Q. What did the pastor say?

A. The pastor said that when she was here, everybody could tell how much happier I was.   How much mellower, and more at peace.   Before she came here, I was stressed and restless.  Since she has been gone, also I am stressed and restless.  But hey — it’s my nature.

Q. What else did he say?

A. That it could very well be that I am not meant to be alone, but that perhaps it is not she with whom I am meant to be..   In other words, the happiness and contentment came from there being a woman in my life.  She just wasn’t the right woman.

Q. But if she wasn’t the right woman, how could she have made you happy?

A. That, sir, is a very good question!

Q. Do you want another woman in your life?

A. Like I said earlier, I don’t know.

Q. Well then, what can you do to alleviate the depression?   

A. For a while, I smoked marijuana.

Q. Why did you stop?

A. Because it’s a drug.   The pain returns when I run out, and is worse than if I never had any to begin with.   Not to mention, I can’t afford it, and I have addictive tendencies around it.  

Q. What else can you do, then?

A. Like I said, I can rent a U-Haul next time I’m flushed, or maybe even get a friend with a truck to help me.  Then I can move all her things to the basement of my church, where they will be in safekeeping — like I said.  After that, I can replace all the items with parallel items that reflect my own spirit, and not hers.

Q. What is her spirit like?

A. Hippie.

Q. And yours?

A. Impoverished yuppie.

Q. But aren’t you an aging hippie?

A. I’m changing into an aging yuppie.

Q. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

A. Next question, please.

Q. Are you separating your spirit from hers?

A. What an awful thought!  I don’t think anyone should separate their spirit from anyone!  That’s like – Anti-Love.  We’re all connected on this planet.  We’re all One.   But my house is my house.  I was on the streets for a long time.  And after all those years, and finally landing a place of my own, I sure don’t want to be living in a house that is not the House of Andy, but the House of —

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 49

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. Way behind on my work.

Q. Is that all?

A. Lousy computer, slowing me down.

Q. Anything else?

A. Scattered, evasive mind-set.  Unwilling to confront harsh realities.  Impatient.  Resentful.  Objecting to this and that.   Generally freaked out.

Image result for pressed for timeQ. Why?

A. Overload.  Too much going on.

Q. What can you do to change this?

A. Simplify.  Eliminate unnecessary stressors.  Smooth out the rough edges.  Count the minutes, count the costs.

Related imageQ. And the costs are?

A. Exorbitant.

Q. How so?

A. You don’t want to know.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. I’d prefer it, frankly.  Am under time pressure.  Time is money and money is time.   I have more important things to do.   Goodbye.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 46

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. Not much.  Not much at all.

Q. Anything bugging you just a little bit?

A. Well, if you must ask, I suppose there are a couple things.

Q. Like what?

A. We didn’t get a very good turnout at the second round of auditions last night.

Q. Why not?

A. Probably because we haven’t advertised very well.  This all came up rather suddenly.

Q. What else is bugging you?

A. Well, my dyslexia is very inconvenient.   I’m doing a very important task that involves two separate computers, and saving files in two separate ways on each computer.  It’s sort of like dyslexia upon dyslexia.  These kinds of tasks take me five times as long to accomplish as the normal human being even if only one dyslexic factor is involved.  Now it’s taking twenty-five times as long.  It can be discouraging.   But you know what’s bugging me the most?

Q. What?

A. The fact that I even am expected to discuss what’s bugging me this morning, rather than what I’m really happy about.

Q. What are you really happy about?

A. My daughter!!

The Questioner is silent.   

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The Death of Death

I wasn’t sure what to offer you for Easter Sunday, when a story popped into my head.  It was something that happened way back in the 70’s, when I was hanging out in an all-night restaurant.

A man entered.  He seemed to have a mental health condition.  He took a napkin and a pen, and drew the famous equation:E Equals Mc Squared Calculator | Komseq
“You know what that means?” he asked, smiling.

I looked up from my seventh cup of coffee.   “Energy equals matter times the speed of light squared.”

“Ha!” he said.  “He knows!  But that’s only half of it.  It actually is about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

“How do you figure that?” I asked.

“The only constant in the Universe, according to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, is the speed of light.  The only constant in corporeal life is death.   The speed of light squared is the speed of light times the speed of light.  Death squared is death times death.  In multiplication, the word “of” is often used as a multiplier.   Therefore, we are dealing with the death of death.

“Matter corresponds to the corporeal body.   So, matter, times the death of death, equals what?  Energy.  In other words, everlasting life.

“Are you a Christian?”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.

“You will be,” he said mysteriously, and walked out of the restaurant.

An interesting word of prophecy, as it were – for I eventually did become a Christian (though possibly not as a result of his bizarre analogy.)  I could tell you how I became a Christian, in the Spring of 1983, but that would be a theme for a much longer, larger post.

For today, I only want to say that I went running along a strange and merry trail, where no other runners were.   A lone rabbit eased up towards me, on the other side of the creek, and surpassed me at amazing velocity.

“Aha!” I proclaimed.  “There’s the Easter Bunny!”

He is risen! He is risen indeed.

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