Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sowing forgiveness

Mark Twain says that "forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it." But who has it better, the violet or the heel? Better to be a noble, selfless violet spending eternity in a trampled garden, or the heel that asks forgiveness again and again? When E and I were in a state of disrepair I heard my calling to be that violet. I wonder now about the message that quote sends.  I wonder about patterns of hurt and apology.  What's right, or is there a "right"?

Forgiveness challenges me like an unyielding treadmill--forgiving myself has always been a struggle, but I also grapple with the idea of forgiveness in my relationships. "To forgive is divine" but in human context it can leave one person with a repeated burden. Unlimited forgiveness is a cornerstone of my faith; it's disheartening, then, to know that human forgiveness is imperfect. A violet will only withstand so much before it withers, yet humans don't seem to be able to avoid injuring each other.

I can usually apologize without too much trouble; apologies don't scratch too deep into my own discomfort.  Asking forgiveness, though, a bulb forms in my throat; I know it's necessary for me to humble myself for the task but it takes an internal fight.  Frankly the most difficult challenge comes when I'm the asked: letting go, feeling better, moving on, trusting again--these are so hard for me. I wonder if those things will ever get easier.  And knowing there are some unforgiveables in life--that troubles me. It doesn't jive with my sense of justice or reason. There are things that just can't be made right or made right quickly.

Tonight E and I mine the sands of frustration and fatigue for nuggets of peace. Taxes are due, tempers are short, eyes are flecked with the glitter of sleeplessness. Sometimes it's all just too much and everything comes to a head. Things get said. Feelings get hurt. Apologies get made. But when does peace come?  What's the right way to handle it?

I wish there was a timetable for forgiveness, a charted healing season. Plant an apology, give it full sun. Sow forgiveness, breed faith in the right weather. Instead it's a guessing game, a scattering of good intentions like wildflower seeds. There's no guide.  I suppose the best we can do for each other is to ask and consider, to listen and respond in love and give it time to take hold.

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