Friday, August 1, 2014

Freedom

It wasn't what he said, although his words cut me to the core.

It wasn't his volume, which was, um, high.

It was his tone. The tone that was dripping with disdain. His words were mocking, hurtful, and full of scorn and contempt.

My family has never been what you would call a cohesive unit. My parents cut ties with their siblings, claiming the issues stemmed from childhood controversies that we wouldn't understand. When I look back at my formative years, I'm not sure who had more issues--the people I didn't know but had heard stories about, or my own parents.

We had the obligatory get-togethers with my mom's side of the family on Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas, and my aunt and uncle would send birthday cards in the mail. My aunt even took me shopping for my senior prom, buying me a pair of pearl earrings and a necklace to match. So even though my mom had blamed the lack of communication on her family, as an adult, I decided that I'd like to have a family that was bigger than 6 people. I envied the friends who had large, clumsy, loud-mouthed families, filled with Saturday night get-togethers and Sunday morning church. Sure, they complained, but to me, it was worse to have zero family and zero connections.

Sometimes, even though you might want something really, really bad, you just have to realize that not everybody wants to...be involved. At all.

I invited. I hoped. I planned. I served. I laughed when things weren't funny. I overcompensated and overdid, waiting for the relationship with my family members to take root, hoping I'd be invited to their house, waiting for them to see me as valuable to their lives. They got to be good friends with my dad. Why couldn't we make this work? Why didn't they want to be good friends with me?

Obviously, if I were completely one-sided, I'd tell you, like my mom, that nothing was my fault and I did everything I could to make a relationship work. From my point-of-view, I did. I don't know the other side of the story, so I couldn't tell you what I did wrong, what they were truly thinking, or what I could have done differently, but I do take some blame. I had called him a name in my earlier years, making things awkward for awhile. Maybe I was just too darn needy.

So it wasn't even the 5-minute yelling streak, screaming things I won't repeat and mostly can't remember. It was his absolute rejection of my whole person that brought me to tears. And he felt justified in what he had said, how he had described me, the words he used, the adjectives he chose. I believed some of those words about me.

I couldn't stand up for me.

My dad--his good, good friend--wouldn't even up for me.

Ouch.

My soul felt broken into little jagged pieces, the hurtful words swirling over and around my head.

Eight years later.

And I still have a touch of venom when I think of that situation.

When I decided to do a life-overhaul several years ago, forgiveness was one of the things that stood out to me as something I need to work on. So I went through the mental list of people I needed to forgive: ex-boyfriends, friends, family members, co-workers. I even made a few phone calls, had some difficult conversations, made good with a few people. Then I wiped the proverbial dust from my feet and thought I was done.

Except I really wasn't.

Because for me, forgiveness isn't a one-time deal. Forgiving someone a single time isn't a game-changer for me. I can say I forgive and then hold onto that grudge for the next 3 years, waiting for the day when I can have that imaginary (but totally put-you-in-your-place awesome), one-sided conversation. I'll forgive again and then find myself seething over the remembered infraction.

All-in-all, I'm terrible at forgiving.

But I found that the more I held onto those sins against me, the more miserable I was. The imaginary conversations never happened. The other people never came to their senses or crawling back, begging forgiveness. And the ice around my heart continued to harden, and I became perpetually frosty, guarded, and reserved.

I was hurting me, not the people who had hurt me. However bassackwards that is, that's the way it is.

And I finally figured out that forgiveness is, instead of a one-time deal, an every time deal.

Every time I think of that person, I forgive.
Every time I remember those words, I forgive.
Every time my thoughts land on that situation, I forgive.

Every. Time.

Now, here's the game-changer for me: just because I've forgiven someone does not mean that it's forgotten . It does not mean that what they did was okay. And it does not mean that we have to be friends.

But it does mean that my mind is free. I'm no longer bound by what the other person said or did. Sure, I'll have to forgive...and forgive...and forgive...but I am no longer held prisoner by any situation, adjectives, or hurt.

Freedom.

It's worth it.

**It's my 500th post!! what what!

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