“Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.” -- Cherie Carter-Smith
Just remembering the story, he could feel the anger rising up in him again. The betrayal of a friend from years ago still hurt just as much as if it had only happened yesterday. It would come sometimes from out of nowhere, a memory of words she had said, the way she had treated him, and he was pulled from enjoyment of the present back into the pain of the past. As many times as he had tried to let go of it, it seemed impossible. How could he “forgive and forget” when what she had done had cost him so much? It was inexcusable, unforgivable surely.
He walked on across the park, pushed by the chilly autumn wind. A pile of leaves crunched under his feet, and he tried to get his mind off the past. Instead, his thoughts turned distractedly to the fallen leaves covering his yard at home. With an annoyed sigh, he thought to himself what a chore it would be to rake them all and bag them up. Why couldn’t they just stay on the trees? Wouldn’t it be nice, he thought, if all those dead leaves didn’t fall? If the trees could just hold onto them, then he wouldn’t have to rake the yard, and the gutters wouldn’t get clogged, and –
He stopped in his tracks as he realized what else it would mean. No new growth. If the trees held onto all their dead leaves, there would be nowhere for tender green shoots to push through in spring. He suddenly saw himself in the picture of this imaginary tree clinging to ugly, dead leaves. What new things had he been unable to take hold of because his hands were clinched in anger over the past? It wasn’t her he had been punishing all these years by not forgiving. For the first time, he asked for God’s help to let go, and opened his hands.
Dear God, forgiveness is so hard for us. The unkind words of coworkers, the thoughtless actions of friends, and the large and small betrayals of people we love wound us, and we respond in anger. Help us to see that we are only hurting ourselves when we carry that anger. Grant that we may be more like you, “slow to anger and abounding in love.” Give us the wisdom to see that forgiveness does not mean excusing the other’s actions, and that forgiveness is not weak, but in fact takes so much strength that we can’t do it alone. Please help us today. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy Sergent