Tag Archives: love

The Power of Forgiveness

LoveWarmsHeartThere’s very few of us who have not thought a lot about some of the ways we’ve been hurt or disappointed. In fact, Mira Kirshenbaum, Everything Happens for a Reason, reveals that anger, guilt, envy, and not feeling safe are all signs that we carry a heavy burden of not being able to forgive—ourselves or others. But forgiveness does not always come easily or quickly because of two key reasons: shame and guilt. And both are the result of a basic need to point an accusing finger at ourselves or someone else.

Kirshenbaum sees our need to blame someone or something as part of our natural perspective in life. She writes: “Part of what can make it so hard for us to forgive is the automatic way we orient ourselves in life through blame. If anything goes wrong anywhere, the first thing anyone thinks about is who to blame… Blame is a very deep instinct because it makes us feel safe.” (p. 111) and, no one wants to feel as if they are constantly living under personal attack.

As I thought about Kirshenbaum’s examples she gives for Reason #4: To bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness–or, perhaps said differently, to bring us to a place where we can accept the “…possibility there’s something else besides blame…” I found myself asking: What is there besides hate, fear, blame, and the inability to forgive? Are there legitimate reasons to forgive the cruelty of something or someone?

Mira Kirshenbaum offers her readers a spectrum of reasons for putting away finger pointing and accusations. She asks us to consider forgiveness when:

  1. The other person’s cruelty was because “he or she was sick, damaged, or limited somehow”;
  2. We see that the other person has “suffered enough…even if they haven’t suffered as much as we have”;
  3. We realize “we are safe now”;
  4. We recognize that “we don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t forgive”;
  5. We find that the other person makes up for what was done;
  6. We understand that “if we don’t forgive, we’re the ones who are hurt the most.”

Life is not perfect and neither am I.  There have been many things and people in my life that were incredibly cruel. There have been many times that my Christian values stood in conflict with my feelings.  As I remain open to God’s  leading, however, I’ve found that His amazing grace helps me to substitute finger pointing with the power to forgive. But forgiveness does not come cheap; it takes great inner strength and commitment. I’m reminded of what Gandhi said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

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The Reason Things Happen: A new lease on life

VisitingMy daughter Eve arrived just before the snow storm hit. The news weather channel had warned us only a few days ahead of time but her tickets were bought, suitcase packed, and honestly, I had high hopes that they would be wrong again. We had a great time as her few days stretched into a full week. I (of course) was ecstatic; she grew concerned. And after several trips to the airport only to be told to “come back later…”, she arrived safely home with warm southern California embracing her as she debarked.

Eve didn’t, however, take everything home with her. She left me three surprises in the hallway closet for me to find: a thank you note; a hardcover book by Mira Kirshenbaum—Everything Happens For a Reason; and, a tin of drawing pencils. We gabbed on the phone a bit after she got home and she let me know that she wanted to talk about Mira’s book on her next visit round.

So, in anticipation of that visit, I picked up the book and took it with me to one of my favorite places that offers a special Thursday menu of fresh baked Ziti, salad, warm toasted garlic bread, and a drink. I placed the book down on my table alongside of my Ziti and began to read.

I knew right away that Mira’s writing was going to be an interesting challenge because she starts off with asking the most impossible question of all: How do we make meaning of our lives? And, in particular, of the things that happen to us?  It’s a gutsy question because world-renown philosophers throughout the ages have asked the same question, phrased a little differently but with the same quizzical musings—what is life all about?

In chapter one, Mira lays her foundation assumptions about life. First and foremost, she believes that meaning can be found; we are not out here like seaweed in the ocean to be washed in and out with the tides. Rather, she offers the insight that “The good that comes out of the bad things that happen to you is to help you become your best, most authentic self” (p.22). She places emphasis on being a most authentic self. I agree with Mira. Being the best that we can be is important. Being an “authentic” best enlarges us beyond duplication or Xerox copies of each other.

Mira invites us to become a true and genuine human being and put aside petty jealousies, anger, and selfishness. Or, as Peterson in The Message observes about a shammed or faked life:  “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness…paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming but never satisfied wants; a brutal temper…small-minded and lopsided pursuits…uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions…” (p. 1609). Peterson says he can go on writing about a wasted and meaningless life. And, I believe him as my own experiences prove both his and Mira’s words true enough.

There is however, one thing that I would add to Mira’s ten meanings she gives to life events and Peterson’s perspectives on the search of an authentic living and that is we can neither do it alone nor can we achieve it simply through reading the books sitting on the shelves of libraries around the world or those stuffed into the bookcases in our homes. We must first open our ears and begin to listen to the inner man of our hearts closely—knowing that it speaks a language different than what we’ve been taught by our culture of material desires. For many of us that is a foreign dialect. And, perhaps more importantly,  it comes only in relationship with each other and that by the grace of God.

…next post–chapter two.

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Thinking Life’s Way

Every great achievement was once considered impossible.
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