The heart is amazing, beating on, day in and day out, from a pre-birth mass of cells through a lifetime of adventures and decisions. Steadfast. Dependable. Regular.
It also has a mind of its own, loving who it wants, when it wants. And, it softens unexpectedly, sometimes, despite the best efforts to harden it, and stay angry.
I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness since the news of Elizabeth Edwards’ death. I was impressed with her graceful last moments, despite her husband’s public betrayal. She could have handled it differently. But, she didn’t.
I then thought about my own life’s hurts and slights, and injustices that have either befallen me, or people I love. And I looked closely at how I have handled those situations. Did I hold an unyielding grudge? Or, move on in forgiveness?
I think most people have a strong sense of right and wrong, just based on that intuition that clenches at our guts on the cusp of a decision. It’s nagging, and hard to ignore. But sometimes we do ignore it.
So, it could be easy to hold people who hurt us to a strict standard, eternally accountable for those decisions they made that they probably knew full well, with all their hearts, were wrong.
I never seem to be able to do that, even in the worst imaginable circumstances.
I’ve gone through phases where I felt deeply religious, although in recent years I prefer to pray in my own way. What has stayed with me over a lifetime, though, is the ethic of turning the other cheek to oppressors, and practicing forgiveness as part of everyday life, even in its most excruciating moments.
What is the point of holding on to anger and resentment that will only eat away at the core of who we are? I had a relative who did that, and she died recently without ever seeing anyone that she had once loved.
Was it worth it to die alone? It’s a lot easier to talk about forgiving than to actually do it. Believe me when I tell you, I know.
But is it better to be able to say I found a way to let it go because it was the right thing to do? Will that, in the end, make me a better person for it? My heart, as it fills with forgiveness, thinks it will.