Monday, April 7, 2014

When Forgiveness Comes to Your Doorstep

Years ago (2001) in a General Conference talk given by James E. Faust on the Atonement he said this about forgiveness: "Keep a place in your heart for forgiveness, and when it comes, welcome it in." I remember when he said it and how it struck a chord with me. I believe we have all had times when we have been hurt, wronged, judged, treated unkindly or been betrayed and also done the same to others in our worst moments. However, I would like to think that over the years my rough edges are being worn smooth and maturity is settling my knee jerk reactions. I've learned more about withholding my words and learned to love more, serve more, judge less and realize that my "drawn lines" were sometimes in the wrong place.
In my last post I wrote about how I had been deeply hurt by another and how the storms in my life had been all but consuming. Well I am happy to share the most recent chapter in all of this, it started actually many months ago when this woman attempted to call me, I wasn't ready at that point and more than a little skeptical, I wasn't unkind to her, I just let her know I wasn't in a place to revisit anything yet. Then more months passed and one Sunday as I was leaving church her husband approached me and after some awkward small talk he let me know that his wife would really like to talk to me. I again hesitated and indicated to him that I wasn't ready but that I appreciated him passing the message on. Then a few weeks later on a Saturday, in fact the Saturday before the Superbowl, my husband and I had been out furniture shopping all day (since I had sold much of our furniture preparing for a move that is now on hold) we returned home and as I walked into the kitchen there was an envelope with my name on it sitting on the counter. My stomach turned a little as instinctively I knew who it was from, I picked it up and quickly tucked it in my purse, a few hours later when I was able to sneak away, I locked myself in my room and opened the letter....

...To the relief of my spirit it was filled with only good things, she fully apologized and admitted her deep regret for the letter she sent and the way she had treated me. She mentioned her inability to forgive herself for how she had behaved and that she indeed knew I was a good person and had not deserved any of it. Her sincerity was evident and I felt instantly that any sadness, hurt or bad feelings towards her were gone and all that was left was compassion for her. I knew that while the pain I had endured was crippling, she was feeling the effects of being the one to have caused the hurt. It had been a prison of sorts for her, knowing something she had done could not be taken back or unsaid and she had experienced unbearable regret. I realized in that moment that the price had been high for both of us and that my only job was to forgive her unconditionally and show love to her.

I responded to her with my own letter letting her know of my forgiveness and that I wish all good things for her. I told her how I appreciated her apology and that it gave me much needed peace with the situation. There is a true gratitude for the resolve in this very difficult trial in my life. I grew tremendously from the experience and I know I am a better person, a more compassionate person and I wouldn't trade it.

As humans we all make mistakes and I saw her as someone who in her own weakness and on her journey through this crazy life had made some mistakes that happened to cause me pain. None of that was beyond fixing and who would I be to withhold forgiveness or in essence hold her hostage to her mistakes? There was nothing I could do to punish her more than I am sure she had punished herself. Sometimes the best comebacks in life is when we have messed up, learned something from it and become better. I mean I have come to love watching a football game when my team has messed up for 3 quarters and then made a huge comeback in the 4th to win! Yeah it stinks when we fumble, but how can we not all love and cheer on a good recovery?!? I pray each night that those I have hurt with my words or actions, usually in the form of my children or husband that I have been less than patient with, that they will forgive me and allow me the opportunity to try again tomorrow. Children are such great examples of forgiveness, they so willingly accept a heart felt "I'm sorry honey for being impatient." and then squeeze your neck and remind you their love is unconditional.

Now, there are times when you won't get that apology letter or acknowledgement of our pain caused by others. I know this to be true in my life, some hurts are harder to overcome and forgive, but it is still only to our benefit to find the space for forgiveness, to lighten our loads, to hold less anger and resentment. In Yoga we use the phrase Namaste at the end of each practice, it means "My spirit acknowledges your spirit" or "The divine in me honors the divine in you", basically saying the good in me sees the good in you. Yoga is a practice of breathing in all the good and releasing the bad, focusing on improving from one movement to the next, one hour at a time. We must find it within us to see others as our Savior sees each of us, even in all our imperfectness. There is no growth when we hold others to their mistakes, bad choices or hateful actions. It doesn't mean that we have to embrace those that wrong us with a big hug or invite them to our birthday parties but it does mean that we won't glare their direction at any given opportunity or waste our precious time thinking of how we could bleach the trees in their yard without someone seeing.

Forgiveness is a wonderful gift we can give to others and to ourselves. I am grateful to this woman who found courage to reach out in all humility and take responsibility and then ask for my forgiveness. I truly see good in her and know we have both taken lessons from our paths crossing, they have helped us grow and change for the better.

Until next time.