Forgiveness: It’s What’s For Dinner

Published in the Ferndale Record, October 29, 2014

It’s almost time to sit around the dining room table with family and either really enjoy it, or really hate it. Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings have a way of making us remember either why we love the people we do, or why we left home and rarely come back.

Recently I heard a speaker talk about how to obtain confidence, specifically spiritual confidence – the kind that let’s you know you’re doing good things and making progress without having to be perfect. I needed this.

I also needed each of his six practical suggestions to get and stay on this road, but one of them knocked me out. He said it like it could be done, and many will believe it can’t, but I think it can. Here’s the suggestion:

“Become really, really good at forgiving. Forgive everyone, everything, all the time, or at least strive to do so, thus allowing forgiveness into your own life. Don’t hold grudges, don’t be easily offended, forgive and forget quickly.”

I’ve been playing with this for the past few weeks and here’s what happened. I don’t naturally give others the benefit of the doubt—I have to work at it. But when I force myself to try, it’s easier the next time.

For instance, it means that when the guy on TV yells at me to buy OxiClean, or an ad pops up on a website inviting me to learn “73 Things About Reese Witherspoon You Didn’t Know,” I need to replace the snark running around my brain, and remember one of the things I’ve learned about marketing – it’s meant to be in your face.

Or, when I’m on the freeway and that woman on her cell passes me just in time to make the same exit I’m taking, instead of muttering and laying on the horn, I can relax and tell myself that maybe she really, really needed to be somewhere in a hurry.

These examples sound syrupy, sniveling and unimportant. They aren’t. Simple steps make the big ones easier. It’s a chain reaction, I promise.

When we think we know what someone else should be doing, saying or being, we really don’t. We know what we see. What we can’t see is what’s in their hearts.

Forgiving is one of those things that doesn’t have to be easier said than done. I know this because I’ve lived with people, (yes, LIVED with) who knew how to, and chose to forgive instantly.

I’m not talking here about huge issues that stem from hurtful relationships and habits. Those need to be addressed on their own levels and take time.

But maybe they won’t take as much time as we think. Forgiveness can be done and over with in seconds. The deed, the slight, the hurt can be forgotten – but here’s the catch: we have to just do it. Not wait, not let it simmer, not ruminate about how we’re right and the other person is wrong (although that may be true). We can simply let go of the rope.

Soured relationships turn sweet, impatience gives way to understanding and holiday dinners become something to look forward to.

The freedom associated with this is at once terrifying, exhilarating and enlightening. It’s like high stakes risk without the chance of a crash and burn.

You win every time.

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