Forgiveness is harder than it sounds

I am going to admit something not too pretty here: I have a hard time with forgiveness.
I can hold a grudge and think up reasons to not forgive someone all day long.
It’s not healthy, I know.
And sometimes, forgiveness comes with conditions. Or at least, begrudgingly.
My hardened heart comes honestly, I think.
My Granny prided herself on her unforgiveness.
She could tell you how long it had been since she had last spoke to someone, why they had quarreled and give you every reason why she was justified in her anger.
“I ain’t spoke to her in 55 years, and I ain’t got no plans to speak to her now,” Granny said about someone one day when she heard they were gravely ill.
“They may pass away,” I told her.
This did not sway Granny. “I doubt it,” she said. “They are too mean to die. And more than likely, this is a ruse to see how many flowers they get or who still cares. They won’t be getting that from the likes of me!”
I thought she was made of some tough stuff to feel that way – to not care that someone may pass away without resolving those unmended hurts. But Granny did not care.
Mama, for the most part, can carry a grudge herself.

 
She still to this day cannot stand my first grade teacher.
Granted, the woman should not have been allowed in a class room, but Mama still cannot let go of her hatred towards that woman.
“Mama, I don’t worry about that woman,” I said one day after Mama was commenting her disgust. “And that was how long ago? Can you do like an overplayed Disney princess and let it go?”
“No, I cannot. She probably scarred you and countless others. She had no place in a classroom.”
True, that woman should not have been allowed to mold young minds. But she’s probably close to a 100 years old if she’s alive now…. surely she had asked for some sort of penance?
Mama didn’t care.
I sighed. I had my own grudges to nurse.
Don’t you hate it when you are comfortable with your grudges and justified in your anger and things keep popping up in your face?
Topics focused on forgiveness continually pop up on your emails, news feed and other areas.
You start to think, “Hmmm…maybe this is some kind of message?”
And then someone you simply adore starts talking about the very thing.
Forgiveness.
Oh, bother, as Winnie the Pooh would say.
I had heard all this forgiveness stuff before – who hasn’t? – but had not put it in action yet.
Like my Mama and Granny before me, I had taken great pride in not forgiving someone or letting a hurt fester to the point it was beyond repair.
I had let my heart get darkened and hardened, leaving out the possibility that maybe I was wrong or that maybe the other person had been going through something else.
I sat and listened. Truly listened, I wanted to add.
I listened to hear how we are supposed to forgive and let healing happen.
And how forgiveness really is something we are supposed to work on.
“But what if…” I thought.
They didn’t know what this person did to me.
It didn’t take into account the pain I had felt or how that person had treated me.
Nor did it mention that I may be completely right in my anger or feelings.
I was, too.
Let me tell you, if you sat down and heard my side of things, you’d realize I was right and that the other people were wrong and they didn’t deserve forgiveness or compassion or even kindness.
I didn’t want to forgive.
Didn’t that mean it was OK what they did?
Didn’t it mean that I was giving in and letting their actions go unnoticed?
I thought about all the people who had wronged me – the people who had lied, the ones who had let me down, didn’t do what they promised, and who had ended up hurting me when I least expected it.
How could I forgive that?
And here was someone I thought so much of, saying how we needed to go to the person and explain how we – not them, we – had been affected by the situation and ask for forgiveness about how we had felt and reacted.
We – or rather, me.
What if I had reacted in haste or pain and taken things the wrong way?
What if I had been the one in the wrong – and not the other person?
What if I had missed out on having someone I loved in my life because I had been an equine rear for too long without going to them?
I could hear Granny’s voice in my head, telling me it didn’t matter, it was never our fault, we were never wrong and no one – no one deserved forgiveness, least of all us because we never did anything wrong.
She may have been right; this is something I have struggled with for over 40 years and undoubtedly will a bit longer.
Holding grudges and having a hardened heart was something we had nurtured for quite a while and had elevated to an art form. But sometimes, forgiveness isn’t for others; it’s for us.
And maybe, some forgiveness is in order.
Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the novel, “The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery.”

 

 

Begrudgingly Holding onto a Grudge (3/30/2016)

The other day, the unthinkable happened.

I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while and just like Ouiser Bodreaux did with Drum Eatenton, I smiled at them before I caught myself.

“Mama,” Cole whispered as we hurried past them, “I thought you didn’t like them.”

“I don’t,” I said, quieting him before he could say anything else.

Nursing a grudge is something the women in my family are able to do with a fierceness.

Granny’s version was swift and without yielding.

Mama’s grudge could be just as immediate but she had her moments of compassion and second chances, to which my grandmother would say: “You wasting time and energy, Jean. Go on and get to hatin’.”

Granny often had fairly valid reasons for her grudges, or spites, as she would often call them. She had one sister that she swore had been out to get her since birth and she may have been right. The two seemed to have lived to annoy each other.

“I reckon I love her because she’s my sister, but it don’t mean I like her,” Granny said once, recounting how her sister, Bonnie, had always wormed her way out of chores and leaving Granny to do double duty.

Granny carried that grudge long after her sister died and is probably still nursing it in the great beyond.

Mama once got her feelings hurt when we went to see someone who wasn’t home, after they said they would be.

As much as I tried to tell her maybe something had come up or they had just ran out, Mama wouldn’t hear it.

Instead of looking at the years she had known the person, she took one isolated incident and turned it into a great big grudge. She grew considerably cool towards the person, not speaking to them for years.

“They knew we were coming,” she would say as her defense.

“Mama, mistakes happen. Maybe they got the day wrong, or the time. You didn’t say, ‘We’d be there at 3:30,’ you just said, ‘Hey, we may stop by.'”

She would not listen to a word I had to say.

Her grudge was set and it was staying that way.

Grudges, according to Mama and Granny, were a form of self-preservation, shielding us from those who had wronged us.

A grudge, when properly held, could be passed down through generations with Shakespearian depth to the point the original cause of the grudge had been long forgotten.

Or at the very least, blown way out of proportion.

So there I had stood, listening to this person yapping away like they had not made my life a living purgatory.

Mama still loathes this person to this day.

“If your grandmother had known how they treated you, she would still be spiting them from her grave. Maybe even haunt them,” Mama said when I told her I had run into this person.

Despite Mama’s disdain for this person, she is also the one telling me to forgive or try to see the other person’s perspective. A bit rich considering she is still holding out a spite because she was asked to have Granny make something for a covered dish supper once.

“Not me, mind you; they didn’t want me to make anything. They wanted Granny to and that’s the only reason I was invited – to get Granny’s cooking!”

Even though I had planned all kinds of things to say to this person, not the first one rolled past my lips.

I had smiled and nodded, instead of telling them everything I had thought, and everything I had said about them over the years.

And there had been plenty, believe me.

“Mama, why were you nice to them?” Cole asked me later.

I thought of how maybe this person’s life wasn’t what they had wanted it to be and they had dealt with their own battles over the years.

I had heard a few things from mutual acquaintances over the years and yes, there had been those passing thoughts that maybe karma was kicking their tail.

Even though I thought it, that doesn’t mean it made me feel good.

Instead of cursing them as Granny would have, or bristling before telling them I had nothing to say to them as Mama would, I had exchanged pleasantries and tried to wish them well while I did, even if it pained me to do so.

Let me emphasize the “tried” part because I was a little bit upset at myself that I didn’t tell them what I truly thought.

“Sometimes, you just have to kill someone with kindness,” I answered.

I wasn’t really sure if I believed that or not.

But, it was begrudgingly, the grown up thing to do.

The power of forgiveness: Doing some self-work

 

I have been doing some self-work lately – a byproduct of trying to better myself these last few years.

I’ve been restless, anxious and felt stagnant, even when trying to take great strides in other areas.

Nothing I did was working the way I wanted it to.

I was frustrated and frankly, depressed. I fell into the trap of feeling sorry for myself and whining to Mama far too often.

I am sure any mama would tell you that’s part of their job, but my mama must have the patience of a saint given what she puts up with from me.

That, and it makes her feel bad because when I get in my pits of despair, it’s something she can’t talk me out of or help and every mama wants to “fix it” for their baby.

“Maybe if you moved closer to home, things would be better,” Mama said during my latest rant.

Of course, this is her answer for everything.

“I’ve tried,” I said, and I had. But, I reminded her, unless they had somehow hit the lottery, that was feeling more and more far-fetched.

I told her everyone I blamed for things not working out the way I thought they should. And Mama quietly listened.

Some of the folks I was blaming had long been out of my life – maybe even forgot I existed – but I was throwing all the blame on them.

Mama could understand. Trust me, if anyone can hold a grudge, it’s Mama. Granny taught her well.

When I finally took a breath, Mama was able to speak.

“I know you are going to hate this, because I am going to tell you what you need to do. But what you need to do is forgive.”

“What?”

“You need to forgive them. Let it all go, there is nothing that can be done about it anymore, but it’s hurting you. You need to let it go.”

Crazy talk, I declared. I was justified and I knew it.

But life has this divinely timed way of putting synchronicities in your path to illuminate a point.

Everything that crossed my path in the days following Mama’s advice was about forgiveness.

“Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting it to hurt the other person,” was one thing that popped up.

It seemed like all of my friends were discussing forgiveness and how the freedom it brought with it. Not for the other person, mind you; but for the one doing the forgiving.

It doesn’t mean you condone what they did. It doesn’t mean it was OK, or that you will allow it to happen again.

It means you don’t want to carry around the emotional baggage of it anymore.

I am reading a book and just a few chapters in, is a chapter on forgiveness.

The author says imagine you have a river full of everything you want flowing to you – all the goodness, joy, happiness – is on its way, until unforgiveness blocks the path.

The book also said to forgive everyone. To make a list.

It’s a process – believe me.

I started making my list.

But I started my list and then realized I was focusing on the situation and finding fault – pointing fingers and placing blame.

Rehashing the situation only proved to make me relive it and feel those emotions all over again. I stopped, and just wrote the names instead.

Another quote that came across my screen said sometimes what someone does has nothing to do with you, but is solely about them.

So maybe the people who had been rude, hateful and spiteful were merely working on their own stuff.

Maybe the bosses were jerks because of how they had been treated, and not anything I had done.

Maybe the reason someone hurt me wasn’t because I was unworthy – but their own feelings of unworthiness.

Maybe, just maybe, the only reason I was in the situation to begin with, was so I could learn a lesson and how to forgive later.

I thought about my list, and wondered…if any of the people on there had forgiven me.

I hoped they had; not for my sake, but for theirs.

Because once you experience how it feels to quit carrying those hurts around, you hope whoever you may have hurt can feel that way as well.

Again, it’s a process.

I am sure there will be new opportunities to forgive, people will hurt my feelings, I will get upset, and new names will be added to the list.

But you know what?

I’m going to forgive them, too. After all, it’s for me – not them.

 

Love means never saying you’re sorry – maybe (5/21/14)

There’s a few words that are fairly hard to say. “I love you” is usually the hard one for many; I know the ex didn’t utter those words until we had been dating about a year. Don’t ask why I married that fool. The only explanation I can give is that I love a challenge.

I’ve never had a problem expressing any kind of emotion. If anything, I have probably uttered words too soon, too quickly and wished I could take them back.

Which may be why I have such a hard time saying “I’m sorry.”

I have said it a few times and each one has pained me to no end.

I can’t remember what those occasions were; I probably blocked them from memory, as if they were a traumatic event. But I am fairly certain those admissions of apology were made under duress. Or I had really, truly, blatantly messed up.

“You always have had a hard time saying you’re sorry,” Mama told me one day. I had undoubtedly done something she thought was wrong and was not taking the proper responsibility for it, at least according to her.

“Yeah, well, Gibbs’ rule No. 6: Never say you’re sorry – it’s a sign of weakness,” I reminded her of her favorite show, “NCIS.”

“It may be a sign of weakness, but it also can be a sign of great courage to admit one is wrong,” was her reply.

Maybe.

It’s not that I think I am always right; I don’t.

If anything, I know I am wrong a considerable amount of the time. I have just found that usually, when I do something that would warrant an apology, I have been provoked by someone else’s actions to do something just downright mean. It’s the norm for me to try to make nice because I have a Mama still telling me how to act and behave at 41 years of age. I just don’t think I should have to say I am sorry when someone has been a jerk first.

“You know who else didn’t like to apologize?” Mama asked.

“Who?”

“Granny,” she said. “No wonder y’all are just alike.”

I rolled my eyes.

Mama’s way of trying to coerce me into acting right was to tell me I was acting like my dearly departed grandmother. Only problem was, it didn’t work the way Mama wanted it to. I knew darn good and well how Granny had been and really, I didn’t have any more of a problem with it than when the old gal had been alive and kickin’.

“No, come to think of it, I don’t think I ever heard Granny tell anyone ever she was sorry,” I said.

Nope, I was pretty sure those words never came out of her mouth. I heard some other colorful expressions, but didn’t recall hearing her tell anyone anything close to an apology.

Even over the last few years, the old gal and I had been at odds over things, various things and both being stubborn as bulls, neither one of us yielded an inch on our stance.

Those disputes and tiny battles had festered into full wars, where neither of us mentioned them in our bitter avoidance. Maybe we were doing the civilized thing, by not fighting them out – the last time she and I had tied up, it was my uncle who intervened and when Bobby had to step in, I knew our verbal battles had gotten out of hand. So we said nothing about those issues, those wars. And by saying nothing, neither one of us said we were sorry either.

“I never told Granny I was sorry,” I told Mama after I had time to think about all of this.

Mama’s a good listener, though, and knew all that short sentence implied.

“Well, Kitten, it wouldn’t have mattered if you had,” she said softly.

“I know; Granny wouldn’t have said she was sorry too, but that shouldn’t matter. I should have been the one to say I was sorry. It bothers me that I didn’t and now, I don’t have that chance.”

“Well, you are right that Granny wouldn’t have said she was sorry, too, because you know Granny was never wrong about anything. But, it wouldn’t have mattered because No. 1, you two are just exactly alike. She loved that. It made her proud. No. 2 … she also knew, just like you knew about her, that was not how y’all really felt. Saying you were sorry may have made you feel better, but was not necessary.”

Maybe so. Maybe Mama was right. It would have made me feel better, especially now, when that chance was not there. And maybe, the people we love, that we hurt the most, know exactly how we feel without us having to say it.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/14830/

 

Forgiving and forgetting (1/15/2014)

Cole was mad at his father.

I am not sure what happened.

Cole would not say. But his lip was poked out and he was not speaking to him.

“You sure you don’t want to talk about it?” I questioned.

Usually, Cole jumps at a chance to talk about his feelings. He can get down and discuss his reasoning and logic behind the deepest emotions better than Freud.

He shook his head.

“I don’t want to say a word about how hurted I am with that man right now,” he said solemnly.
That was understandable. When I am deeply hurt, I usually don’t want to talk about it. Not even to Mama.

“You think you will feel better later?” I asked.

He shook his head again. “I don’t know. This may take a while.”

I wondered what the transgression had been – Cole once got upset at his father when he thought Lamar had disrespected the piggies, but Cole had been quite vocal about that. This time, he was silent as to the offense and his feelings.

“What did you do?” I asked Lamar.

He didn’t know what he had done – it could have been a dozen little minor things but to Cole, whatever it was, it had added up to be big.

“Mama, do you ever forgive Daddy?” was Cole’s question an hour later.

“Forgive him for what?”

“Anything. Everything. He makes you angry a lot. So do you forgive him?”

I can nurse a grudge better than anyone. I have practically elevated it to an art form in some ways. It was genetic.

To this day, you could say certain people’s names and Granny’s eye would bulge as she uttered a curse under her breath.

Mama was the same way. Her normal benevolent, peace-loving, hippie ways would come to a grinding halt the minute certain people were mentioned.

So it was natural for me to hold to unforgiveness like a safety blanket. I have a list – yes, I do – of people who had run out of second, third, fourth and 12th chances with me. Or as Granny would say, “I’ve washed my hands of them,” which is southern talk for “they’re dead to me.”

“I’ve forgiven Daddy,” I said. I think I have; not sure which offense Cole was referencing.

He looked up at me, his big blue eyes searching mine. “You did?”

I nodded. “Yes, Cole, I am not holding any anger or unforgiveness toward Daddy.”

“What about when he broke your bowl?” he asked.

“I forgave him.”

“What about that nice antique plate you had on the sideboard?”

I didn’t know about that. But it wouldn’t do any good getting upset about now, after the fact, would it?

“Cole, I know it’s natural to want to hold on to those things that hurt us – they remind us to not let someone hurt us again. But at some point, we have to let it go. If we don’t, it’s like drinking a poison and expecting it to hurt them when it’s us it hurts.”

I could tell he was digesting this as he planned his rebuttal. “What if I can forgive, but I can’t forget?”

“I am guilty of that. I can remember every single wrong and offense that has ever happened to me. I carry it around like some badge of honor. I try to make myself believe that it keeps me from getting hurt again but the truth is, it doesn’t. We have to be able to let it go, so we can move forward.”

“So if you don’t forget, you stay stuck?” he asked.

“Pretty much,” I replied. “If you keep playing over the same old hurts, it doesn’t do much but remind you of some pretty miserable things. I would rather focus on the happy, wouldn’t you?”

“I guess so,” was his answer as he went off to think this all over, leaving me with my thoughts of forgiveness.

I had read somewhere once that forgiveness didn’t mean what happened was okay, it simply meant we were not allowing it to cause us pain and control us anymore. I wondered if Cole would understand what that meant.

I thought about how carrying the unforgiveness was really a pretty heavy burden too. There was a lot of work in rehashing the reasons why I was not speaking to someone or why I refused to acknowledge any goodness in a person. It was exhausting. Maybe, it was time to let that all go once and for all. But how? I had cultivated a nature of grudginess.

“Best Daddy Ever!” I heard Cole call as he ran through the back door, escaping the chill to get warm.

“I thought you were mad at Daddy?” I asked.

“That was yesterday. I forgave him,” he said.

“What were you mad at him about?” I asked.

Cole smiled and reached up to touch my face.

“Oh, sweet girl,” he began, “that doesn’t matter, does it? It’s over now and all forgotten.”

With a burst of energy, he was off in search of his next adventure with his father.

And just like that, the transgression had been wiped clean and forgotten. Amazing.

I should try that, I thought to myself. Right after I find out about what happened to that antique plate.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/13824/