This I Believe

suzanne - seattle, Washington
Entered on November 2, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

Two weeks before Christmas Day, my church holds a Reconciliation Mass for anyone seeking forgiveness. It is a wondrous experience and I have come to look forward to this graceful event each year.

On a dark December Tuesday night I make my way to St. James Cathedral after work. I take my seat in a pew to wait, in prayer, until the time I am invited to sit with Father Ryan to offer my sins, welcome a conversion of in heart and receive God’s forgiveness.

I believe in forgiveness.

While it is true I am Catholic and it is impossible to separate my faith from my self, the forgiveness I spend the most time with is the kind that takes place, right here, on Earth. It is the kind of forgiveness you conjure on the fly when your husband thoughtlessly hurts your feelings or your tantrum-throwing child screams, “I hate you.” And in the worst case scenario, it is the forgiveness you muster when you have had a rotten day and you betray yourself by yelling back, “Yeah? Well, I hate you too.”

I believe in forgiveness.

Summoning angelic compassion is not for beginners. It is a powerful step-by-step practice of healing I work at every day.

The first step is personal accountability. Everyone contributes something to any conflict. Often it is unspoken expectations: “I expect you to never hurt my feelings.” “I expect you to love me, I am your mom.”

The second step is acknowledging your contribution. It does not matter who did what to whom. Resentment adn conflict does not occur when one person is meditating: “I have an expectation that you will never hurt my feelings.” “I expect you to soften the end of a hard day.”

Finally there is the willingness to look past the behavior and love your transgressor, even when it is you. “I accept that you are doing your best and that you did not intend to hurt my feelings.” “I understand you are mad and you have the right to be angry, but I know you love me and I love you too.”

I believe in forgiveness.

I learned this lesson in forgiveness witnessing my husband during his battle with alcoholism. He will have three years this Christmas season and while it might have been very easy and socially acceptable to blame his alcohol-related behavior on, well, alcohol…he didn’t. He worked the 12 Steps: he admitted the exact nature of his wrongs; he became willing to make amends; he continued to take personal inventory and when he was wrong promptly admitted it. As a result he has been able to forgive and release himself from the burden of no small amount of guilt and shame.

As have I.

I believe in forgiveness.

Love may go unrequited. Hate, hopefully, will not be returned. Forgiveness rebounds and it is in the giving that we receive it and its healing power. We heal ourselves when we heal others.