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.
I really enjoyed reading this insightful post in which I found another nugget of understanding about forgiveness. Thank you for sharing it.
Thanks for the kind comment – it’s appreciated. I don’t usually post on issues of religion, so I was a little reticent – but I figure if my mind dwells on something, there’s a reason. And I certainly learned something by thinking it through more fully than I have before now.
Happy to read your thoughts and your views on compassion and the topic of forgiveness for this month. Can’t believe we’re seeing one year of 1000Speak.
Glad to have discovered your posts since that time.
I appreciate hearing your take on the religious aspects of the topic of forgiveness, as the two are so closely connected.
I am not one to discuss it, I don’t think, so I am glad you did.
I like the child’s view, Disney, your child’s advice.
I gave my five-year-old niece a “Let It Go” necklace for Christmas. I am still working on letting go of some things and on forgiveness, but I don’t want her to struggle with such things like I have.
Here’s to many more 1000Speaks.
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Thanks for the kind comment. As for “not being one to discuss” religion, I don’t usually either, but it is where my mind went with this post.
As for children and their advice – I often find myself trying to see things from my kids perspective – I often find their views so much clearer than mine and it’s a good reminder that certain things can get overly complicated. Doesn’t make it easier to forgive, but gives me a bit of perspective that can help.
And yes – here’s to many more 1000Speaks!
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Like Kerry, I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since we wrote those first blog posts for 1000 Voices. I know I have changed so much through my involvement…both through reading others’ posts and also through thinking things through in my own posts.
I can relate to being the older son who played things almost by the book but then got struck by the prodigal disease. That’s what I addressed in my post. The difficulty of forgiving a disease you can’t just bail up and fight back.
You might enjoy a recent post about my son’s return from Scout Jamboree…the Return of the Prodigal Scout https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/return-of-the-prodigal-scout/
Have a great weekend.
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I love what 1000Speak has done for me – both with the writing of posts and reflecting on why I think the way I think on certain aspects and then the opportunity to read so many others on the same theme and get so many different perspectives. It’s really created a great space online for reflection on the topics chosen.
I will be sure to visit both your post and the Prodigal Scout! Thanks for visiting.
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You’re welcome. I ditto everything you’ve said. Our kids go back to school in two days so the stress is on here in a way and yet we went to see Star Wars today and are taking things easy with the women’s cricket playing the background. Have a great week! xx Rowena
I identify with the older brother too. I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with forgiveness and the teachings of my youth. Thank you for sharing.
No – I think it’s an ongoing struggle for many. That said, I am consistently impressed with how quickly my kids forgive things. I know the scope and seriousness of wrong-doings generally increases as we get older, but I wonder when it is that we really start holding onto anger as we grow up.
Regina @ A Journaled Life said:
It’s WORK but the hardest thing to understand is that the work isn’t really done by us. It’s done IN us. We have to keep turning it over to God because on our own, we wouldn’t be able to do it.
As a result of God’s perfect love, I’ve been able to forgive people for what I believed was UNFORGIVABLE.
Thanks Regina – this is still very much a work in progress for me – but thinking it through in this post – and your perspective here as well – helps.
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