The Cost of Forgiveness

As any good capitalist will note, there is a price for everything. It is most often the emotional or relational price that we forget about,  that are the ones that cost the most. You pay the price in giving up the emotion or by giving away the relationship.

Saying goodbye feels like giving up.  Goodbye feels so final, like it is not even possible to see you again.  It feels like all the memories held in the object departing will be lost for good.  It feels like all possible outcomes I ever imagined and dreamed of were teases, and I should not allow myself to visit them because the knowledge that they cannot be is too painful.

We hear that sometimes relationships get to a point where goodbye is necessary because there is too much hatred and pain and it is better to just let it all go.  However, reconciliation is not about getting rid of the source of conflict (read avoiding the pain and heartache), but about restoring the lost dignity, humanity and even restoring the relationship.

Paying the price of a goodbye is costly in merely coming to that decision.  It is even more costly once decided upon, because sometimes goodbye doesn’t last.  After days, weeks, months, years of agonizing over the decision to say goodbye – analyzing what the leaving really means – to drag your heart through the process of saying goodbye only for the object of your goodbye to show up again makes the payment ineffective.  Why spend all the heartache on a goodbye if it doesn’t purchase a complete severance?

When the goodbye doesn’t last, or may not be possible, we will save ourselves great burdens of hatred and anger by allowing the other to not be the symbol of our salvation.  Lindsey and Steve fell in love so young, and dropped hard out of love.  But there was too much history and too much shared interest to allow a complete break.  For years, they projected all their hurts and heartaches onto the other.  Goodbye was a tall order, neither one was okay with the other finding new relationships.  But so was hanging around; speaking to one another was awkward, and hanging out with mutual friends made everyone feel uncomfortable.  This baggage was heavy, but the nature of their professional interaction made it impossible to put this baggage down.  They had to say goodbye, but not to each other.

The price of forgiveness is the crushed hopes and dreams and desire for revenge or harm to the other.  The price is the ability to say goodbye to the rights you feel the other has taken from you.  Saying goodbye to the need desire to inflict great harm on the one who hurt you means killing the hope that they would be the one to offer wholeness and a satisfying relationship.  This increases the cost of goodbye, and who wants to pay that price? Innate to human nature is a desire for satisfaction and a feeling of wholeness found in being in relationship with one another. When this desire is crushed by a broken relationship our gut reaction is to wish great harm upon the other.  The only way to forgive though, is to say goodbye to the desire to hurt the other back.

“Sometimes solutions aren’t so simple. Sometimes goodbye is the only way. Sometimes beginnings aren’t so simple. Sometimes goodbye is the only way.” Linkin’ Park, “Shadow of the Day”

Yes, sometimes goodbye is the only way.  Sometimes, however, goodbye is required of something other than the person/relationship/place.  Sometimes you must say goodbye to your dreams, to your pride and entitlement and revenge.  Sometimes you must say goodbye to yourself.

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Restorative Justice

Crime is costly. But so is true forgiveness.  This article proves just how emotionally costly this process can be. And yet, the freedom the family finds in the end is worth it all.

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Ghosts are intriguing. The livings’ concern for the dead ranges from the childish, playful notion of white sheets with eyes that glide through walls to the hair-prickling fear of the paranormal. Do they exist? Can the living see them? Can the living talk to them? Why do they exist? Are they trapped until revenge for crimes committed against them in life is achieved? Are they on earth to warn the living? Warn us of what? Should we listen? Should we worry about vengeance taken against us? Ghosts are so fascinating that every culture has some lore, tradition, or taboo associated with them.

Ghosts are lasting. Unlike giant ants, rabid birds, and green Martians, ghosts still hold our cultural imagination. However more troubling is the double entendre here. The identity of a ghost is lasting: the un-dying. They do not go away.

Hauntings harm both the living and the dead because both parties remain trapped. It is real easy to tell someone that they need to just let go of the past. ‘Let go of the relationship, he left you and you need to move on.’ ‘Let go of the abuse you went through, it is over and you need to move on.’ ‘Let go of the ideas you had about how your life should look, the reality is now and you need to move with it.’ But why does no one suggest that the ghost be the one to move on? After all, it is the ghost who is holding on to something when clearly he should just die. Yet they are stuck in an ephemeral state, and keep the humans they haunt trapped in a cycle of replaying what could have or should have been over and over and over.

Ghosts are sneaky in the way they reside in smells, songs, and settings. Although you walked out on me, ending the plans for our future like a flame being snuffed out, the smoke of that fire constantly comes back to cloud my vision and sting my eyes. Because every time I smell that soft sticky sweet smell of your perfume I can feel you holding my hand and listening to the secret of my goals.

How I wish you would just die. But like the autumn leaves, you cling to the now dead branch and flash colors so loud that you cannot be ignored. At least the impending winter is a guarantee death to the fall leaves. The cold will soon settle heavy upon the fragile bodies of a no longer living, but not quite dead leaf, and force it to the ground where it will find the peace of decay. You? You just linger on, holding me captive by your random visits. It would be a lot easier to “just move on” if the hopes and dreams and passions and pains would die, if the ghost of what once was would die.

How do you kill a ghost? The person has already been killed once. You already died once before. I had to learn to live without you, so why are you back? I’ve never felt so wicked as the day I approached you and asked you to die again. “I thought you’d be happy to see me again,” you said. Well I thought I would be too, but your presence comes with a tether to old memories and dreams that I don’t want.

At first they told me to try yoga and herbal tea before bed. This was a nice distraction, but no solution. When you started showing up consistently, they told me to try prayer. This was as effective as a cardigan in a snowstorm. Now they say I need to ignore your sightings, and put the thoughts of you out of my mind. I have to wonder if it really is up to the living to get on with things. Why is no one telling you to let go of me?

Is this my old chain? / My mind is away,

How long have you been gone?

And the cold winter’s aged / The soft of your face.

And I can’t move on. Linger on / Linger on / Linger on

No I can’t move on.

-“Autumn Trees”, Milo Greene

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We all have them. Sometimes this means we hope to finish reading the book on the bedside table (or that stupid assignment that was distributed 4 weeks ago); or to get the dishes put away; or to pick up the kids at 3:15, get over to soccer by 3:45, drop-off the dry cleaning, prepare a nutritious and delicious meal that all family members will eat, and get the sheets put back onto the beds.

Sometimes this means finally meeting with the major partner that we are hoping to work with on a new program.

And sometimes this means convincing the majority of humanity that your belief system is the only way to see the world, to understand the world, to organize the information we receive, and the only way to define your behaviors and actions.

Right or wrong, we all have them. Humans operate on self-interest, and are socialized (hopefully learn?) to act on the good of the majority. This blog’s agenda is to show how people work towards and hopefully achieve peace. As has been previously discussed, this achievement will never be through self-protection. Someone has to literally drop their own agenda and imagine the reasons for the other side’s actions.

Pointing fingers will always, always, always put the other side on the defensive. So releasing a statement that blames a specific person for something will always end with a fight. And releasing a movie that blames an entire religion for (what even, being boorish?) will only result in defensive feelings and a need to prove that video wrong.

But let us escalate tensions even further shall we? One tiny, crazy group of people offends another tiny, crazy group of people somewhere else. The offended group responds with murder of a bystander that probably had no idea the offensive video was even produced. ( )

Now more people are involved. But rather than responding to what was originally ignited (the film in this case), top leaders begin to accuse one another of improperly responding (so as to garner more votes in an upcoming election). (

There are now four major agendas in play here, none of which are actually communicating with the other, but all of them are taking offense at the others. Give it time and more players will start taking sides, but in reality only pushing their own agenda. Pretty soon there are so many agendas at play that no one is communicating anything. We choose what we want to hear and respond with what our personal agenda is.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if somewhere in that mess, even just one player, decided to stop communicating with the agenda and actually respond to the reality of the events? That could lead to some true break through in communication. Who knows, maybe even eventual peace. That might be cool.

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“The most dangerous secrets a person can bury are those we keep from ourselves.”

This is a story nobody wants to hear. Not that it hasn’t been told. Plenty of souls have tried in many differing ways to tell it. In fact, it is trending right now to admit via your blog that anxiety and depression are frequent visitors to your heart and head. But anxiety and depression are only the tip of the iceberg. And these bloggers only admit to it via the interwebs because the anonymity makes it safe to publicly declare that all ain’t right.

Often people try to discuss the issue through art- music, writing, paintings- which makes it easier to digest. The audience can relate in a way that says “yeah I’ve felt that way before, but glory hallelujah I don’t anymore. I am now a happy, well-adjusted adult.” Oh yeah? Are you now? Because after your work day, when the kids are taken care of and happily preoccupied, the dishes are cleaned up, the e-mails have been answered, can you truly sit down and just be? And then can you keep being and calmly face the demons who only show up when all is quite?

How quickly do we fall apart when some piece of the routine is destroyed. Will a pint (or half-gallon…) of ice cream actually take care of the pain after your significant other moves on? Or how well do the ideas gleaned from pinterest actually keep your unemployed self doing ‘productive things’?

But these are just rich white people problems right? So we seek movies and documentaries highlighting the injustices of Africans or Asians (often at the hands of rich westerners I might add) to ignite our fires of righteous indignation. Because at least watching documentaries about Darfur give us a reason to feel bad.

Who is willing to say that even with the job, cute urban house, dog to walk in the park, and hot wife, life still sucks? But it does doesn’t it? There is pain. And sometimes just getting on the train with a hundred fellow commuters can break your heart. But that is strange. No one else feels empty. They all seem to have life figured out. So we hide it by aiming for more money and a hotter wife. (Maybe the last one didn’t look good enough for my sub-conscious to truly be satisfied.) Or we read all about how the sale of chocolate to an increasingly unhealthy, obese, United States of America is a part of modern day slave trades. Now that is real reason to be unhappy. After all, no one wants to hear that you are unhappy merely because our world is broken and human souls are empty.

That is weird right? Being unhappy because the world you were born into is broken certainly is stranger than making yourself unhappy by watching Blood Diamond alone in bed every Friday night.

I venture that it is easier to explain that, even though I am part of the 10% most privileged humans on this planet, I am unhappy because the world is not as it should be. But no one wants to hear this. This is a story where the reader can only accept what is written. There is nothing the author offers for changing the plot.

See, it’s true. All is not the way our hearts say it should. Even when friends are near and food is on the table, something aches. But denying it and hiding from it only aggravate and spread the hurt. Denial is the strongest poison out there. It made an entire country live with stewing hatred, only to explode every 10 to 15 years in violence so massive it merits the word “genocide”. It simmers in your heart, causing you to withhold communication from the ones that love you the most and can actually accept you as you are.

No we can’t change the evil and broken of the world. But we most certainly should not pretend that all is well.

“A doctor lets a war injury heal slowly from the inside out. He debrides dead tissue and drains poison. Close the wound up too quickly and the filth gets trapped inside. So it is with the mind. Don’t ever walk away and pretend or hope that things can be the way they were before this damage.”  Aidan Hartley, The Zanzibar Chest, pg 384 (in reference to witnesses of the horrors from Rwanda 1994).

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