Sweet Forgiveness

When you get down to it, Lily, that’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life–not just to love, but to persist in love.  ~August, in The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

Sweet forgiveness, dear God above
I say we all deserve
A taste of this kind of love
Someone who’ll hold our hand
And whisper: ‘I understand,
And I still love you.’
~Iris DeMent

Write the wrongs that are done to you in sand,  but write the good things that happen to you on a piece of marble. Let go of all emotions, such as resentment and retaliation, which diminish you, and hold onto the emotions, such as joy and gratitude, which increase you.  ~Arabic proverb

I finally read The Secret Life of Bees, which has been on my reading list for some time now. It’s a good story, and I enjoyed the singular voice of the protagonist and narrator, Lily. I found the themes echoing around my head and heart afterwards–love, empathy, parenting, faith, acceptance, forgiveness.

Forgiveness is sweet on the receiving end, as Iris DeMent poignantly sings, but it is also one of those things that benefits the giver as much as (often more than) the receiver. There is nothing more stunting to our growth than holding a grudge, nursing a hurt, or keeping account of times we’ve been wronged. But so many are unable to “persist in love” in that way. And so we have war, and conflict, and separation from one another.

I think our ability to forgive others, as in Lily’s case, is in part dependent upon our ability to forgive ourselves. Setting high standards for ourselves gives us something to strive toward, but can be a trap for self-denial as well. I am getting better at forgiving myself for all the stupid, thoughtless, unkind, and self-destructive things I’ve done. I want to be completely free to forgive and feel compassion for all.

Do you give yourself the benefit of the doubt as often as you give it to others? Can you think about failures or mistakes you’ve made in the past without a trace of angst?


5 Responses to Sweet Forgiveness

  1. Ellen says:

    I was thinking the other day that the most powerful gift we can have is our ability to forgive. A lot of what you wrote has been on my mind these days, just not as eloquently expressed. Thank you for this post.

  2. bobleckridge says:

    You know I don’t know how this world works but the post I wrote earlier is about bitterness and how it’s not a medical condition even though there are some who would like to make it so. Then this evening, I’m watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica (I’m addicted – got the box set of Season 3 at Christmas!) and the particular theme of the episode was about how we all need to find and accept ourselves. One line hit me between the eyes “We’ve all done something we’re not proud of”. Don’t know why that hit so true really but for me compassion for others and forgiveness are completely entangled…..the one leads to the other. But self-forgiveness, well, that’s a harder matter. Like you, quotesqueen, I like to think I’m getting better at it.
    Thank you for another great post. I liked all three of those quotes but I especially liked the Arabic one with that fabulous imagery of sand and marble.

  3. quotesqueen says:

    Thanks, Bob and Ellen. There must be something to this notion of synchronicity–I’ve always thought of it as a new-agey, magical, wishful-thinking kind of thing, but I’m discovering that it’s really just about putting yourself out there and letting go of results. It really does seem to draw to you things you need or things that are meaningful at this time. So I’m going to keep blogging, keep trying to open my heart and communicate more honestly, and practice letting go of expectations.

  4. David says:

    I have struggled with forgiveness for much of my life. At times, I had
    difficulty forgiving other people even minor mistakes. I had the most
    difficult time of all forgiving myself. I often felt crushed by the
    burden of anger and resentment that I kept bottled up. It occurred to me
    one day that perhaps forgiveness is not something that is earned; perhaps
    forgiveness is a gift that we can give others and ourselves. As I began
    to put this thinking into practice, I was amazed at how free I felt from the
    anger and resentment that had weighed me down for so long. And as I gave
    this gift to others, I found it easier to give forgiveness to myself as

    I read The Secret Life of Bees several years ago, and it had a profound
    effect on me. If you haven’t read Sue Monk Kidd’s book of inspirational
    writings (Firstlight), I recommend it.

  5. quotesqueen says:

    Thanks for the tip about the book, David–I’ll check it out.

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