Friday, September 16, 2011

The gift of forgiveness

If a person were to ask me what my greatest fault was, the first thing that comes to my mind is that I have an issue with holding grudges. But if a person were to ask a member of my family, one of my close friends, or anyone who knew me well, they would probably say something very different. I asked someone close to me that very question, and after talking about it and thinking on it, I am starting to realize that I've been overlooking a long list of instances where I found it was easier to just let things go.

It's fair to say that God has thrown his fair share of curveballs my way. It's also fair to say that I enjoy complaining (bitching about life/work/ex boyfriends makes for an easy blog post, and can be fun to write). Even so, all things considered, I'm probably one of the luckiest people I know in regards to having what psychologists/counselors call a "social safety net"; my family, friends, pastor, and faith have always been a constant in this sea of variables we call life. No matter what happens to me, I know for a fact that love and support are only a phone call, email or short drive away. Looking back, having someone there to reassure me, guide me, and hug me when things got difficult made it very easy for me to empathize and forgive others.

High school bully made my life miserable? Eh, we all do dumb things when we are young.

Got laid off out of the blue from my work? They were just doing what they had to do in this tough economy, it was not something to take personally.

Caller screamed at me over the phone because I asked them to spell their attorney's last name? He was probably just having a bad day.

Which raises the question: Why would I instantly think "I hold grudges?" Honestly, as my friend pointed out, I should change that question to "Why can't I let that one grudge go?"

As far as grudges go, I would refer to this one as The Big One. The Queen Mother. The Great Grandaddy of Grudges. A few of you who read my blog regularly might know exactly what I'm writing about; but for those of you who don't pay enough attention and didn't catch my rambling, Riesling induced wallows of self pity before I deleted them the next day, this grudge regards my first serious relationship, during my freshman year of college and the subsequent drama and heartbreak.

I think that I should note that this is NOT the only ex boyfriend I've ever had: technically, I've had five. However, this is the only relationship I've had that I look back on with sadness, regret and anger.

I'm not going to get into specifics as I have done that MANY times already (but for those of you who don't know, see my post "Kryptonite, anyone?" from way back), so long story short, the relationship was a long, drama plagued road of ups and downs before my ex and I reached an uneasy, silent agreement not to speak, email, IM, write, or release a nuclear holocaust upon one another. It has been said before that our relationship now is not unlike that of North and South Korea.

This relationship, when looked at from the outside, seems like nothing more than a run-of-the-mill breakup. But for more than a few reasons, I have had tremendous trouble with this dude. Just hearing about him is enough to bring back old pain, old memories, unresolved feelings and leaves me feeling more than a little jealous and cynical.

We spoke some after the initial break up, and during this time my ex had gone through a powerful spiritual reawakening (which, to be honest, I commend him for). I don't want to say that he was overwhelmingly contrite, although he seemed to become more aware of how his actions affected me while we dated, which did bring me a bit of closure. However, things were still very difficult...his new revival demanded that he find forgiveness from God for his sins, and forgiveness from me...but my ex did not ask for my forgiveness. He demanded it.

My memory may be fading, but I believe his words were, "You NEED to forgive me like I forgave myself! None of that pain you went through should matter anymore, and it should no longer hurt or bother you, because GOD has forgiven me of those sins!"

While I am sure that he is set right in the eyes of the Lord, the leftover pains, both emotionally and otherwise, from our turbulent relationship still hurt to this day. I wish that I could say a prayer, click my heels three times, and press A, B, X, select and start to make the pain go away.

My pastor, God BLESS him, has constantly reminded me about the importance of actively forgiving. He helped me to remember the parable of the wicked servant:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

...hoo dear. Being tortured for the rest of eternity for not forgiving does NOT sound like a way I would like to spend my time. And, although I still feel a great deal of hurt and anger from what happened between us, I would certainly like to think that I haven't been cruel or wicked to my's fair to say that somewhere, deep down there, my heart still skips a little when we speak.

What also helped save my sanity (Thank GOD!) is being reminded by my pastor that it is OKAY to be hurting! It is OKAY to be angry! Our Lord, our Creator, has put these emotions in us for a REASON! And it is OKAY to be upset! The bible tells us, "Be angry, but do not sin!" (Eph. 4:26).

Knowing this doesn't set me off the hook, though...I still need to actively forgive him. I came across Mark Wilson's wonderful blog, Faith.Hope.Love; Mark suggests looking at the sins that my ex committed against me as a kind of debt. My choosing to forgive him is like freeing him from that debt. I can still be pissed off about it, but I will no longer hold my ex accountable for what happened during our Freshman/Sophomore years.

Mark's blog can be found here:[link]

A couple of weeks ago, I heard that my ex faced an unimaginable tragedy: his fiancee was rushed to the hospital days before they were supposed to get married. As far as I know, she is still there.

When I heard this, all that anger, jealousy and bitterness evaporated. All I could feel in my heart was an immense sadness and horror, and pity for him...and an overwhelming feeling of shame and guilt. He is potentially losing the love of his life. And I'm just here bitching and drinking Riesling.

I sent him a text message and a facebook message letting him know that he and his fiancee were in my prayers. I let my mother know what was going on and she prayed for them, too. He and I had a short conversation, essentially letting me know what happened. I asked if there was anything that I could do, and he politely told me no.

I honestly don't know how some people can ever, EVER rejoice in one of God's children losing a loved one.

My ex boyfriend has faced unspeakable pain. If I was in his place and MY sweetheart was lying there in the hospital, I would have fallen to pieces and have had a nervous breakdown. I would not wish what happened to him on anyone, EVER.

However, there was good that came out of it, at least for me. I am able to take comfort in knowing that I still have at least some tenderness for him in my heart. And knowing that, it made it much easier for me to let go of being angry and bitter.

Readers, remember that forgiveness is never easy. But it is necessary! SO necessary! Pain WILL linger. Anger WILL stay for a while. But our God gives us the capacity for pain and anger so that we will LEARN and TAKE ACTION to grow from the experience and thus grow in to better rounded and wiser human beings.

I'm honestly not very good at endings...but all I guess I can say is that I will continue to pray. For my ex, his fiancee, and for my own ability to forgive.

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