Thursday, August 19, 2010

How I Came to Understand the Meaning of Forgiveness

   When I was a child, forgiveness meant nothing to me. I had arguments with my sisters, hated my parents for this or that, or wanted something I couldn't have, but the next day the slate was clean. Up I got, ready for whatever the day would bring. Yes, I had childhood fears, but no one in the family talked about forgiveness as relevant to anything around me.
    As a teenager, I had issues. My older sister married young and left me to cope with an unstable mother. Those years of trying to deal with her, as well as the pressures of adolescence, were often horrendous. My parents gave me one choice for college, close to home and live at home, so no relief came in that direction either. My father was present, but not present emotionally. Still, there was never a moment when forgiveness came up as a topic of conversation.
   By the time I married, the pattern was set. I took what was dished out and didn't argue; anything was better than abuse from disagreeing. I tried everything to break that pattern but nothing worked. You could say I tried forgiveness as a last resort. But still, I didn't get it right. I thought forgiveness was given for the sake of others. Not until I gave it for my sake did I understand its power. Forgiveness didn't make the lives of others easier; it made my life easier. Forgiveness didn't erase what had happened; it turned that pain into growth. Forgiveness didn't change the people with whom I struggled; it changed how I viewed them. But don't trust my analysis. You'll never believe it works until you try it and see what happens.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Was a Phone Call Away From Being a Bag Lady

Obviously, I was not in a good place when this happened; I was struggling to survive. But rather than bore you with the details of how I found myself in such a predicament, I want to share the miracle that happened because of it. The situation was such that, if I didn’t receive help in twenty-four hours, I was going to be using my car as a home.

What I thought was the letting go of every last shred of pride I had – the process of asking for financial help from my estranged mother – became a process of reconnecting; not always in ways that made her comfortable with me, but always in ways that made me comfortable with myself. Our reconnection was by no means perfect, but where previously there had been no communication; there was at least some. My reaching out didn’t change the way she treated me, but it changed the way I treated myself. The fact that I paid her back as much as I could every single month - come hell or high water - didn’t give her a positive attitude regarding my path, but it gave me a positive attitude.

I thought this situation was the final and worst humiliation of my life, but it turned out to be the beginning of its rebuilding.