Friday, June 10, 2011

Works in Progress

Forgiveness is a really tricky subject. Just when I think I hit a new plateau and feel as though I've moved past something which threatens my peace of mind, I end up mired in the mud of anger and vengeance yet again. It's hard to surrender and let go. People don't treat us the way we want to be treated, and if we need proof of this, we don't have to look any farther than ourselves. We don't meet anger with kindness, or at least I don't.

I want to live with forgiveness as one of my values. I don't want to hold grudges because they end up handcuffing me to my own negative feelings. I can become obsessed with watching someone else, hoping they fail or get hurt as badly as they have hurt me. This is so far from what I would like to be doing that there is no way to even measure the distance between the two.

I wish I knew what the answer was. I know that humility is tied up in this, because if I am honest about my own failings, I can hopefully extend mercy to others in a sort of "there but the grace of God go I" thing. I also know that if I focus on my own brokenness instead of working so hard to shine a light on the shortcomings of my enemy, I can make positive changes. I can't control what someone else does or says or who they are. I can only control myself, and my reaction to other people.

I'm beginning to understand that this stuff takes a lifetime to learn. It's not fast, or neat, or simple. It's ugly and messy and filled with many rock-bottom moments. If we are honest about what lives inside of our own hearts and minds, we will see things that will stop us in our tracks and horrify us.

It was easier for me when I didn't worry so much about gossiping, or being nasty about those who offended me. Trying to be authentically myself in all situations means doing less of that backstabbing and peppering my conversation and thoughts with more grace and forgiveness. This new way is about a million times more difficult, and calls on something deep inside which I'm not sure I can give.

Often I want that fix of "venting" or "blowing off steam" but once nasty words are said about someone, they can never be unsaid. I don't want to walk around and live with the weight of that kind of hatred anymore. I want to allow others to live with their consequences as I live with mine, and not try so hard to change people who might not have any interest in changing.

Just when I think I'm making progress, and can live at peace with others and myself in a genuine way, I go down another level inside of my soul and find more ugly resentment and fear to deal with. I suppose on this side of the grave it never really ends. If we want to be kinder, and gentler, and live in peace instead of anxiety, we have to come to terms with the depth of negative feeling we can possess toward others, particularly when we have been hurt.

I suppose we take it day by day, accepting that we will fail, and extending mercy to ourselves as well as others. It's easy to forgive those who are nice to us, and not so easy to let go of our anger when people mistreat us. But then I remember that I have also been deeply unkind, and hurt people out of my own broken heart, and I am grateful that we are all works in progress, and we are all allowed to fail.

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