I had a really busy day.
It started off at Sick Children's Hospital, doing a test with my special needs son.
Of course it took longer than I thought it would take, but the technicians were very sweet and professional and we got into a spontaneous discussion about why bad things happen, why children suffer and how it feels to work at a place where you see the utter despair of sick, injured, suffering and dying children and their parents, but the miraculous recovery of others. It's certainly not for everyone and I certainly don't think I could handle it on a daily basis. I can only handle it as it pertains to my immediate family and my immediate circle of friends. And even then, I break down now and again.
Still, we left the hospital, in the sunshine and for that, I am truly grateful. There were times where we virtually lived in the hospital. Thank G-d, those days have passed.
But last night, I was thinking a lot about forgiveness.
This is partially because of two recent episodes that I experienced, and partly because of this delightful, short article that I read about Tim Tebow. I don't know too much about him beyond the headlines, but I do recall reading that his mother was encouraged to abort him, and that there were other difficult things he went through in his early years. Ignoring criticism and responding with grace makes him a class act.
That is exactly what Sarah Palin did last week, when her son Trig was the butt of a very unfunny joke-which resulted in a very sincere apology-not one of those "sorry if you were offended" apologies. She responded with grace-not in kind.
I had a rather narcissistic friend for a time. I tried to explain how once I forgave someone who was really hurtful to me, I felt all anger drain away. I forgave every part of every painful episode.
He asked me what that meant. For a very smart person-he was truly puzzled.
What did I mean by forgiveness? How did I do that?
So, just a few random thoughts about forgiveness.
When you forgive, with your whole heart, you are released from the prison of the past.
You do not live or dwell in the past. You can live today, you can aspire to good things for tomorrow. You don't carry anger around with you every waking moment.
Forgiving is very hard because it puts the onus upon you.
It is so much easier to keep blaming others, and external forces for the bad things that have happened. And, those things can be quite horrible.
But the fact remains that the past cannot be changed-ever. The most unhappy people on the planet are trapped in the past, living the hurt over and over, ever day-never letting go.
Forgiveness then, for me at least, means that it is my responsibility to process the upset, to deal with it and to move forward.
That does not mean that something objectively awful did not happen.
It does not mean that it doesn't still sting.
Forgiveness means that the degree to which I wish these events to influence my life is my problem and my decision.
I think that is the essence of the G-dly part of forgiving.
If you truly do not harbour anger and resentment for the past behaviour of others, the pain they have inflicted-real or perceived, you are free.
Are you a free man? Are you a free woman?
Are you free of anger? The past can still hurt, but if it drives you, life is frustrating, and joy is minimized.
The truly joyful do not live in the past. They carry the memories in a small mental compartment, much like a little emotional scrapbook. These life-affirming people look at that scrapbook from time to time, remember the feelings, the smells, the pain and then they close the book and carry on with their day and their lives.
And that's the way it should be.
The past shapes us, but forgiveness frees us and lets us function in the present and for the future.