Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Some thoughts on the application of forgiveness

I spent the morning reading Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies and wrote down three quotes about forgiveness. First, on the futility of harboring unforgiveness:

"...not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die."

On a rare couple of days of vacation, I turned on the television yesterday while addressing Christmas cards and watched part of Dr. Phil. His guest at the end was a devasted woman whose father had divorced her mother. She couldn't forgive him and the rat poison was obviously rapidly dissolving her insides and sucking the life out of her. Meanwhile, her father--the rat of her loathing--sat across from her, mystified and not the least affected. Her poison was killing only her.

Later in Lamott, quoting C.S. Lewis:

"If we really want to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo."

Maybe, like the girl on Dr. Phil or me in my mother's kitchen, you're just not ready yet to forgive your family. OK. Start smaller. Try forgiving the ungrateful birds who turn up their snooty beaks at the perfectly tasty-looking birdseed you put out, or the beautiful three-year-old neighbor girl who admires your garden by plucking all the flower heads off their stems, or the geniuses who build computers for the sole purpose of vexing ordinary sane human beings. Start small and work your way up.

Finally, in Lamott:

"At some point you pardon the people in your family for being stuck together in all their weirdness, and when you can do that, you learn to pardon anyone."

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