Posts tagged ‘forgiveness’

Downshifting from Overdrive: Accepting Myself

On most days, my appearance would give you no clue that I struggle with my physical and mental health.

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Occasionally, though, I can't hide my biology's battle against me.

Does anyone remember how in the “way back days” (a boy who I once had guardianship of used this to refer to my younger days), even in an automatic car, you drove in Drive sometimes and in Overdrive sometimes? The two weren’t synonymous. Well, no matter, I’m sure you can fathom what I mean. I keep trying to live my life in Overdrive with the Parking Break on. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. I want to drive, but my health keeps applying the parking break, because I’ve been unwilling to downshift. I’ve been afraid. I’ve been thinking that if I downshifted, I’d be in Neutral and that wasn’t acceptable. You get pushed in Neutral. You get towed away in Neutral. Sometimes in Overdrive with the pedal to the metal and going nowhere because the Parking Break is on, I’ve thought shifting into Reverse was going to help me somehow, like when you rock a car to get yourself unstuck from an icy, three-foot high snowdrift (I grew up on the Chicago latitude). But it hasn’t ever worked because (unlike when I’m driving a car) I’m still in the habit of putting that pedal to the metal so I lurch backwards and slam myself into a tree trunk. Then I’m really going nowhere! All this to say, I don’t want to be lead-footed anymore in Overdrive or Reverse. It’s incredible how long it took me to realize why I wasn’t going anywhere or going so slowly.

Have you driven with your Parking Brake on? The first few times you try, your car holds you locked in place and you realize it. But, imagine the Driver’s Ed teacher keeps secretly setting it because he wants you to quit speeding. He knows you aren’t really in control when you are going so fast. We’ll suppose he’s tried to tell you in other ways, but you just weren’t getting it. It’s not necessarily your fault. It turns out he speaks with a heavy accent; you have to listen really, really hard to catch half of what he’s saying. Well, if he keeps setting it but you don’t know when, you keep pushing that pedal to the metal when you feel that drag. He means well, but sometimes you speed even worse because you anticipate the drag of the brake being on. You are in even less control than before. It’s a strain on you and the car. The brake starts to give. Eventually, when you do it, your car moves but my gosh, it’s like trying to push it uphill all alone! You get so frustrated. Everyone’s passing you by. You can’t get where you want to go. You want to give up, but you won’t. I mean, after all, at least you’re still moving. But inside your engine is burning hard, wearing down. Let’s just say, I’ve really been killing my engine!

I’ve got a lot of updating to do to my “About” page, but to put it briefly, I’ve got 20 chronic health conditions. I use to be an “overachiever”, but I’ve been disabled for many years now. I struggle with activities of daily living, but looking at me and even being around me for a day or two, you probably wouldn’t have a clue. I’ve been in various degrees of denial, not intellectually but emotionally for the most part. I still have found reasons to rejoice here and there, but I’m not happy and I know I’m the only one who can change that. I have the power to choose joy, but it is an “attitude in action” and my attitude, though positive, has been pretty stagnant. I’ve decided I’ve got to try downshifting from Overdrive to Drive. I had to trade in for an older model, one that has that option. So, I may not fit in at first. I don’t like that, but if it means I might start making some progress, it’ll be worth it. This past year – it’s been so hard! I realized I wasn’t going forward, no matter how cool my sports car life looked. I realized how burnt up my engine was. I realized shifting into Reverse didn’t help. I wanted people to pitch in and push. That didn’t work either. I’m so angry. As much as I hate being angry (I mean who really likes it), I’ve got to admit it. I’m angry I didn’t understand what my health problems were trying to tell me. But I’m not going to waste anymore time being angry at myself. Well, that’s probably not true; it’s a hard habit to break, but I, at least, am going to do something different too.

My downshifting is starting right here, with this blog. I’m sure sometimes I’ll still blog my philosophical musings or spiritual meditations or inspirational reflections or political rantings or artistic expressions, but here out this blog is foremost going to be a chronicle of my choice to live my life. That sounds so ordinary, but the key words in there are choice, live, and my. I reminded myself recently when I emotionally vomited an email to someone that my mind doesn’t process things well inside. If I’m going to write, it makes sense that I should use it to help myself, not just others. Often, I’ve shared the lessons I’ve learned but not the process of how I’ve learned them. I look over my blog and sometimes it just seems so stiff and formal, so unapproachable while inside I’m crying out for someone to not only approach but to hold me. Well, how can I ever face writer’s block again if my mind is always going. I’m not going to worry about getting things just right or being right. I’ve known for a long time I’m not “Super Molly,” but I wanted everyone else to think I was. Funny thing is it wasn’t because I needed people to see me as “Super” but because I needed them to see me and since I haven’t figured out who I am yet, I thought I had to show them me as “something”. I didn’t trust they could figure out who I was right along with me. Actually, I think I was a bit afraid they’d figure it out before me and I’d feel like I was being passed by. Hmm, the irony.

I truly believe God speaks through other people and I think it’s important to let people know when they are a vessel of Spirit’s voice in what they say or do. So, many people have contributed to this moment, this particular instant of awakening, but aside from my therapist Tina Marie Dale, LCSW, I want to thank a few special people who probably have no idea how they have touched me. Honestly i don’t know if I can explain except to say that their “being there” and/or genuineness is emboldening me to expose my Self, to love myself enough to slow down. I may have to add to this list as I remember people but here are the people off the top of my head right now…
Barb Efflandt, Rev. Kathleen Thomas, Frankey Landon, @aeTyree, @Read2Write10, @JillMarieinFL, @tetka, my friends at Poetry here And Now, Deborah Helm, Jill & Jo O’Brien, Lady Dawn, Alice Puckett, Jesleen92 (blog: 91 Odd Socks), “Bananas” Charity (blog: charityjh.com), and Wendy Holcolme (blog: Picnic with Ants: Living with Chronic Illnesses). Those names beginning with “@” are the Twitter usernames by which I know them. Many people on Twitter have blogs and I encourage you to check out these Tweeters and their blogs.

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You CAN be Perfect!

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

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To affirm, simply put, is to add firmness to. To affirm yourself, therefore, is to add firmness to you and to your self, to strengthen both your definition of yourself and your very being. Start by affirming what is known truth – you are human. What does it mean to be human? A human is not all powerful. A human is not all knowing. A human is imperfect. A human feels. Emotions convey a message. Fear tells us we do not know something. Fear is  useful. Fear is normal. Fear is to be expected. We have no reason to fear fear. Likewise, we have no reason to act is if we are fearless or to avoid anything that might evoke fear. Doing so reflects a form of perfectionism. Do not be afraid to fail or to succeed. You can be perfect – perfectly human, perfectly you.
We are meant to strive toward perfection, but neither to reach it nor to expect to reach it. To have a different mindset is to challenge God, to believe we can be equal. To judge ourselves unworthy of God’s love and mercy reflects an expectation that we can be perfect. Thus we manifest our true sin, pride. In refusing God’s love and likewise refusing to love ourselves, God’s creation, we withdraw our trust in God alone. We again forget we are of God. We no longer clearly and consistently recognize God. We begin to fail to see the God in others, but rather see only the façade which their separation from God requires them to create. We, in turn, seek affection from them instead of the God within they are meant to manifest. Hence, God is no longer our first and only love. We lose our way. We separate ourselves even further from the source of our very being, the only Perfect, in whom when we are ultimately united we are perfected in love.
So quit trying to be perfect. When anxieties arise, recognize the feeling as a reminder that you are human, just as you are meant to be. Rejoice that you do not know everything because it is not your responsibility or your burden. Affirm that you not only have a right to be afraid, but that it is normal to fear. Yes, I say rejoice that you have been wonderfully made, that you are extraordinarily ordinary. Rejoice that you know God and that God’s strength is yours for the asking. Just for today, choose to be, strive to be perfectly human. Tell yourself, ” I am perfectly human, naturally flawed, extraordinarily ordinary, wonderfully unique. I am meant to feel and to fail, to find favor and forgiveness in the fullness of God, forever and the only the Perfector of Souls.”  AFFIRMATION: Just for today, I accept and rejoice that I am a human being, created and loveable just as I am.

When Friends Disappoint: The Case of Few Partners in Prayer

"Praying Hands" (study for an Apostl...

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It seems that often times, Spirit speaks to me as I’m speaking to others. I’ve decided that such responses are applicable answers to the issues of many more than the one person to whom I’m writing, so I’ve decided to change some key details, so as to share them with you all. This is probably the first in a non-sequential series.

Recently, after a long absence from a social site, I returned to discover a post from a friend that she was disappointed that only a very few of her hundreds of Socialsite Pals had joined her only intermittently to pray for the victims of the disasters in Japan. She declared that she didn’t want to be Pals with such unloving people.

This was my response…

Dearest Kyoko, I can see from your story about not being joined in prayer, that you were very hurt emotionally.  I don’t ever think a person is wrong to express feelings. I noticed though that you used the phrase “call people on the rug”, asserting that it was the right thing to do. To me, this implies judgement. Perhaps you don’t mean it that way. In any case, it is not always wrong to express judgement, but we must do so very cautiously. So, I just want to share a few thoughts, not to correct you, but only to spur your reflection on the matter. I’m well aware I don’t know the details of the situation for any involved. Please don’t feel obligated to explain or feel that you must defend yourself. I’m just going to throw out some scenarios. What doesn’t apply, you can ignore.

You said you were praying hourly. I wonder how many of your Socialsite Pals even knew. The way Socialsite picks “top stories” for my Frontpage, sometimes I forget to click over to “most recent” and miss important stories. Other times, when I’ve been long absent or a lot of people have published, I might miss someone’s story that is hardly an hour old because I get tired of scrolling back. (Granted, this doesn’t happen as much on my current Socialsite account because I’ve limited my Pals but it’s a frequent occurrence on the site I use most!) And perhaps others, like myself, were not even on Socialsite. Now of the ones left, some may have been praying and not publishing. Some may be of the type who have hearts of prayer, offering up prayer for the intentions of those in need or in concert with the intentions of those they care about without remembering all of the details to pray specific words, but nonetheless God hears their prayers just as loudly. Some may have offered fewer prayers but with a deep sincerity that few can manage. Some may have desired to be in hourly prayer with you but could not, perhaps because of exhaustion or obligations to family. We all have different callings. Further, intercession is a spiritual gift. It is not everyone’s gift, and it is no better or worse a gift than any other.

What I’m really trying to say, Kyoko, is that it benefits us and others to believe the best of others unless we have hard evidence to the contrary. Where evidence exists, confrontation is best made directly and privately, allowing the person to make amends rather than potentially shaming them such that they turn further from God. Even when evidence is present, it behooves us to be forgiving, realizing that persons sometimes fall short not because they are uncommitted or uncaring, but because they are ignorant of their own limits or struggle with pride in admitting those limits. Forgiveness is not something to be asked for but something to be silently offered – giving the problem back to the person it belongs to for our own piece of mind. At a point much earlier in my spiritual journey, your admonishment of your Socialsite Pals for not joining you in prayer would have felt like a hard and undeserved slap in the face. I likely would have felt betrayed by someone I trusted to accept me. At the same time, I may have felt wrongfully ashamed for not measuring up to your expectations, the expectations of someone I admired. I don’t know how many, if any, of your Socialsite Pals are young in their spiritual journey (which has nothing to do with how long ago they accepted Jesus the Christ as their Savior), but in my Christian youth, feeling rejected, I would have probably quietly disconnected from someone who could help me grow and then drifted farther away from the embracing love of my Lord.

As I said, I don’t know the specific circumstances regarding your request to your Pals. I also know nothing of their replies, their reasons for not joining you. I merely wanted to offer you a perspective you may not have had the opportunity to discover. God bless you. You are a beautiful woman, inside and out. I hope we continue to have the opportunity to grow together by Spirit’s guidance.

How to Love Stupid People

warning about stupidity

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I first must make clear that ignorance is a lack of knowledge, skills, or understanding. While stupidity is often interchanged with the word ignorant, its theoretical meaning differs vastly. The outcome of both may produce the same actions, but stupidity is in fact a character defect rather than a condition. Both may prevail unceasingly until death, but the latter is far more difficult to eradicate. Stupidity in the sense that I mean it here is better equated with a lack of willingness, a mental attitude that dismisses evidence and experience and reason, the source or sister to insanity – that being the repetition of destructive or self-destructive acts with the expectation that the consequences of one’s actions will magically lose their destructive force and may in fact result in the opposite. Ignorance is relatively easy to remedy – feed the mind and the rest will follow. Stupidity however requires patience, fervent effort, and diligence. To step beyond stupidity requires a deep humility, so deep as to see ourselves exactly for who we are with no judgment at all – positive or negative. Many are not capable of such honesty. Second, before I continue, I want you the reader to know that neither ignorance nor stupidity can be generalized to every part of a person’s being. So, like my co-contributors (as you’ll see this theme elsewhere), I could never truthfully or with good conscience call a person stupid or ignorant, except rarely perhaps if I qualified in what manner or area. For we are all stupid and ignorant in some manner to some degree at different points in our life.
Now, why is such clarification necessary? It is needed because it is a groundwork upon which we may develop empathy, grow in our ability to forgive, find serenity and live with joy. Never have I come to a point of perfection in these goals, but also never have I gotten a start without first building on my understanding of my own and others’ ignorance and stupidity in any situation. Furthermore, failing to do so has sadly led me to act “unrighteously” with a self-righteous attitude more than once. Recently our prayer group discussed how to handle being accused of something unfairly by someone in fact guilt of what they accused you. Sometimes we hold certain persons to higher expectations because of their intelligence or their charisma. We think they ought to know better. We must remember that we’ve all been privy to experiences uniquely our own and each experience affects how we assimilate learning from the next. Therefore, even two children brought up in the same household with the same parents in what seems much the same way experience life differently and therefore do not share exactly the same knowledge, skills, and understanding. So back to the issue our group discussed, I do not wish to focus on the details but just to offer some general thoughts. Without a doubt, knowing little of most people’s lives, it behooves me for my own peace of mind to assume that a person acts unkindly out of ignorance rather than stupidity. Afterall, I have a much better chance of positively influencing them and less reason to take their actions personally.
So, it is important to bear in mind that the strength with which one conveys her/his convictions or the hurtful manner in which s/he delivers them does not negate the presence of ignorance. In fact, it proves it all the more. For a person who is not ignorant of how to be assertive has not reason to be anything but assertive, for in communication nothing is gained and more is lost by aggression, passive-aggression and passivity than by assertion. And since it by communication that we relate, a most necessary aspect of our humanity and our spiritual growth, a person not ignorant of assertion would choose to be assertive. Only someone with no interest in spiritual growth or righteousness AND yet with knowledge of how to be assertive who chooses to act in an unassertive manner could be found entirely at fault in choosing to thus communicate. Of course such a person would likely not care enough to consistently be assertive, for they would likely not care about the rights of others and neither would they likely care what anyone thought of their choices. In such a case though, does not Jesus advise us two things? One, we are told to set right in their pathway those of our OWN Christian community and then only according to the administration of justice upheld by our community. Two, where the gospel is rebuked, we are to shake even the dust of where we have tread from our feet. On a final note I must say, if I persist in choosing to feel slighted by others’ ignorance, I am stupid. Now, certainly, much more could be said on this subject, but I think we have found an adequately place to let the issue rest. God be with you.

The Word Shall Heal

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the Eucharist, a ...

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One of my most favorite moments in the Catholic Mass is when as a congregation, everyone speaks together during the Eucharistic celebration, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the Word and I shall be healed.” This is derived from today’s Gospel reading. The centurion, a man of compassion and great faith, humbles himself to the Lord to ask for healing for his suffering servant who lies at home paralyzed.

Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. (Matt 8:8 NAB)

The adaptation in the Mass embodies a great deal of my core faith. Without humility, I cannot surrender to God‘s will. If I cannot surrender, I cannot be in full union with God. Out of union with God, I am discontent, without joy. Without joy, I cannot fully love. God created me to love and be loved. Without humility I cannot be the person God created me to be.

I am to receive the Lord. I am to be open. I am to recognize God as a gift. I am to recognize that God comes to me, is with me. We’ve never really been apart except in our minds. I am to welcome God into my heart as an honored guest.

I’ve found so many Protestants to be pleasantly enlightened by my explanation of the Eucharistic Celebration in the Catholic Church. They are quite happy to discover we don’t believe in cannibalism. They are then intrigued that our belief in the real presence of Christ is rooted in believing that the Eucharistic Celebration reunites us with Christ in time and place. While the Spirit is with me always, I’m filled with such gratitude to be joined with Christ each time I participate in the wondrous experience of Holy Communion. I feel even more personally connected to God which sets the foundation for what is said next.

When we say, “only say the word,” I think of three things. First, God is so powerful that only God’s voice, not God’s physical presence, is necessary to animate God’s will. Yet, the Creator gave us Christ to be a physical presence to humanity. Second, I imagine “word” to be capitalized. The Creator spoke us all, including Jesus the Christ, into being. Third, the Word who existed since the world began is the source of our healing. The moment concludes with the assurance that our hope is in the Lord and we shall be healed. Isaiah reminds us that the glory of the Lord is made manifest through God’s merciful cleansing of our souls, bringing light to the darkness. If I allow it, welcome it, welcome Christ into my heart, I am healed today in so many ways.

To Contemplate
For whom do you struggle to have empathy and compassion?
What is your reason to receive communion…to comply with tradition, to be comforted, to be more fully united with Christ the Lord in the mission of bringing peace and salvation to the world?
Where do you see opportunities to bring God’s message and ministry of healing to those around you?
When will you know that you are fully healed?
Why is it so difficult for you as an individual to feel a personal connection with God?
How can you better prepare yourself for the coming of Christ in glory?

To Devote Ourselves, We Pray
Lord you have washed away our sins, healed us and made us stronger. We are in awe of your compassion and power. Gently humble our hearts to recognize our unworthiness, empower us with empathy and fill us with compassion. As we have been healed and are filled with Your presence, let us likewise share the same with all those about us, bringing peace to one moment, one person at a time until you come again to heal in full all who will receive you. Amen

Why and How to For-Give

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If you’ve been hurt, you may be sick of people telling you that you need to forgive and quite confused by and vehemently opposed to the very thought. I want to offer an easier-to-swallow perspective. I think to FOR-GIVE is to, FOR our own serenity, GIVE the guilt back to whom it belongs. When we are victimized, we are sometimes so enraged that we desire those who have hurt us to be harmed. Wishing harm is in essence hate, and hate is the absence of love. It seems to me that we are made to love; it is what comes naturally. When we don’t act in accord with this – when we don’t act with love – we feel guilt. Some people would even go so far as to say we are guilty if we can’t “love our enemies.” Sometimes love seems impossible so we reject the idea, making war against ourselves and consequently turning guilt into shame. Shame leads us to believe we cannot change as a person because we see ourselves as flawed. Most often, and far too often, this occurs because too many people stop short in understanding the application of love.

Consider the rhetoric of “hate the sin and love the sinner”. That’s a contrite and misguided statement. It IS healthy and healing to love a human being who has hurt us because s/he has the potential to heal and be loving. However, we are something besides just human beings – we are individual persons. So, when someone repeatedly acts in an unloving manner such that it has become their character or personality, we are free to choose without guilt to like, love or dislike that person in accord with or in spite of their actions. To not allow this distinction leaves far too many victims locked in confusion, ultimately feeling guilty for not being able to forgive or feeling so frustrated with trying to forgive that anger sucks the love right out of us. We fail to see the victimizer as capable of change. It is only HATE of the human being or the person that rightly bring the discomfort of guilt because it puts us at war with our loving selves. Let me clarify.

It is right to begin with the concept of separating actions from the person who is acting, but we must then go on to separate the human being from the person. This in turn allows us to see the perpetrator is a human being who made choices influenced by the same sort of things that influence how we choose to act, to recognize that the perpetrator had and still has the potential for good. Yet, for reasons we do not fully know or understand, our perpetrator chose to act in ways that were self-serving and lacking in compassion for us. Therefore, we can GIVE the guilt back to the one who chose to act without love, knowing that WE did NOTHING wrong to deserve being hurt. We, as human beings, are meant to be loved and to love. When a someone’s needs are consistently not met, it is difficult for her/him to feel loved and in turn know how to be loving. Guilt belongs and always has to the one who made the choice to act without love because s/he was at war with her/himself. It doesn’t have to be our war to fight. FOR our serenity, we release that responsibility to her/him, knowing that the “best revenge (which isn’t really revenge at all) is a life well-lived”.

We are all human beings. We act based on the choices we make, which in turn, for good or bad, reinforces our personal identity. Thus, we are the person we choose to be. If we can see and accept these differentiations, we have the power to forgive others. More importantly, we have the power to forgive ourselves. We can grow in love for ourselves and recognize that we are capable of changing who we are with every choice we make. It is only what we are that is unchanging. It is this – what others are and who they are capable of becoming  – that we are called to LOVE. When we forgive, we are able to love our fellow human beings and to love ourselves into fullness.

Forgiveness is a very difficult concept to grasp and an even more difficult one to practice. It is important to realize that true forgiveness is an aspect of making amends. If I ‘forgive’ a person who has wronged me but make myself available to be easily hurt again, I haven’t completely released the problem.  Making amends means setting things right as best we can.  That includes doing what we need to do for our own recovery which necessarily requires we set and maintain healthy boundaries.  Many of us must learn how to do this over a course of time.  For that reason, forgiveness is a process rather than a decision or one time action.  Recovery is a multifaceted progression rather than a linear journey.