Thursday, July 7, 2011

All about forgiveness

This week's Spin Cycle is a tough one.  Forgiveness.   When I say it's a tough subject, I usually mean it's one I stare at after she assigns her "spins" for the week and go "ugh, do I have to??? (In my whiny brat voice).  So, yeah....Forgiveness.  Here goes nothing....
Being raised in the Catholic church, forgiveness is one of those things that has always been ingrained in me as from birth.  Every year, you had to go to confession and ask for forgiveness for your sins.  You were to forgive those who trespassed against you.  If God could forgive that person for their wrongdoing, then who were you not to forgive them?    As a child, the concept seemed easy enough.  No one ever really did anything to me too horrible that I couldn't forgive them for it.  And my "sins" consisted of talking back to my parents, being mean to my brother and sister and occasional lying.  Child's play. 
However, as I got older, the whole concept got a little murkier.  Suddenly it just wasn't that easy.  The scars of my own wrongdoings and the things others did to hurt me didn't go away with a simple "I'm sorry."  I began to struggle with the difference between forgiving and forgetting and had one hell of a time distinguishing between the two. 
Some time ago, I participated in a Spin involving poetry, and I opened my heart to all of you about my past, the things that I struggled with as I became an adult.  Mistakes made, scars caused.  Saying I'm sorry became something that I said or something I heard from someone, just going through the motions, but did not mean or something I said, trying my best to truly meaning it but never forgetting the harm that was done.  Rather, I would take an apology but carried the memory, weighing me down like a lead balloon.  And the more balloons I tacked on, the harder it got to even try to forgive. 
I am the first to say that I have made many a bad choice as a young adult.   When you reach college age and on, you almost get this invincibility about yourself.  Nothing you do can really harm you.  You do without thinking, jump without looking, act without thinking of the consequence.  You make decisions that could truly hurt yourself, hurt those who love you or worse, could even take you away from those who love you.  And, for some, those acts of carelessness hardly register on a scale of guilt.  But for me...not so much.  As years went by, I found myself weighed down so much by guilt that I was unable to even contemplate forgiving myself.
By the time I reached my late twenties and met T, I was so far past that point of self forgiveness that I gave up any hope of ridding myself of the guilt of the past.  It wasn't until I met T and fell in love that I started to see that it was even possible.   I had to learn to love myself enough to see that I was worthy of forgiveness, even if it was my own.   It didn't happen overnight, and it wasn't something T did.  It was more he gave me the strength so that I could do it for myself.  And eventually I did.  I let it go and gave it to God and forgave myself. 
Do I still struggle with it?  Yes.  Does that guilt creep up every now and then and try to squirm its way back into my life.  Of course.  (For those of you who know me all to well know that worrying is a pastime of mine, and worrying about guilt? It's an excelled skill of mine, what can I say?)  But now I know that whenever that guilt pokes its head around the corner, I can brush it aside and clear my heart of that burden.  And sure, I'll make many more mistakes along the way, but the good thing is now I know that I can forgive myself.  And that is half the battle. 
So yeah, Sprite's Keeper, thank you for the difficult topic :-)  But no, it does feel good to be able to write about it, and I hope that my lessons I have learned will only help me someday as I become a mother and teach my children all about forgiveness and how they should love themselves enough to know what it truly means to forgive. 
So next week's Spin...can that be something light-hearted and cheery?  Like puppies and unicorns, perhaps?


  1. Guilt is something I struggle with, too. (To which my mom always says, "I didn't raise you Catholic! What is this?" Ha!) It is difficult to let go once it worms its way in there.

  2. You have no idea how much your post touched me today.


  3. This is one of the most beautiful posts I ever read. Seriously. It should be required reading for every woman.

    You know I'm in the same boat with you about worrying and guilt. MB tells me frequently he never has met a more guilt-ridden person than me. It's just so hard to be nice and forgiving to yourself. You inspire me.

    Adore you.

  4. I would like to echo Bink's comment. Definitely required reading. I try to forgive, but sometimes forgetting seems beyond me since I am a great subscriber to "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me."
    You're linked! And great idea!

  5. Excellent post! I have learned through the years is that there is nothing like Jewish and Catholic guilt, we seem to have are real good spot in that corner!!

    There are 2 books that I think everyone should read, both by Lewis Smedes; "The Art of Forgiving," "Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve" He has a very healing and unique way of looking at forgiveness. Both books have been around for a while and some people have used some of the things in the books but nobody has put it all together like he does.

    Thank you for sharing!

  6. Raised Catholic too, I completely understand. I am always struggling with forgiving because I cannot forget. And while the pain of the wrong doing gets less and less each year sometimes in those small moments it's still unbearable. My aunt died and she and I will never be able to forgive and forget. Some days I am still angry at her and it's not fair because I want to miss her and remember all the good but it's hard when the wounds have ripped open with her passing. But you have to forgive yourself Nain. Good or bad the decisions you made in the past made you the person you are today. If you never learned from your mistakes that's one thing but you have and you deserve happiness:)

  7. Great post, Nain. As a Catholic, I completelly undestand.
    I can forgive, but not forget.

  8. I think that a lot of people tend to feel they can do no wrong. However, as you get older you start seeing how your actions affect others and you start changing the way you behave. I think that is a part of growing up.

    Great Spin!

  9. A fellow Catholic. During one Mass, the Priest spoke about God's forgiveness. He said it's not like God is a garbage man, where he comes and picks up your bags full of sins, and takes them to the dump where they live forever. Rather, when God grants forgiveness, He makes them disappear totally, they are gone forever and ever, AMEN! This was such a lovely thought for me and how I try to approach raising my son. I hate to think all my sins are out there still, in some dump.


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