I had intended to start today’s post with a story from this past Sunday.
But by the time I got to the keyboard I’d been humming this song all day:
We’re all products of our upbringing. And I was raised practicing Roman Catholic.
I remember singing this both at school and church.
The message and song are beautiful.
Father I have sinned,
help me find my way.
Remember not my sins,
just let me hear you say:
I forgive you, I love you
You are mine, take my hand.
Go in peace, sin no more,
Father I have turned,
my back and walked away
Depended on my strength
and lived life my own way
Father I have closed,
my heart to those in need.
Thought only of myself,
a victim of my greed.
Father I have loved,
if love’s the word to use.
I’ve played so many games,
they’ve left me so confused.
Father I’ve returned,
I’m home with you to stay.
Standing at your door,
knowing that you’ll say…
That’s forgiveness. The power and, well, grace, of it simply explained from both sides.
I am much less of a fan of the parable linked to this song: The Prodigal Son.
Again: Product of my upbringing.
My mother communicated strong opinions on this one from a young age.
For those unfamiliar with the story, a father has two sons and the younger one asks for his inheritance early so he can leave the nest. Dad agrees and this son goes and blows his inheritance on well, all sorts of fun and a sundry of less than wonderful life choices and finds himself broke.
Meanwhile, the older son works hard, supports dad and the family business, and does everything “right.”
The younger son crawls back home ready to grovel.
Instead, dad – thrilled to have his lost son back – slaughters his best calf and throws party, welcoming him home.
Dutiful son is miffed at the unfairness of all this and tells dad as much:
Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him. – Luke 15:29-30
Dad replies that his younger son, has, in a sense, returned from the dead, so celebration is necessary.
I have to admit, I’ve never been won over to the opinion that the older son should just welcome back his brother and share all the profits of his hard work with him.
I KNOW he’s supposed to. THAT’S the lesson. To forgive those who have sinned against you.
He worked hard. Little brother didn’t. Also, little brother SAYS he’s sorry, but what’s to say he isn’t going to just carry on being a totally selfish jerk in the future?
I’ve always identified with the older son.
Forgiveness is hard – and I don’t do it very well.
Indeed, I sincerely used to think if I ill-willed someone who had wronged me hard enough, well, karma would sort that out.
Because I’m a GOOD PERSON and SOMEONE would have to see the justice in it all, right?
Sometimes it haphazardly happened.
And, not gonna lie. My response in those moments demonstrated a certain lack of compassion.
Because, honestly? Those moments were pretty awesome.
Like “and the peasants will dance” awesome.
But there were other times where, well, they carried on just as skinny or successful as ever.
I was quite a long way into adulthood before I realized the only one being impacted by my holding on to my anger in these instances was me.
And so, to take the advice of Disney and my 6-year-old, I have (mostly) learnt to Let it Go.
Or, at least I now know to TRY.
There is a clear compassion in forgiveness. Not just towards the person in need of forgiveness, but to the person doing the forgiving.
Indeed, that is where the parable ends, with the older brother standing outside the party – and thus leaving it open as to whether he goes in or not.
I hadn’t thought about this moment in the story until this morning. I’d been going in circles last night on the whole thing and so fired a few questions off to a good friend who is a priest.
This is the question he asked that stuck: “Is there anyone I’m so angry at, or hate so much, that I will keep myself out of the celebration (Heaven) because I can’t let it go?”
I sincerely hope I have compassion enough for others and myself for that answer to be no.
This post is part of #1000Speak, a group of bloggers who come together to blog on the theme of compassion. This month’s theme is forgiveness. Please visit other posts on the topic here.
The movement turned one earlier this month. I remember being there at the beginning and am thrilled to see – and be – part of this group still going strong and making a difference a year later.