Forgiveness doesn’t come fast or easy Sometimes it doesn’t come at all. That’s true whether the offender is another or ourselves. Careless, or even intentional, words and deeds hurt and wound us. We feel them deeply. Sometimes even allow them to define us. We identify as the aggrieved or victimized on the one hand, and the ashamed or guilty on the other.
Getting from hurt to forgiveness takes many steps. The deeper and more important the hurt, the more we need to process the healing. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. Sometimes we don’t think it should even be a goal.
Bad drivers in your path may annoy or rankle; they earn a quick hand flip. Here and gone.
Family dysfunction can last decades, even lifetimes. Emotional scarring, physical and sexual abuse becomes woven into us. We may feel forgiveness is impossible or unwarranted.
Folks tend towards either: Someone hurt me!, or I must have deserved it. And the converse: I screwed up! Now what? Each has its own burdens.
A great photo from 1900s New York: an old Jewish immigrant woman, bent over double, with an enormous shipping crate on her back. That’s what carrying around anger or shame can feel like. A very large and weighty burden. One you cannot put down until you reach sanctuary. Even if that’s a fifth-floor walk up with noisy neighbors and no running water.
Releasing even some of your anger and pain will make you lighter, clearer, healthier, and happier.
This week finds Joseph in high office in Egypt, after interpreting Pharoah’s dreams of impending famine. Who walks in hungry and needy but the very crew of brothers who sold him into slavery. They don’t recognize him; but he knows them.
The Jewish High Holidays have a very active process around forgiveness. Often we erase the simpler, more recent, happenstances of life, rather than old deep ones. The option is there, but you’ve gotta be ready. Even wanting to be ready can be a journey of a thousand steps. And it’s unlikely to be a linear or level path.
We spend lots of energy carrying around our inner crates of hurt and shame. We’re angry at others and ourselves. IThose feelings have become a filter and a reflex for how we live and how we interact with others. Not just those who caused the hurt, but almost everyone.
Joseph’s not ready to forgive his brothers. Like him we play tricks, set up tests. Challenge ourselves, others, and the universe. We’re looking for some key to unlock our stuck feelings. Permission to set the crate down.
A great new novel, Visitation Street, highlights the surviving friend of a missing and presumed drowned teen-ager. Everything that happens is a test: If the next song on the radio is X, June will come back. If Jonathan kisses me, June will come back. If I can …., June will come back.
Our hurts are like that. Bubbling beneath the daily surface of our lives, waiting for us to release them. Waiting for us to shed our burdens of anger, shame, hurt, regret, and sadness. We need to forgive ourselves so we can get closer to forgiving others.
What would it be good for you to let go of?