That is the astonishing revelation of forgiveness once it is freely given; it doesn’t excuse the offender or the offense, it sets the one who forgives, free.
Posts tagged ‘forgiveness’
He is impressively quick to dodge the meatloaf as it flies across the room and splats against the wall where he was just standing. It hangs there for a moment, the suction created by the raw meat holds it to the wall momentarily as we both stare at it, eyebrows raised, in a kind of reverential silence. Eventually gravity takes over and the pink mound begins to slide slowly down the beige wall, leaving a slimy trail of red ketchup and flecks of onion in its wake. I notice that the onions have been chopped a bit too big. I make a mental note to dice them much smaller next time.
Drowning is truly a quiet affair. My arms stretched out at my sides, my head tilted back seeing only sky as I tried to keep my mouth and nose above the waves. I couldn’t make a sound, nor could I wave my arms. When I tried, I would immediately go under. All around me, even brushing against me, people were splashing and screaming and laughing, oblivious to my struggle. Finally, exhausted, I gave up and lowered my chin.
This 'Way' of being in the world, of seeing the world as inherently good, of life as ultimately hopeful, and beautiful and sacred, is an exercise in flexing my ‘intention’ muscle every day. This loving outlook is an awareness I cultivate consciously. It is my spiritual practice of divine perspective. It is an intention of being a non-judgmental observer of myself and others. It involves, much of the time, my being unreasonably optimistic.
So what happens when we realize what we thought we were giving out of love, we were really giving in exchange for love? What can we do when we feel resentment or bitterness welling up over something we’ve given in exchange for less than what we expected?
Well, that’s the amazing thing about gifts of love–we can retroactively transform those past transactions into gifts by simply forgiving any perceived debt! We can just burn the invoice, tear up the bill, erase it from the ledger in our heart. The alchemy of this transformation is pure magic, and you and I, we are all magicians at heart.
There is a sweet little drawing of a smiling face scribbled on the wall next to my bed. The artist is my youngest child when she was about three years old. At the time I calmly told her that walls are not for drawing, and then complimented her on her artwork. I left her original graffiti there on my wall because it is beautiful, and because it reminds me of the lessons I’ve learned since being a new mother of one child, to a seasoned mother of five children–a span of 19 years between the oldest and youngest.
When my oldest daughter first drew on a wall, first cut her own hair, first filled the toilet with non-toilet items, first lied to me, I did not yet know that all children do these things (or some facsimile). I did not realize then, as I do now, it’s part of growing up; of curiosity, testing, exploring, imitating or avoiding. I was harder on her because I was young and didn’t know better. Her actions were not personal, but in my own immaturity as a parent I perceived them as direct affronts. I would overreact and make a big deal out of ‘bad’ behavior by shaming or lecturing her at length for what I perceived as big infractions. By the second, third, fourth and now fifth child I know better as a mother. I don’t claim to know best, it’s just that I know better the mother I choose to be.
As I sat on the edge of my bed looking at the smiling graffiti, I was thinking how much I wished I could change the parent I sometimes was to my oldest child. Then the phone rang and there she was, on the other end of the line.
I shared with her all I had been thinking about. I told her I was sorry that when I was raising her I wasn’t as calm or as mature or as wise as I am now. I told her I wished I could talk to the mother I was then and tell myself all that I have learned so I could do better. I apologized. She laughed and acknowledged having to “pave the way” for her siblings and she told me I was forgiven. In turn she apologized to me for her teen years. We laughed together about pay-back. I loved her for the grace of absolution she blessed me with so easily.
I can’t go back in time and give myself the wisdom of mothering that I have now, but I can share it with you. (Lucky you!)
First: It’s not always about us. Our children are growing, stretching, testing. We can love, guide, offer reasonable consequences and did I mention; love, love, love them? But there is no need to bully, shame or just generally freak-out. Second: If we do freak-out or overreact (because we all do) it’s okay to forgive ourselves and do better when we know better. Third: It’s less okay when we know better, and we don’t do better. That’s when we rationalize, make excuses for ourselves or place the blame on our children for how we choose to react. We’ve all been there, let’s just choose not to live there.
And lastly: There is great courage and love in risking vulnerability and humility. There is no shame in admitting fault. Fallibility is an inherent quality of the human condition, especially in parenting. Instead of defending our less flattering behavior to suit our need to see ourselves in a better light, admitting our mistakes as parents is important in validating what our children experience, of honoring their truth.
A close friend said to me after I told her this story, “Do you know how many adults would love to hear; ‘I’m sorry,’ from a parent? It would heal so much for them.”
Wise words from another seasoned mother.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
I know that I am not perfect, and that I will often fall short of being the person I want to be. But I also know I will be forgiven, I will do better, and that I am working hard at it every day. Exactly the same lesson I hope I am teaching my children.