Rat Poison and Forgiveness
I still remember the boys in my 5th grade class who made fun of me for my uniform skirt that was below my knees (apparently my mom shouldn’t have been the determining factor for ‘cool’), how no one wanted to ‘go out’ with me (i.e. make me mixed tapes of Hootie and the Blowfish and No Doubt), and the real kicker was when they discovered I wasn’t aware a certain ‘celebrity’ existed. The most famous murder trial in the 90s somehow slipped under my radar—probably because we didn’t have a TV—and the only connotation OJ had for me was “orange juice”. Yes, I was a little sheltered (ask Megan Rhinehart).
Now? It’s hilarious. Then? Painful. I am still fearful of ever being called ‘fat’ because I was ridiculed about my weight, too.
I recently re-read Traveling Mercies where Anne Lamott says she learned to forgive by starting with ‘enemy lites’ as she calls them, and work her way up the real enemies. She began with a mother in her child’s first grade class with a baking/exercise/latex pants disorder who seemed to rub in Anne’s forgetfulness—forgetting to read the handouts the teachers sent home, forgetting to pick up Sam on time, and forgetting to exercise. Their interactions are hilarious, as Anne talks about mistakenly wearing her “fattest pants” whenever she would see this mother. Finally, Anne forgives this woman, her ‘enemy lite’, for criticizing both her and her son and she makes the astounding comment:
“Unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”
Who comes to mind when reading this post? It may be a group of stupid 5th grade boys and be on the easier side. Or it might be someone who abandoned you. Used you. Either way—enemy ‘lites’ or serious enemies—the Bible says God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others. And that truth makes my stomach churn.
Michael and I have found asking for forgiveness from each other and quickly letting go of hurts really keeps our marriage strong. Because even holding onto little grudges causes bitterness—poisonous bitterness.
I’m in the process of learning about forgiveness all over again. It is scary when you start to examine your heart and see SO MUCH anger—but that examining process brings healing.
“Guess who is angrier about it than I am? God.” Pastor Perry Noble said after mentioning his childhood sexual abuse. Freedom came when I understood that God hates to see his children suffer (He is a good Dad). But He also hates to see us poisoning our hearts with bitterness and unforgiveness.
In 2012, I resolve to forgive. I want to extend grace and mercy freely and let go of grudges, past experiences, and stop hanging onto memories of wrongdoing. Human nature tells us to pursue justice–an eye for an eye sort of making things right. Culture tells us and shows us to remember what people have done to us and call them out. But Jesus says something completely opposite. He’s not against justice & retribution, but the Bible tells us in more ways than one to forgive those who cause us harm. Because forgiven people forgive.
This was a hard post for me to write. What insights or thoughts about forgiveness come to mind?
If you liked this post, you may also like:
- Forgiveness Won’t Fix Your Toxic Relationship
- Will You Forgive Me?
- “What Most Surprised You About Marriage?”
- Was God Rolling His Eyes at Me?