I don’t talk much about my Christian faith and what it means to me personally in my day to day life, though I directly credit my Christian upbringing with some of my better qualities. I have never considered it a license to be better than anyone else, which is how people sometimes take it if you bring it up. Which is why I usually don’t. I don’t want to be religious, pious or judgmental because that’s not what I consider a Christian to be. I embrace tolerance, mercy and love for my fellow man as the main tenants of my Christian faith, but when you say as much people get a little riled. I’ve been accused of using it to suggest that without a Christian upbringing one could not be as moral as someone who subscribed to the faith.
That’s not how I see it at all. I have known amazingly moral and righteous people who never crack open a Bible. I don’t think you have to have any religion to be a good person. In fact, in many MANY cases the opposite is true. Religion is divisive and often hateful. The number of evil things done in its name often violently outnumber the good.
So I’m perfectly happy to keep my faith a personal matter and allow others to enjoy theirs in the same way. The only exception to that rule is if someone is misusing the faith to be oppressive and hateful in Jesus’ name. As a general rule, I don’t allow that to pass without pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of the hateful and the self-righteous.
Therefore it’s only fair to point out my own hypocrisy when I stumble in setting or living by a Christian example.
I gotta be honest, guys. I’ve been stumbling BIG time.
The last few years have been a ginormous test to me as a person and as a Christian. I’m ashamed to say I’ve had more failing grades than passing ones. I’ve been a typical human. I get hurt, betrayed or used and I want to lash out at the person who is doing the hurting, betraying and using. It’s a perfectly natural and even understandable, but it’s not the behavior I should aspire to in order to be Christ-like. (i.e. tolerance, mercy, love.)
Though I know forgiveness is the only real way to heal my own wounded spirit, I’ve been wallowing quite rapturously in the opposite. I wouldn’t say I’ve enjoyed some of the nasty mean-spirited thoughts or words I’ve indulged, but I’ve certainly gotten a great deal of satisfaction from them. The problem with that is the satisfaction is short-lived. Like a drug you have to keep going back to the nasty and non-productive behavior to patch what forgiveness ultimately repairs.
Yet it’s hard to forgive. When you’re hurt, betrayed or used you feel quite entitled to your anger. You go over the events in your head and get even angrier. How could that individual (or those individuals) do that hurtful, horrible thing? You remind yourself all the good things you did for that person, how you may have been there when they needed you and supported them even when you suspected, even on a very base core level, you were – in fact – being lied to or used. In the end someone took advantage of your good nature and crapped all over your tolerance, mercy and love. You start to wear your hurt feelings like a medal.
In some cases you slink away to heal your wounds in private. You do everything you can to cut off every avenue of hurtful attack these people could possibly launch in an effort to rise above the pain. You go over and over it in your head what YOU did wrong so you know never to do it again. You pick everything apart and analyze the data ad nauseum, bouncing off your friends and family for unofficial therapy and trying to get to the heart of the true issue. Even if the person who hurt, betrayed or used you is skating by on God’s good humor with no consequences to their actions, you are comforted by the fact you are on the side of right and ultimately the Universe is just. Wrongs will be righted and the truth will inevitably find the light of day.
This too shall pass.
I’ve done all this and frankly I felt smugly superior for being a more evolved human being. I was victimized but not a victim. I can control how I proceed in the future. I’ve set and enforced boundaries and I know that I know that I know when it comes right down to it no one can hurt me if I don’t give them the permission to.
I’ve spent months on end rescinding that permission. I’ve been so singularly focused on not getting hurt, betrayed and used further by these people that I’ve ended up doing the worst damage to myself. (As is always the case.)
I read that holding onto anger against anyone is like drinking poison and expecting others to die. I *know* that forgiveness is the next step toward rising above this shit hole of a situation. In fact it’s so monumental that it’s the final step. For me to truly stop being a victim to these circumstances and, in reality, to these people… I have to honestly dig deep and do the hard work of forgiving the action and finding some sort of love for the person. (tolerance…mercy… love…dammit)
This is really hard to do when you’re angry and want nothing more than to hate them like anyone else.
But that’s not who I am, nor the person I want to be. I’ve done a lot of stuff I haven’t been proud of in the last few years. I’ve become a back-biting, two-faced gossip who has passive aggressively attacked people (in some cases people I didn’t even know) because it felt good to wallow in the shallow end of the gene pool. My self-esteem was such I thought I belonged there and I was ready to take that out on everyone, especially those I felt took away all the things that made me feel “special.”
The truth was I didn’t need anything to make me feel special. Nobody outside of me could give me that, at least in the long term. You spend your life waiting for someone else to bring happiness into your life, or validation into your life, you’re going to spend a lifetime waiting. Nothing will ever be enough. You’re nothing more than an empty vessel that leaks every good thing that passes your direction.
And I don’t want to be that person. I’m tired of being a slave to the negative emotions. I got rid of the abusers but I’m still doing their dirty work by holding onto the echo of their betrayal. Did they do something to hurt me? Sure. Do I have a right to feel mad about it? Maybe. But I also have a choice to get the fuck over it. I’m just screaming at shadows now. It’s true I’m not feeling particularly forgiving but that really doesn’t matter. A friend of mine told me that forgiveness doesn’t have anything to do with your emotions, it’s an act of sheer will. He’s absolutely correct.
As I have been forgiven, I must now forgive. I must rise above and learn to love my enemies and bless those who would (and absolutely do) curse me. That’s the heavy lifting of being a Christian, when you can look hate right in the face and say, “I forgive you.”
That’s the transformational power of love. Anyone can hate those that hate them. But to truly love the people who would spit in your face (figuratively or literally) … that’s beauty beyond measure. It’s also a sign of strength that you will not devolve to their level.
I’ve never been about revenge. I don’t care to settle the score. The universe is much more equipped to handle these situations than I am. I’m a bitch, but Karma’s a bigger one… so much so I’ll likely feel sympathy for those who have wronged me when what they’ve done to me finds its way home.
I can’t help what was done to me. I can’t change the past. I can’t even change the present, when people are saying or doing things still to hurt, betray or even, in a weird sort of way, use me for their own self-serving agenda. Whether I’m present or absent, people still get a lot of mileage out of me. It’s puzzling and upsetting but guess what? I can’t control what others do or don’t do, say or don’t say, think or don’t think. The only thing I can do is stop allowing it to change ME. And today, when I pray for God’s strength and guidance to forgive those who have done me wrong, I will take that next step to forgive myself for allowing it.
Because that, my friends, is where the anger truly lies. I may be mad at those who would have done hurtful things to me, but I’m livid at myself for becoming anything even remotely like them. I’m better than that. I’ve been through way too much in my life to sink to that level over things that, in the long run, really don’t matter. It’s all petty, high school bullshit drama in the end. If I could forgive things like being raped, losing my son, losing my dad and domestic abuse, then I KNOW I can forgive those would make up rumors about me.
(Boy, doesn’t THAT put it into perspective? Note to self: stop being a whiny baby.)
The way to go from victim to victor is through action. I did what I knew I needed to do. I owned up to my behavior. I figured out where I had gone wrong so as to avoid that in the future. I made amends where I could. Now all that’s left is forgiveness. That will completely shut the door on this chapter of my life and release me as well as those who wronged me.
I don’t want to be this bitter person anymore. I’m tired of drinking the poison waiting for someone else to die.
It’s time to walk the walk. I don’t expect it to be easy but I know it’s the only way to truly heal and become the person I want to be… the Ginger I know I can be. Healing begins today through the sheer will of forgiveness and the choice to feed the right wolf.