Grace

I know too many sad and angry souls who simply cannot bring themselves to forgive. The wounds are too fresh, too deep, too profound.

I concede that some offenses are frankly unpardonable. But when such oppressive anguish has its hooks into you so deeply, it eats away at the fabric of your wellbeing so that only one of two significant events must take place — either it will kill you, or you will kill it. A gesture of grace can be a fine weapon.

Some say they can live without forgiving someone. But holding onto such profound anxiety devastates in equal parts, mentally and physically. This pernicious decay is gradual and, though you may disguise it for a while, angst will always beat you down. That’s what angst does best.

Buddha said, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Absolving a cruelty or personal attack is never painless, which is why so many stay far afield of it. It’s an instinctively alien concept to actually allow someone who’s so clearly guilty to just waltz away with a Get-Out-of-Hell-Free card. But think of it rather as doing something wonderful for yourself.

In the 1970’s when I was a brakeman for the Santa Fe railroad in Wellington, Kansas there was a puppy that had lost one of its front legs to a train. It would hobble around the train yard and people remarked how sad and pathetic it was. I didn’t see that. His little face was curious and playful. Yes, he was missing a leg but he didn’t dwell on the loss. How miserable would it be to carry that kind of anguish around? Pain is not something we’re meant to hold onto.

Christ said turn the other cheek. But really think about where that came from. Imagine you’re Jesus, walking down the street on your way to give a sermon or comfort a sick soul. Suddenly a man punches you for no discernible reason. You and I would get into it with him and end up with an ambulance ride, a police report, and a fairly unflattering mugshot. But Christ knew, in the bigger scheme of things, this clown was nothing more than a distraction. Forgiveness, at its very core, is merely a difference engine.

It helps you choose — do I stop and confront my assailant, which accomplishes nothing and pulls me away from my intended goal? Or do I unceremoniously dismiss him with an “I forgive you” so I may stay on track with what’s important? There may be pain either way but which tact ends up being the lesser hurt?

Yes, there’s something definitively Christian in the concept of absolution, but at its rudimentary level, forgiving a person is really a matter of emotional economy. Do we invest our anguish in those who are undeserving of our attention in the first place? Or do we unburden ourselves of their ability to meddle with our happiness?

Terrible things will always happen to good people. And good people will always manage to navigate beyond tragedy and loss. Sometimes it takes a while, but it’s always achievable.

When I am wounded, either by circumstance or cruel intent, I remember the three-legged puppy — savaged by the world, yet determined to embrace the good that is in it. The giving of grace to another is a truly healthy act of selfishness. And it’s what I will always choose.

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26 thoughts on “Grace

  1. Pingback: How Much Does Your Life Weigh? | Leap Like A Frog

  2. You are so right, Michael. Grace and forgiveness are as much a gift to ourselves as to the one to whom we extend it. Thanks for your thoughts. And thanks for stopping by my blog during A to Z as well. I feel like I have received a gracious gift because you have because now I get to read your insightful essays. God bless, Maria from Delight Directed Living

  3. Cheri, thank you for reciprocating my visit and especially for your glowing comments. I know what you mean. And I like getting my belly rubbed too. Can’t wait to read what you put up next. Cheers.

  4. I love the 3-legged puppy analogy. Sometimes I think our furry friends are much wiser than we are! They can’t wait to get started with their day every morning, they don’t hold onto grudges and it’s the little things like belly rubs that make them happy.

    I’ve oftentimes heard that forgiving someone is more for you than it is for them. It’s a mechanism to help you heal, so that you are not carrying around the pain, anger & resentment. Great post! Thanks for popping over to my blog for a visit this weekend. Drop by anytime! 🙂

    • How very sweet of you to offer such encouraging words. I love it when new people come into my life and this blog experience has been a rich one so far, thanks to nice people like you. Thank you so much for your kind words. A to Z…. still hammering away at it and three weeks yet to go! Cheers.

    • Thank you, Sue. Being a first time blogger this is a first for me. Much to learn yet but the blogging community thus far has been most supportive. I very much appreciate you kind remarks. Cheers.

    • So happy your reacted well to this. I’ve only just begun blogging a week ago and I’ve much to learn. But positive feedback like yours is inspiring to me as well. You’ve very kind. Do let me know when I can see your finished book. Cheers.

  5. Excellent! A very powerful piece so well-written. This has been a grace day for me with the topic flowing in and out of my day and now you’ve topped it off with this. Outstanding.

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