Choosing Forgiveness

In my younger years I was a grudge-holding expert and prone to my own brand of tantrums. On one occasion, as a twenty-something, I remember getting ready for a Christmas party, slipping into a blue suede strapless dress that I had ordered from Victoria’s Secret. I gazed at the bedroom mirror with indulgent admiration. But when I proceeded down the stairs trying not to trip in my stiletto heals, I did not hear the expected response from my husband (Wow, you look amazing!!) Instead, he looked at his watch and said we needed to leave right away. I was fuming. He asked if I was okay and naturally I could not appear vain and admit that I had been expecting a compliment. (How shallow would that be??) So of course, I said flatly, “Nothing!” – leaving him clueless and unsettled. Well, a few glasses of wine later, my righteous indignation peaked and I picked an argument with him on the way home — and when our car stopped at an intersection, I opened the passenger door and stormed onto Racine Avenue. At midnight. In a blue strapless dress. Wearing heels. In snow.

It was much like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde indignantly marching home while her boyfriend tries to cajole her back in the car, lest her designer shoes be ruined.

Of course, like Reese, I did get back into our car, rather sheepishly, having realized that I could freeze to death.

Now that I am older and one hopes a tad wiser, I have no time for such theatrics. Holding onto a grudge causes wrinkles, chest pain, indigestion, and a host of other unwelcome ailments to my delicate constitution! I love how realistic and low-bar-ish the Bible is on this subject, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

At this juncture, who has time for spitefulness or a lack of forgiveness? We need to move forward, creating boundaries if necessary, but striving for peace with everyone. If our mother wronged us, perhaps she did the best she could with what she was dealing with at the time. If a teacher shamed us, or a friend betrayed us, retirement is the time to unpack our bag and travel lighter.

The Wall Street Journal has this to say in a 2016 piece written by Diane Cole.

To forgive, or not to forgive? It is a question that we ask ourselves more, and that becomes more salient, as years pass. As we grow older, it is “very, very common to review your life,” says Berit Ingersoll-Dayton, professor and director of the joint doctoral program in social work and social science at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. It’s a process that inevitably will bring up “things that we feel good about—and that we don’t.”

In the absence of forgiveness, an offense that was committed against us, or some pain that we caused others, can replay in our minds, causing continuing anger or remorse that is often a recipe for bitterness and bad health. A wealth of research has linked the isolation and loneliness that can result to increased health problems and higher mortality. Forgiveness, by contrast, allows one to focus on more positive thoughts and relationships. “It allows you to free up the real estate in your brain” taken up by negative thinking, Dr. Sood says.

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So, as far as it depends on us, if possible, let’s choose to forgive, and resist the urge to jump out of cars in self-righteous indignation. We could break a hip!!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

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