One year ago today…our country changed forever. Continue reading “365 Days in…Still Very Broken”
Over the last several years, I’ve pretty much had a “word of the year” choose me. It’s a ritual I didn’t set out to create, but one that continues to show itself to me. It’s actually kind of weird. Continue reading “2017—Will It Be a Year Full of Mercy?”
Some say we are hitting an exhaustion factor when it comes to thinking about America’s “new reality.” OMG…if I have to read or hear ONE MORE THING about the presidential election, I’m going to lose it! Enough already!
But if this whole experience has taught us anything, it’s that any time you throw your hands up and say, “I’m out,” you lose whatever chance you had to make a difference. Continue reading “One Small but Powerful Step in the Right Direction”
I took my mom to the bank drive thru the other day. I think these mainly still exist for people in my mom’s generation—though having the little canister get sucked up into the tube is pretty cool. The transaction turned out to be very frustrating because the tellers didn’t see something they should have and ended up treating us rather poorly.
My mom was…ticked. She wanted me to get the teller’s name and complain. I told her to take a breath and let it go. We have bigger fish to fry. But it took her a while to get past it. (Actually, I think given the chance, she’d still give the teller an earful.)
I know I can be guilty of the very same kind of misspent energy, and I bet you can admit to the same. While forgiving little slights isn’t too hard, there are times where it’s just easier to steam at the injustice.
And then there are the bigger fish that do indeed need frying. The kinds of hurts that make it even harder to let go and offer forgiveness.
But no matter how big or small the “fish,” we should always strive to forgive, and here are my ten great reasons why…
- God commands us to. As a Christian, I have the greatest model of this in Jesus…who offers forgiveness even to the very people who crucified him. What a powerful example of practicing what you preach. Other major religions—Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism—also teach forgiveness. With nearly six billion people in the world identifying with a religion, we should be awash in forgiveness.
- We need it every day. At least I do—and I’m pretty sure you do, too. So if we need it but choose not to offer it to others who need it, then we need to strap on our hypocrisy hats.
- We benefit from offering forgiveness to others. Receiving forgiveness is obviously awesome, but I have had some significant experiences in my life of offering forgiveness, and the healing that comes from it—both spiritually and emotionally—is powerful and freeing.
- We lose negative and gain positive energy. Not only is the impact of forgiveness spiritual and emotional, but it can be physical, too. There are times when I have forgiven someone and felt an immediate physical change—as though weighty scales have fallen off of me and tangibly lightened my being. These times have served to remind me how damaging it is to hold onto negative energy. Positive rocks. Negative sucks.
- It helps others. We know how amazing it feels to be forgiven. The grace and mercy that comes our way is transformative. Why wouldn’t we want to facilitate that amazingness for others? Share the wealth.
- In withholding forgiveness, we can suffer more than the one whom we believe needs it. Sometimes the hurt you’re feeling may not even be on the other person’s radar. One-sided pain is just that: one-sided. Granted, these kinds of offenses are usually on the smaller side—feeling angry at a driver who cut you off or maybe feeling snubbed by someone—but they still result in negative energy that attacks your spirit.
- Because we can. In many walks of life the cliché “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” rings true. Not here. We have a choice to forgive. What a powerful privilege. See numbers 1-6 and 8-10 for why we should make that choice.
- It’s hard. We need to do the tough stuff. Facing something very painful and working through it to get to forgiveness takes effort and strength and courage. All good things to call upon. Grace and mercy aren’t too shabby, either.
(If you’re like me, the absolute hardest person for me to forgive is…me. For some reason, offering forgiveness to others is much easier than letting myself off the hook. I think this is where a lot of us really need to up our game.)
- Modeling forgiveness lets others see how it works. Seeing something in action can really be persuasive. I’m not one of those parents who tries to keep all conflict hidden from my kid. To me, that would be a false representation of life. He knows that sometimes people argue—and showing him how people forgive completes the lesson.
- It embraces our mutual brokenness in a broken world. We all sin, fall short, disappoint, hurt, mess up…all of us…continually. There’s no getting around it. It is our truth. Knowing that we can both offer forgiveness and be forgiven allows us to persevere and thrive in an imperfect world. Hope can continually bloom under the light of forgiveness.
Of course, this by far isn’t a definitive discourse on the merits of forgiveness, but I hope that you have found a little something here to remind you how key forgiveness is to a healthy life. And if you didn’t and instead feel like this has been a waste of your time, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me!
All photos are my own.
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Divot in shin—knife drop, Easter Saturday, 2010. Forehead pockmark—head-butt on bathtub faucet, 1969. Knee “freckles”—torn meniscus, soccer game, 2012… I could go on and ON. My body is full of scars and imperfections. I’m guessing you might have a few, too.
We typically look at these kinds of marks on our bodies as flaws or eyesores. After all, they rarely, if ever, add beauty to a person’s body, right? Stretch marks anyone? But what if we considered them not as imperfections, but brushstrokes that come together to help create the work of art that we are?
In a way, each mark that we acquire through our lives is a mark of our journey. They may not necessarily “represent” anything in particular, but they are a part of us. Maybe if we cast a kinder eye on those scars we would be better able to see them as an essential part of ourselves.
You don’t get through life unscathed.
And what about the scars below the skin—the ones that we carry on our hearts? Maybe your heart is marked with the death of a loved one. Maybe there are rejections you’ve suffered in love, work, or friendship. Maybe you’ve gone through a trauma that you have yet to give voice to. Maybe you have been treated unfairly or abused. Maybe you’re battling an illness. Maybe you’ve failed in some capacity. Maybe many or all of these things have touched you in some way.
These kinds of hurts definitely leave their mark. Some much deeper than others, but a mark nonetheless. And while it is critical to work toward healing in every way we can, we will never be able to bring the heart back to what it was before the scar.
We are forever changed.
But what if we also look at these scars as brushstrokes on the canvas of our lives? Each mark helping to form who we are? Though this perspective doesn’t take away the pain of the “heart scar,” it may help us to see that there is meaning within it.
I know some of my heart scars have equipped me to be a better person. I’m using the term “better” here in a relative sense—as in what I believe is important. Compassion and empathy are important to me, and my heart scars have led me to be more compassionate and empathetic.
Of course, hindsight helps me understand this. For example, my dad died of cancer when I was 21. Obviously, that is a major heart scar with many facets to it—some obvious and some not so obvious. But I had no idea when I was going through it how many times I would be able to be there for a friend who was going through the loss of a loved one or battling cancer. Simply being there with some firsthand understanding ended up being of some comfort to several people in my life since then, and I am grateful for that. It means that the loss of my dad and the pain that is left behind from it in some way served a purpose. The heart scar has meaning.
And since we know we won’t get through life unscathed—either physically or emotionally—it helps to recognize that those brushstrokes are helping us become works of art even through the pain.
At least it helps to know for me.
In my mind’s eye, when I stand back and see how my “brushstrokes” are coming together, I see the work in progress that I am. I see how many things, when observed in isolation—can only be seen as ugly or painful—but with some perspective, are essential to the creation of the work as a whole.
Though some days my life canvas looks like something painted by Pollock or Picasso when I’d prefer Degas or Hopper, it is a work of art nonetheless. And that work of art is me.
I wonder what challenging brushstrokes you’ve been through…and what does your painting look like?