One Sunday in church, Pastor’s sermon was about forgiveness. He asked everyone in the church to stand up, then he asked those who had any enemies to sit down. Everyone sat down but one very old woman.
“You have no enemies at all?” asked Pastor.
“Not a single one,” she answered, nodding her agreement.
“Please, come up here and tell everyone how you reached such a great age without having any enemies,” said Pastor. A deacon accompanied the elderly woman to the pulpit and everyone in church applauded as she slowly made her way up the steps. Pastor adjusted the microphone.
“You must have done a lot of forgiving,” said Pastor. “Please, tell us your secret.”
The old lady smiled beatifically. “I outlived the bitches,” she said.
That’s how I’m beginning to feel. Most of the people who done me wrong and about whom I used to obsess are gone. I’m 75. As you age, you lose people. The ones with bad hearts, heavy drinkers, and smokers. Chickens come home to roost. Crazy drivers meet their maker on a dark highway. Cancer, heart attacks, and other diseases take away others. The older generation passes, one funeral at a time. Other people? When I look around, few of the people with whom I had a gripe are part of my life. Time has made them vanish or irrelevant.
Forgiveness is not about repairing relationships
so you can be friends again.
It’s all about letting go and passing stuff to your “higher power,” whatever that means to you. Acknowledging you can’t fix everything and realizing it’s not your job to repair everything. Shit happens. Some of it happens to you. You can make it the center of your world and spend your life brooding and obsessing over it. Or you can decide you won’t be defined by the worst stuff that happened to you or the worst things you did.
I know people who had wonderful careers full of honor and respect who lost their jobs and promptly declared themselves failures. As if that one bad thing — getting fired — negated everything. I know men and women who were abused as children who are still defining themselves as victims 50 years later.
If you like yourself, you can be reasonably content no matter what life throws at you. It’s that simple and that difficult. Start forgiving yourself first. For the mistakes you made. For the bad choices, the stupid decisions, the asshole(s) you married, almost married, allowed to mess with your head. For the jobs you screwed up, shouldn’t have taken, or should have taken but didn’t. The opportunities you blew. The people who stabbed you in the back; you should have seen them coming. The times you were totally wrong and didn’t apologize. Your failures as a parent, the novels you didn’t finish. All the baggage and “shoulda coulda woulda” you’ve accumulated.
If you throw away the junk, you won’t eliminate all your problems. The money you don’t have won’t suddenly appear. Youth and health won’t come back. But you don’t have to haul the past with you into the future and you can enjoy what you do have without obsessing over what you possibly missed or lost.
The sooner you do it, the better. Then, with a little luck, you’ll outlive the bitches.