apparently decided enough was enough. In her common sense,
Methodist way she said, “Stop. Listen to yourself. You
don’t want to hold on to that hurt. It’s only hurting
you more. Every time you relive it, you are playing the part
of the victim.”
I was young, this story became part of the family tradition.
It had a formative nature. Dad would
listen to my heated accounts of being hurt. If I seemed caught
in an eddy of resentments, he would repeat Golda’s advice.
the years I have read a lot about forgiveness. I have listened
to a variety of speakers,
and tried a variety of prayers. All of that has been helpful in
its own way. Yet what has made the real difference has been learning from people
who, in Gregory Jones’ words, “embody forgiveness.” In
learning the way of forgiveness, it has helped to have mentors—those people whose
demeanor, whose way of living, is singularly marked by a forgiving spirit. My grandmother was one such person. One of my high school teachers was another.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is another. In each case, these are people who know
essential need to name the offense as precisely and as honestly as possible.
They are also people who know that out of that truth-telling, something new
may happen. Forgiveness may take root and begin to grow up out of the soil
the truth in love. In the naming, letting go of old hurt begins. In the naming,
something new begins to stir. We taste the freedom of being unstuck from old
hurts, and we grow out of the strange contortions of spirit that lack of forgiveness
need mentors when it comes to forgiveness. We need to notice
who in our respective communities bears this gift. And we need
to have the humility
apprentices, learning by practicing and hoping. I have started watching for
those whose presence brings forgiveness into a room, or into a meeting, or
into a community.
I have started observing, hoping to learn something about this practice of
forgiveness. On occasion I have asked specifically for guidance and for insight.
I am on the
watch for people whose forgiving spirits transform polarized discussions
and acrimonious debates.
you grew up with familial mentors of forgiveness, help pass
that formation along. We can teach
one another how to forgive. We can call forth real mercy
from one another. Our families need it. Our churches need it. Our communities
and governments need it. Forgiveness is a practice that can be handed on,
from person to person, from generation to generation. Like any practice,
practice. Find forgiveness mentors for yourself, and learn to be one for
others. After all, the hurt you hold on to is only hurting you more.
Mary C. Earle