We are all human. We all make mistakes. We make goals and don’t always achieve them. And we all share these things with every single other person on this earth whether they are our parent, child, sibling, friend, co-worker, or a stranger. Every day we get to make the choice to forgive ourselves and start anew. Every day we get to overlook someone else’s failings and give them another chance. Every day we get to choose to love again and again. And the way to do this best is to live with a forgiving heart.
Last year, I chose Love as my Word of the Year. As 2022 wound down, and in my ponderings for 2023, I have decided on Forgiveness as my Word for this year. It is something we all strive for regularly. It is something we may do well already or acknowledge we need to improve on. However, forgiveness doesn’t get talked about enough. We think we do because we all know how important it is to forgive. But how many of us really truly forgive constantly?
It took me years and years to embrace forgiveness. I would get mad at someone – maybe one of my siblings or my momma, and I would decide not to talk to them ever again until they told me sorry for upsetting me or not agreeing with me. As I grew, and read about forgiveness, and how in order to love fully, we needed to be more forgiving and less resentful, less angry, less bitter, I learned that a person cannot truly love fully until they developed a forgiving heart.
It has taken me years of practice to learn how to forgive and mean it deep down in the deepest part of my heart. And I am still working on it.
How do I do this? First, by asking myself what fault do I have in being upset. Was the other person really out of line? Or am I being too sensitive? Sure, a lot of the times the other person was definitely out of line. But in discerning the situation, I also realize the other person has feelings to, and maybe I was being too rude myself, too vocal, too liberal with my thoughts and words, too careless. Perhaps I wasn’t being sensitive enough to their feelings. Perhaps their growth in communication or forgiveness didn’t match my own.
There were times when the incident could be worked out, communicated, and forgiven. And there were times when the other person wasn’t willing to give. They wanted to remain hurt. They wanted to wallow in the slight. They wanted to take the disagreement with them into the next millennium. And those times were definitely hard. I am a fix-it type of person. I want everyone to happy. I want everyone to get along in an ideal world. But in reality, misunderstandings are not always fixable.
So sometimes, all a person can do is give the other person their space. Let time work it out. Everything doesn’t need to be fixed right away, although the sooner the better, of course. By giving space, both parties can consider the importance of their relationship to one another. They can determine if the disagreement is worth the loss of their affection or friendship. They can take time to work out why the situation affected them the way that it did.
When giving space, we can in turn take time to practice patience. We can assess our place in what happened. And we can better arrive at a way to apologize, if need be, or to speak in a softer, more caring tone. After thirty-five years of marriage, I can vouch that space and patience are vital for continued and healthy relationships. If you care about anyone, then having a forgiving heart is important to maintaining that relationship for as long as you each desire.
When I think of all the relationships I have lost over the years due to misunderstandings, I realize a common thread. These were times when I was feeling lost, insecure, self-focused, upset about something else. Of course, a lot of those feelings were due to not feeling well from my unknown food allergies at the time. But, ultimately, it was due to not nurturing these relationships. I didn’t pause, take time to put aside my own distractions, and instead focus on my brother or sister or friend or important acquaintance. Sure, we can say, life is busy and we can’t always be there for everyone. But we can also be willing to admit when we weren’t nurturing our love for these persons enough.
When we nurture love, we care about people over things. We put aside our own commitments, when necessary, and focus on the other people in our life, our children, our grandchildren, our siblings, our friends. When we nurture our relationships in love, our actions pay back in dividends when it comes to ties, affection, appreciation and commitment to one another. Just this weekend, I practiced what I preach by putting on hold all my social media stuff. I enjoyed time with my family when they came to visit for an overnight stay. And when a sister wanted to meetup, I also put off what I had planned and enjoyed our time together. Despite time off for family and friends, and even with a sketchy Internet, I am still getting done what I have planned two or three days ago – with no regrets.
How about you? What is your word of the year? Have you ever chosen a word of the year before? Some I know do it as a New Year’s Resolution and others in place of one as an intention. Either way, it gives room to think, ponder, consider how we want to live our lives and how we wish to grow in the coming year. And there oodles of words to choose from. Any word will work if it’s picked for the right intention, whether is is to improve on self, be more hospitable, more loving, kinder, or simply get through your day to a better one.
But how about if you pick a word and then life gets busy and it takes a while to remember that you have chosen a word? Start where you are. Forgive yourself for getting off track. And simply start again.
A good way to remember your word (or resolution, if you prefer) is to write it down. I’ve seen notes of so many things written on mirrors, as a phone or computer background, a frame on a desk or side table. Whatever works for you is best – or all of the above. I’m definitely using the mirror. It’s the first place I stop at in the mornings in getting ready for work and the last place I stop at night in getting ready for bed, so this only makes sense. I journal a lot, so putting my word on my journal cover makes sense, too.
So, where am I on my road of forgiveness? A lot further than I once was, but still getting there. Sometimes, depending on the situation, it’s a daily battle. And, for me, with my food allergies, I can easily forget that there are those who like to push other people’s buttons. For some reason, this makes them happy, or they never learned that this particular behavior is not healthy. So, it can be a challenge. And yet, at other times, I can walk away happy that I was able to keep my cool and understand that the other person is not at the same place in their life of forgiveness as I am presently.
I think my current stage of forgiveness is in wanting to teach others how freeing it is to forgive others. Truly, forgiveness is about not letting someone else’s behavior affect ours to the point we, too, are miserable. Unforgiveness is definitely not healthy; it breeds anger, bitterness, and encourages the mind and heart to think it is okay to remain unforgiving. When we think of not forgiving someone as not letting them off the hook, we deceive ourselves. A person who is wrong, whether they have lied or are being rude, can still be held to task. But by not forgiving, we are cheating ourselves from returning to our loving, kind, compassionate, and gentle selves. Once we choose to forgive and move on, we can live our life free of constant guilt, disappointment, or unhappiness from something that perhaps the other person doesn’t even care about any longer.
Poetry & Songs
I once wrote a poem, while I was in bookkeeping school, about forgiveness. I updated it about twenty years later. Both versions are lost amongst my boxes of paperwork in our main Conex. I hope to find both one day and get them published.
In the song, The Heart of the Matter (Forgiveness), by The Eagles, Don Henley sings about getting down to the heart of the matter. It’s about a relationship, and how he can still forgive even if he isn’t loved anymore:
“There are people in your life who’ve come and gone. They let you down. You know they hurt your pride. You better put it all behind you, …cause life goes on. You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside….
I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter. But my will gets weak and my thoughts start to scatter. But I think it’s about forgiveness. Forgiveness, even if you don’t love me anymore.”
I know. It’s seems a little depressing, but that’s part of the point. When we don’t forgive, we can become depressed. We can grieve for the loss of our relationship as it once was. We experience life through grayness rather than sunshine. But when we forgive others, we can live with a spring in our step. We can move forward. We can make a difference in others’ lives. We can make a difference in our own.
As I close this blog out (more on forgiveness in 2023), I want to encourage you to follow your dream – whatever it is. If you feel called to be a writer, singer, architect, mechanic, engineer, astronaut, puzzle-maker, just do it. Go in the direction that will get you there. Once, I went in the direction of clerical work, not knowing it would lead me to here: life in the country, a book, a blog, and you.
Happy New Year’s Eve 2022 & New Year’s Day 2023! We can do this!!
Love & hugs, Virg
Personal note: All photos are taken by me on our little piece of heaven in south Texas. I hope you enjoy. We are still building our Little Casita (guest cottage) but hope to be moved in by early summer. Prayers will be appreciated. Also, this month, I will be holding myself accountable for getting my second book published, finally. Prayers for publication in 2023 will be appreciated, too. Thank you and may God bless you and yours in all your needs. Love, Virg