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?

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14 Responses to “Rat Poison and Forgiveness”
  1. michael says:

    Forgiveness is so hard. I feel like it has to be a conscious decision to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally. Great post my love, something worth applying in the new year. Love my wife.

  2. Danelle says:

    This was a hard post for me to READ. Wow, Ruthie. So timely. Thank you, once again, for writing about the hard stuff. D.R. and I did not do a good job forgiving e/o quickly in the first few years of marriage and we are striving to do so now. I love that..”Because forgiven people forgive.”

    • Ruthie D. says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one this truth is hard for! Thanks for sharing and for your great comments, [as always]. I really appreciate your feedback and will pray for a spirit of forgiveness in your marriage.

  3. Felicia says:

    So agree with Anne’s rat poison comment. It’s so funny how you may think you’ve forgiven someone but then realise, upon reflection, that we haven’t.

    I recently discovered that I hadn’t forgiven myself for not being wise enough to see the red flags in a former relationship before I got dumped. Turns out, being dumped was God’s divine intervention but I still hadn’t forgiven myself for being wise enough to see that, until God recently showed me that it is then that we rely on His Wisdom and understanding to save us. I’ve since forgiven myself and been completely free of that relationship. How good is our God. All glory goes to Him!

    • Ruthie D. says:

      Hi Felicia! Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you were able to forgive yourself and accept God’s grace in that relationship! It’s so hard to forgive ourselves sometimes, isn’t it?

      • Felicia says:

        Definitely, I’ve found that we tend to be harder on ourselves than on others. Thankfully Christ doesn’t have the same unrealistic expectations. We’re just humans, thus allowed to fall, as much as anyone else. It is only by His grace that we are saved, and not by any of our own merits.

  4. Bravo, Ruthie! Thank you for writing this. It came at the most perfect time, as I have been sinking in unforgiveness and knowing the freedom I would feel if I just resolved to forgive and move on. It is probably one of the hardest things to do, in my life.
    But I am encouraged today to fight the fight against my human self and live as forgiven and thus, forgive!

    • Ruthie D. says:

      Wow, I keep hearing about the ‘perfect timing’ of this post. It came at a ‘perfect time’ for me as well & God kept telling me to write it so I’m forced to trust Him with the forgiveness process. I look forward to hearing an update of how free you are with a forgiving heart!

  5. Reading this blog reminded me of something that theologian Paul Tillich once said about repentance, about how “to repent” didn’t mean “to be sorry,” but rather, to become someone who could not repeat the thing for which he/she repented. I think that “to forgive” has that same sense of absoluteness about it, in that to forgive means to move beyond the wrong or the pain that required forgiveness. It’s a hard thing to imagine, this level of forgiveness, but everything else is just preparatory work, I think. And it is helpful to imagine that someone else might be capable of forgiving me/us so thoroughly.

Check out what others are saying…
  1. […] Forgiveness. I was clueless about the importance asking for and extending forgiveness in marriage. And I didn’t know how often Michael and I would have to forgive each other! Living in close relationship with someone lends itself to selfishness and hurting the other’s feelings. I knew forgiveness would be important for big things, but never imagined how critical it is to the life of our marriage. We don’t ever go to bed angry.  […]

  2. […] Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. One of my favorite books of all time. Ann discusses coming to faith in the most radical, unexpected way-and all her struggles along the way. It will make you laugh out loud (seriously) and cry. Note: a little “edgy” so if you are easily offended, probably don’t pick this one up. She talks a lot about forgiveness. […]

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