Filet-O-Fish Fridays

Well, people, it’s that time of year again. For Catholics it’s the time when you quit drinking soda (or whatever it is that you choose to give up), for those of you who are not, it’s the season where McDonalds offers specials on Filet-O-Fish sandwiches on Fridays. (Hint: it’s Lent) It’s a time for reflection, sacrifice and repentance.
In light of all this reflection, I’ve decided to take a moment to chat about something that I’ve been reflecting upon for quite some time. It’s something that I never really realized I was confused about, but it turns out I was.

Forgive and forget people always say. I say, “what the f*ck?” For so long, I withheld forgiveness because I always figured that it wasn’t true forgiveness unless it was something I was indeed able to forget. How am I supposed to forgive someone who hurt me so deeply that I still feel pain just thinking about it? Am I right?

I don’t want to be that person (we’ve all met at least one) who’s been hurt by someone and their anger and resentment paints every conversation and echoes in their actions. I don’t want to fill up with so much negativity that causes anger to spill out of my pores. I want to live my life with love, compassion and understanding. I want to forgive those who have done me wrong. But I need serious help.

I had an epiphany a few weeks ago. If you’ve read some of my early posts, you may know that there are a few people in my life that I’ve been seriously emotionally wounded by, one of them being myself. For a long time I harbored serious hatred for these individuals. But, while sitting in a class, listening to Father Barry talking about the sacraments and Reconciliation, I realized, I forgive these people. Well, in my head it was more like, “I think I forgive these people.” The reason I said think is because I was still not sure if it could be true forgiveness, since I still don’t think these people are model citizens, nor would I go out of my way to forge a relationship with them. So, I went to confession (by the way, from someone who NEVER agreed with the concept of confession, it turns out that this is frickin’ amazingly helpful and freeing). At the end, I decided to run my ideas about forgiveness past the priest and ask about his thoughts on the matter.

It turns out, forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting. So just forget about that. (Ha, see what I did there?) His exact words (more or less, anyway) were, “It’s like a tug-of-war game. You feel all these negative emotions and that’s the tugging back and forth. Forgiveness is letting go of the rope”. Instead of continuing with the struggle of anger, you just walk away. Not that you’re forgetting the struggle, but you aren’t spending your life dwelling on it anymore.

As another illustration, during mass, a different priest explained forgiveness like an open wound. Imagine someone emotionally hurting you as causing a cut that breaks the skin. It bleeds. It scabs (forgiveness). You pick the scab (because what else would you do with a scab?). It bleeds some more (remembering the hurt). Each time that scab comes off, that cut gets smaller and smaller. Eventually, all you have is a scar. So yes, someone can cause some serious damage. Yes, thinking and talking about it can open that wound up again. But little by little, it’ll scab over and eventually heal…but you still have that scar as a reminder. Forgiveness is not something that’s done just once. It’s done repeatedly, and as it is done, it becomes easier to continue. Eventually all we have is that little scar that reminds us of what happened, so we can try to protect ourselves from the same thing happening again.

To put it into my own words, forgiveness is about losing the baggage and moving on with your life. Allowing someone’s actions or words to affect your life, how you feel about yourself or even just plain make you angry, is giving them power over your life. Who really deserves that kind of power? You do. God does. But that’s about it. You want the key to inner peace and total happiness? Take your power back. Forgive those knuckle heads and keep it in the rear-view. Forgiveness is also a gift you give to yourself as well as to the offenders, so give it a shot. You deserve it.

So there you go, three different explanations…hopefully one of them will resonate with you. Let me know what your thoughts are on this topic.

Also, let the record show, I have given up drinking soda (I’m addicted), and eating cereal (I’m also addicted)…and I am doing well.

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