In elementary school, my friend Katie drew a portrait of me. It was meant to be a sweet gesture. The finished product looked more like an insult. In her defense, she didn’t have much to work with. I was a hot mess of frizzy hair, glasses, and multi-colored braces. I knew about that mess, though. What caught me by surprise was the massive cockroach-looking thing she etched in the middle of my face. When I asked her what it was, she responded with, “Your mole.” How dare her! I had no such mole. I did have a beauty mark on my lip. Some have called it an angel’s kiss, which makes it sound exotic and unique. I wasn’t a witch with some hairy thing people ran from. I questioned her vision and our friendship. By recess, I had forgiven her. I had to. You can’t play four square with someone you’re mad at. You could injure them. On purpose.
In eighth grade, I dated a boy named Alan. By “dated,” I mean that we talked on the phone a couple of times. I knew nothing about dating. Due to the pressures of junior high, we broke up. We just couldn’t handle the stress of it all. During the actual break up, which I think was really just a group of our friends saying things for us, he came to me and said, “You have greasy hair.” It was the most basic insult I had ever heard. I wanted to say, “Duh. It’s called grunge, you loser.” If Alan couldn’t appreciate my greasy hair, then he couldn’t appreciate Nirvana, Pearl Jam, or Bush. And I just couldn’t be with someone who couldn’t appreciate good music. Hours later, I went home and washed my hair and forgave Alan. He was right. My hair was greasy.
A couple of months ago, my son and I were at the grocery store, and I saw Alan there with his own child. In one of the aisles, his kid had dropped a teddy bear. I stopped my cart and stared at it for a moment. I could see myself picking it up, walking it to the dairy department, opening a tub of butter and then smearing it all over the bear. I would walk it to Alan and say, “I think you dropped this disgusting, greasy bear.” I decided this was not a very adult-like response to something that was said to me 20 years ago. So I did the mature thing. I made my eight-year-old pick it up and take it to Alan. I didn’t want to risk being recognized. Plus, I hadn’t showered that day, and my hair was definitely greasy.
When I was in my early 20s, I had a pretty gangster car. The Fast and the Furious had just come out, and tricked-out cars were popping up everywhere. My Honda Civic had a cowl-induction hood, custom paint, and a full-out body kit. More importantly, it was the first car I had owned that cost me five figures. In my mind, that Civic was a luxury vehicle. To this day, I have not owned a car that cost more than that one. One afternoon, my friend Tiffany desperately needed some taquitos. I told her she could borrow my car for her taquito mission. Fifteen minutes after she left, she called me crying. She had totaled my car. Tiffany was an air traffic controller. I knew that if she could tell my car was totaled just by looking at it, it must have been bad. Things hit the fan when she refused to pay my deductible. I emailed Judge Judy, parents were involved, and friendships began to unravel. She called the Military Police on me. (Note to my readers: If someone is trying to keep you from leaving a room, crawl through their legs. If you push them, it is considered assault.) Judge Judy called me in regard to my email, but by then we had worked it all out. Dodged a bullet with that one. Tiffany and I put the whole incident behind us. We went on to spend many nights singing Brand New at the top of our lungs and getting taquitos in her car.
Forgiveness has grown more difficult for me over the years. I find it harder and harder to forgive an offense. Greasy hair and wrecked cars seem like preschool transgressions. My heart wants to forgive and be done with certain hurts, but my mind chooses to let them fester. Social media has only made things worse. I’ll be scrolling through Instagram and find myself browsing through someone’s pictures and thinking, I see you have time for Chipotle, but no time to send a text message. Then I crave retribution. I want to yell and scream and create a commercial telling the world how much said person sucks. See how far I have come since poorly drawn portraits? I was more mature in grade school than I am at … however old you want to think I am now.
Recently, I came up with a way to justify my unforgiving heart. This person hasn’t repented to me. They haven’t said they were sorry, so I don’t have to forgive them. Then I read this by C.S. Lewis:
“… you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.”
Reading this made me want to vomit on myself. Really, C.S.?? Really? I decided to text my pastors. Surely, C.S. was trippin’, and my pastors would totally get my anti-forgiveness stance. I needed someone to tell me I was allowed to be pissed for the rest of my life. Clearly, this is why God has not called me to preach. Word to the wise: Don’t ask pastors if it is cool if you never forgive someone. It isn’t cool. I was making excuses for myself. I was clutching resentment like my daughter does her toys when I tell her we are having a garage sale. This is a problem with MY heart. It has nothing to do with whomever wronged me. God will handle them. He won’t handle them the way I would. He won’t bring them on the Today show and say, “Look what this fool keeps doing.” Which is disappointing, but I’m not God. His ways are far more loving.
Today, I began with forgiving. At lunch, I will probably have to forgive again. Honestly, I will probably just forgive every time I eat. In other words, that means I will be forgiving all day long. Feel free to join me in forgiving those we wish to humiliate on the morning news. It will be an uphill battle, and I will more than likely roll down that hill numerous times. I just have to remember to keep getting up and working towards full forgiveness.