Tuesday, October 06, 2009

It's not that I have had nothing to say...

it's that there's too much to be said and no easy way to do it. If you read the recent sermon entitled "Bitterness, Forgiveness, and Life", you might guess that this sermon represents a whole lot of soul-searching and a growing awareness that when I preach forgiveness, I darn well need to be ready to offer forgiveness. And therein lies the rub.

As I gaze back over my life, there's no way to avoid seeing the bumps in my experience that represent people who made me angry at one time or another and the ones who still make me angry, even though I have not been in contact with them for years. I still resent the behavior of a number of people who hurt or let me down over the past 67 years. Some of them are dead or almost dead. I don't know the whereabouts of some of them.

It isn't a huge number of people, probably fewer than 5 or 6, but if I'm walking my talk, I would be free, or at least working on freedom, from the resentment attached to those old relationships. Writing the sermon gave me pause.

In my lonelier times, when I'm missing the presence of a loving man in my life, I brood over the ways my marriage to a self-described "outlaw" of sorts made me react with either suspicion or exaggerated trust to men I met, dooming healthy relationships with healthy men. So I beat myself up but also beat him up with my resentment, telling the cats all the things I wish I had told him. And not letting go of my anger for ages-old acts of neglect or disrespect means that I have that little set of videos always available in my head. What I want to do is acknowledge the gifts of the marriage (the FS, for one) and accept the rough edges (my fear of another failed relationship) and go on, not blaming him for my sorrow but moving through it.

But Forgiveness has another dimension, too, and it's hard. Corporate forgiveness is a tricky thing, when members of a community have been hurt by the actions of another in the community. Who forgives who? Who holds the space for healing and forgiveness to occur? How does a community legitimately ask a member of the community to wait patiently, hold anxiety in abeyance, and stay connected, despite the anxiety? When deep fears have been roused, old memories awakened, when the community wants to be comfortable together again but there are acts of contrition and acceptance that must occur first, what is the answer?

At our worship committee meeting yesterday, our chalice lighter read a meaningful passage which likened life's ups and downs to the waves of the sea, pointing out that between the high points of the waves, there is a trough of waiting, a place between the waves where it is necessary to be alert yet still, ready yet waiting. I've never been in a small boat in heavy water on the sea, but, boy, I know what it feels like.

7 comments:

6p00d83427794753ef said...

For me, forgiveness allows me to live fully. When I don't forgive I feel it intensely and often - I suspect even more than the other person. It isn't easy, but it is worthwhile.

ms. kitty said...

Yes, exactly! Thanks.

rene said...

Iguess over the years that I have encountered a number of people who have done due damage to me (imagined or real). I too have found a great deal of difficulty forgiving them. Still, what I found more difficult was that I "could not" forgive and forget. Then I finally came to the realization that I "like them" am only human. In doing this and actually forgiving myself for not being perfect, I have found a peace with them. We just had our differences... In the end I am still here and well, it was just something encountered on the road to life.. I dont remember most of my so called enemies. I simply remember the times I showed how human I was and regret them. Then I celebrate being human and say thanks to my God for making me that human.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Rene, I guess that may be the most important realization, that we need to forgive ourselves for being human.

Mile High Pixie said...

I share in your struggles, Rev Kit. My forgiveness ebbs and flows with people, many of them I never see or will never see again. I find peace, then something happens and I"m angry at them, then I find peace again. My deceased Dad's 63rd birthday was this past Monday, and I found myself alternately weeping and cooing and railing at him, 12 years since his death. Forgiveness, it would seem, is an iterative process.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Pixie. It's a hard row to hoe, isn't it? I appreciate your thoughts.

LinguistFriend said...

This is not just a binary issue, as it is customarily discussed. It has been pointed out, for instance, by a recent biographer of an important churchman who has questionable administrative judgement, that one may forgive someone who harms oneself, but the issue is less clear when that person has harmed someone else. For instance, an appointee may harm a third party; the person who did the appointing cannot forgive the person whom he erred in appointing in the same sense as the harmed person might, and may even share the blame through his lack of judgement in making the appointment. Past the binary case, the issues are more complex, and the person who ultimately caused the problem, whether through incompetence or by intentional manipulation, may manage to appear not part of the problem.