(My friend Dawn & I at some formal in high school 1988?)
Who knew Atonement had such a popular name?
“I don’t want to die with any enemies” said Sammy Hagar, former lead singer of Van Halen talking about a wish to reconnect with the Van Halen camp. Not for a tour, not for money, but because, with the death of so many musicians of his age in 2017, he made it a goal to try to establish good connections with people where animosity existed. About a year later, they are where they were. The internet has raged about who was wrong, who is now wrong, which singer they liked better, Sammy’s true motivations… everyone on the net that has an interest in the band has an opinion, and many have been all over the message boards. A couple weeks ago, Sammy’s camp showed him on stage, smiling and having a blast.
Why should we care? Because making ourselves vulnerable by asking for forgiveness or restoration with others is probably going to cause much less of a stir. Honestly, if I wanted to apologize to all the people I’ve wronged and ALL of them refused, and ALL of them decided to make it known publicly, a total of about 1000 people (thanks to Faceboof & Tweeter) would know that I’d admitted a mistake and attempted to reconnect. Plus, most of those folks are too busy and not interested in the time I took Cathy to the prom and we ate fast-food in my car (or the fact that I went to formals at four different high schools with 6 different dates – and yes Dawn, we had the most fun because that was our only “date” and we stayed in the friend zone).
So what if people know someone is admitting a committed wrong and attempting to make it better. Sure, it may only be for their own guilt and shame to be released, but still, they’re laying it out there. But remember, “I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive you.” Is always an option. I know, because I’ve gotten two of them. One was approached too soon, the other made it clear, never ask, because you will never be forgiven.
Not for me. For them. If they are still hanging on to what angered them they are still connected to me by anger. If every time they see me, they get angry again, then they have given me FAR too much control over their emotions. More than that, life is too long for grudges and too short for hate. Both take a tremendous amount of energy.
And it is “their” choice – and I have little influence or control over it. Amends is all I have.
If they are refused, I guess I need to call Sammy and grab a guitar.
Too often we make ourselves responsible for other people’s thoughts and feelings, that is actually called manipulation. It changes who you are in order to make “them” give you the response you want. It was renamed “Marketing” at some point and “truth in advertising” went out the window when DeBeers started limiting the supply of diamonds, advertising that the lasted forever (like your luv) and made sure romantic movies all had diamond engagement rings & starlets wore borrowed diamonds to televised award shows. The “diamond engagement ring” is less than 100 years old – and yes, I’m bitter for buying two of the fake valued things, but still hope to buy a third at some point (and don’t get me started on the white wedding dress).
Once we recognize the only person we can control is ourselves (and some folks can’t do that), our amends gets easier. We take an honest inventory and then try to make it right – to achieve a peace. If that fails, it is not on us. It doesn’t matter what the friends say, it doesn’t matter what other’s say. We admit our wrongdoings and seek forgiveness anyway. We must “repent” in word and deed, but that takes time. Trust grows slowly for some, renewing trust has to overcome the damage first.
What happens if…
… it is still held against you? Then it was the wrong time or will forever divide you. You may chose to forgive yourself.
… it is forgiven? Then be thankful and do your best not to wrong them again.
But what if the one that can’t forgive is me? Then you have your own work to do. I could quote you sermon examples, heap on the shame and the guilt, threaten you with eternal damnation… which does no good for anybody. But what I can tell you is this. A failure to forgive will always link you with the other. Always bound by anger, always trapped in the past, which may be righteous, but that remains, always your choice.
You may not be ready, but acknowledging your choice is empowering. You decide how long this will continue. You have that power – not the one who did you wrong. It is not total, and it is not instant. The first step is not a trip to the gumball forest… it’s making the decision to get out of the molasses swamp. Taking your power and deciding, “I want to be done with this, I want to forgive.” Until you have that, nothing else matters. After that, you unpack the wrong, what triggered the anger, I mean deep triggered, if it was abuse, what made you accept that as normal? Infidelity, why does that bother you so deeply? Un pack that, then throw it away like a preacher’s shot glass collection from before seminary.
Because a funny thing will happen – you will be a new person, with a new perspective. You will move forward and look back on yourself and wonder who you were.
I know because I’ve done it.
I know it takes time because I’ve seen others struggle with it.
I know 3 women who are raising children of rape. Each one found a way to keep the baby from being the recipient of the anger at their respective bio-dads. One was able to forgive as soon as she saw her daughter, “I was exhausted from the labor, and when I saw her, I was so filled with love I couldn’t imagine having anger and hatred around her… which worked right up until she started walking and getting into everything.”
The second mother held the grudge until she and her son was injured in an accident, and her convict ex’s family stepped up. The third still hates her rapist with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. Her son resembles how she remembers a man that she’s still never “met.” She’s seen counselors, been hospitalized and continues to struggle. It broke her. There was no suspect.
But her revenge was raising a good man who loves his mother. A man who respects women for their strength, intelligence and also their beauty. A man who now has daughters, and the greatest gift is that she gets to see them regularly, hear their laughter, and care for them. She speaks of not ever forgiving her rapist, but acknowledges the love her family gives her. As she said the other day, “I can’t let it go, but at least I know I wouldn’t kill him if I saw him again.”
She asks me its that’s wrong – we pray together – that if the time comes in this lifetime, she’ll be able to. But in God’s mercy, if she never reaches that point, God would understand, her life was just too short to complete her work. She wants to, on some level, and she’s tried.
My advice for him would be to never seek amends, it is too soon.
Amends and forgiveness are a process for us.
But not for God. Thank God.
Through Christ, we’re already forgiven.
God, forgive us, for we know not what we do, but when we recognize our wrongdoings, help us to make amends, unless it would cause more harm than good. Give us the courage to be vulnerable, and the strength to forgive. Help us to live in peace…
(Addition 05/30) Quite by chance I happened upon one of the unforgivable/never forgives. A lot of changes had taken place. Memories were avoided, but amends were offered & accepted on both sides. Not with huge gestures, but with understanding. An outsider commented about “old times” but I know better. It’s new time…
Forgiveness – it brings Freedom.