Small Things –
It’s the small things that get us. A careless word, a roll of the eye, an exasperated sigh, a forgotten date, a critical comment when kindness would be better.
I spoke to a group of men this week about the importance of body language. It is estimated that 80% of our communication is done through hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, animated arms, and legs. Often, before even a word is said, we’ve said plenty. The “vibe” we give off from the way we stand, cross our arms, refuse to make eye contact gives messages of distance, frustration, and anger. Whatever our chosen words may be we’ve begun a conversation simply by being in the presence of others.
Small things can encourage or discourage dialogue. Tiny twitches can mean the difference between hurting someone’s feelings and lifting them up. Miniature motions can give away our opinion of another prior to us getting to know them.
I watched a video this week of a woman pontificating on Hillary Clinton and the rumor of the former presidential candidate. Her words were sharp and judgemental and her body language said even more. The spark of sarcasm in her eyes, the shaking of her head, the impish smirk, almost everything about her spoke of her disapproval. Toward the end of the video she spoke of love, forgiveness, and grace but nothing about her showed true humility, one sinner telling another where to find grace.
“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
It snowed last night and today. It’s not a lot but a few inches and everything is a pristine white. The other day I was complaining about the brown, gray, dead look of winter and today the season revealed it too, can be beautiful. I’m not a fan of snow but the way it covers everything, makes it all look different, changes and challenges my outlook, even for a short moment, is wonderful.
The quote in the picture also reminds us that we have the power to change a difficult season for ourselves and others with acts of kindness. I would add; love, grace, forgiveness.
I told someone this week; “You sure are complaining a lot!” I now wish I would have blanketed them with compassion and compliments and perhaps, in their difficult season, their outlook on life would’ve changed, even briefly, and the world would’ve been better for it.
The Cycle –
I thought of someone today, a person I haven’t thought about in a long while. It was a song that stoked images, feelings, pain and regret. It’s been years since we’ve laid eyes upon each other and both of us have moved on but it is amazing how quick hurts begin to ache, old wounds begin to bleed, prejudices come out of the dark. After the song was finished, the emotions faded too and the rest of the day was typical.
Wisdom teaches us that forgiveness isn’t a one-time act, a single recitation of a phrase. Forgiveness is an ongoing process that takes years, perhaps even a lifetime. Forgiving the other is to also recognize our own injured ego, the part of us that still longs for revenge or recompense. When we forgive, especially those who have grievously mistreated us is not just accepting and then letting go what was done to us but recognizing and releasing what were still holding on to.
What do you do when you discover someone doesn’t like you? It’s a difficult question to ask and answer. Beth and I were talking about it this weekend and then yesterday and today someone I haven’t seen in almost a decade, out of the blue, let me know, in no uncertain terms, they don’t like me at all! Unknowingly I hurt them and they still bear the scars. After reflection and prayer I asked forgiveness and offered to make restitution but both were rebuffed. Presently there doesn’t seem a road which takes me to the heart of the matter so we can discuss the issues and connect once again as friends.
One of the hardest experiences to deal with is knowing someone doesn’t like you, knowing you have wronged them, or at least they have felt wronged, and you can’t do anything to make it right. So, for now, an apology, an act of grace, a hand which has been slapped away will be put aside until there is another opportunity to heal the wounds I’m accused of inflicting.
Wisdom tells us that we are weak, selfish, near-sighted and ego driven. Hopefully, I and this one who doesn’t care for me will be at different places on our journey the next time we connect and the outcome will be different.
Ongoing Grace –
One of the hardest acts in life is letting go of the expectation of an apology from someone who has hurt, offended us. Many times, we never receive what we are tempted to think we deserve.
Not too long ago I received a surprising apology from someone who had hurt me years ago. They asked for forgiveness and I gave it to them. However, apologies can be tricky. When someone expresses regret about an action or harmful words our ability to forgive has much to do with our place on the journey of forgiveness. Saying the words; “I forgive you.” helps but rarely completely, instantly heals the wounds.
Since the apology, there have been moments of pain when I am reminded the wounds are still healing. Times when memories are relived and the urge to fall back into negative thoughts patterns, judgmental attitudes are present. It is here, on our journey, we realize forgiveness is not a one-time act or phrase but a process, an ongoing combination of acts, words, and intent of spirit. There are seasons, moments, instances when the past impresses itself on the present. Wisdom teaches us not to ignore, resent, or seek escape but to let it be a reminder that forgiveness in an ongoing act of grace.
Someone asked me this week; “What if they never ask for forgiveness? What if it’s beyond them? What if they don’t believe they need forgiveness? How can I move on? How do I get rid of this burden if they never take it from me?” I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. That place where forgiveness seems to the be the only balm which would heal our wounds. Forgiveness is a tricky thing. We often believe it’s a one time,
Forgiveness is a tricky thing. We often believe it’s a one time, magical incantation of words which, uttered from the offending party, will make us feel better, forget the dastardly deed done to us, and move on with life. However, forgiveness, real forgiveness, is a journey and though our desire may be for the offending other to admit their role, their sin, their purposeful hurting of us, there is never a guarantee it will happen.
We must decide if we are going to wait, stuck on the side of the path, waiting for the apology that may never come. We can strand ourselves or decide to walk the path with the burden of unforgiveness. There will come a time, several of them, when we will either choose to continue carrying the heavy load or drop it and realize forgiveness never starts with the other. It always comes from inside where love, grace, and kindness reside.
What are We? –
This morning I walked into a sanctuary, on this 4th of July weekend, with this shirt staring me in the face. On the back of it was written the Declaration of Independence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence). I found it odd to be wearing this shirt in church but understand that being a Christian and an American go hand in hand for a large number of people. I often wonder which one folks would choose if the choice was forced upon them.
I focused my attention on the words being sung, the scripture being read, the prayers being recited. The final hymn we sang was one I had never heard before but the lyrics moved my spirit. It was entitled; “Lord of all nations, Grant me Grace.”
1 Lord of all nations, grant me grace To love all men of every race And in each fellow-man to see My brother, loved, redeemed by thee.
2 Break down the wall that would divide Thy children, Lord, on every side. Let me seek my neighbor’s good In bonds of Christian brotherhood.
3 Forgive me, Lord, where I have erred By loveless act and thoughtless word. Make me to see the wrong I do Will crucify my Lord anew.
4 Give me thy courage, Lord, to speak Whenever strong oppress the weak. Should I myself the victim be, Help me forgive, remembering thee.
As we lifted up this song my attention was once again drawn to the man wearing the Declaration of Independence shirt. It seems our country is run by two things; hate for those who disagree with us and fear of those different from us.
The song asks the “Lord of all nations” to allow us a heart big enough to love all people, to see them as our brothers and sisters. At a time where many are wanting walls built this song asks God to break down the wall that would force God’s children to choose sides. It challenges us to reach out to our neighbor regardless of race, color, creed or political preference. If we fail to do this we are to ask forgiveness for acts and words that do not espouse “God’s love.” We are also challenged to have courage when we are oppressed or when we find ourselves on the side of the oppressors, asking forgiveness and speaking God’s truth to power.
I wonder how many would wear a shirt with the words to this hymn imprinted on them as the man wore his shirt today. I also reflected on our nation, its claimed Christian heritage, and how we have lost our way.
Brian Loging (Twitter)
Someone asked me last week; “How long does it take to heal a broken heart? How long before you’ve moved past the pain, betrayal and loss? How long before it doesn’t hurt any more?” I wearily smiled and replied; “I’ll let you know, as soon as it happens.”
The act of forgiving someone is more than saying the words; “I forgive you.” It is a head and heart change, a spirit and emotional shift that takes time. Forgiveness is a process, a journey, which begins with some of the most difficult steps we can ever make. When someone has consciously, purposefully wounded us, torn apart a relationship, chosen to grievously harm us, there is no; “quick fix” prayer, magical spell or shortcut to a place of healing. To forgive is to make the choice to move on, not hold on to the bitterness and heartache, to allow the offending party and yourself to be free, and this choice is repeated many times.
The path of forgiveness is at first a downward spiral. We journey deep into ourselves and come face to face with the pain caused by the other. We admit and accept the hurt which has been done to us. We then bring the injury into the light by talking about it with someone we trust, someone who can help us navigate the path from brokenness to wholeness. Depending on the depth of the wound, healing, forgiveness, could take years. Remember it is a choice to let go of the blame, the pain and the burden of carrying around an act of selfishness, carelessness and callousness done to us by another. The choice is to hold on to the hurt or embrace freedom of mind, body and spirit. The decision might be made countless times until the impact of the betrayal is finally, permanently, all gone and we find the long, hard path to restoration complete and worth it.
Walking the path of forgiveness and repairing a relationship takes time, self awareness and the willingness of two.
A friend asked me this morning about restoring a broken relationship and his feelings of futility at his lack of success. Nothing seems to be working and he’s looking for another way to reach out and connect with his estranged friend. My first question was; “does the other person want the relationship healed?”
It takes two people to truly restore a broken relationship. Two with the self awareness that there is fault and blame on both sides. Two must be willing to forgive and seek forgiveness. Two with enough humility and grace to set aside ego, recognize the brokenness of the past and embrace the desire for newness to replace what is barren and dead.
Unless two are willing to travel the road of healing together the emptiness of what once was will remain.
My wife was verbally assaulted last week. I’m not sure she’d use those words but someone certainly chewed her up one side and down the other. It was bad enough that when she finished telling me the story, I asked if she was okay and she began to cry. There’s nothing harder for a husband when the woman he loves is hurting and there’s nothing to do but hold her.
I won’t describe the whole situation but the most perplexing comments the woman made to Beth were; “are you a Christian?!?! You need to go to church! Aren’t you going to say; ‘you’re sorry?!?!’ You still haven’t apologized! You need to apologize to me!‘” The woman went on and on. Beth told me; “I couldn’t apologize because she wouldn’t stop berating me.”
I confess I was frustrated. As I reflected on my negative feelings three thoughts echoed in my mind and spirit…
The first was the way people treat each other; unaware or unconcerned with how their words and actions affect the feelings and well-being of others.
The second was the question; “Are you a Christian?” being asked by a belligerent, judgmental person who apparently goes to church and is a Christ follower. I can’t help but wonder how many believers present an un-Christ like image while holding others to a higher standard or worse, never realizing the distance between their lives and their testimony.
Lastly, when we expect, demand, try and force an apology it shows a lack of humility, empathy and understanding of grace.
It’s hot today! The meteorologist forecasted the heat index to be well over one hundred degrees so this morning I got an early start on the weed eating chore which needed to be done.
The grass was still heavy with dew as I cut down the overgrowth next to the house and around trees. As I worked one space next to our fire pit I spied a June bug soaking in the sun. Earlier this week I wrote a post about what these herbivores had done to a young tree in our backyard.
The temptation to take a swipe at this insect swept over me. In spite of my contemplative lifestyle, spiritual disciplines, being a Benedictine Oblate and the belief that when we seek to hurt any creature purposefully we are also harming ourselves, the desire was still very real. I resisted the urge and eventually it moved on.
Wisdom teaches us that revenge never brings peace nor restores that which we have lost. An integral part of forgiveness is refusing to inflict suffering on one whom has brought pain into our lives. It is the recognition that revenge takes the one thing that cannot be stolen…the purity of our intentions.