Here's to a future enlarged!
By Marilyn Mackenzie
July 2, 2002
Sometimes, when no particular ideas have surfaced and the pondering I’ve done has resulted in no writing on the page, I’ll look at a list of character traits and consider writing about one of them. Sometimes, I’ll spend time looking at quotations to see if something sparks creativity in me.
Today, I considered word forgiveness. Webster’s Pocket Dictionary says that forgiveness is the act of granting a pardon.
As I pondered the meaning of forgiveness, I also remembered that Oprah’s show was on in the background earlier today as I was writing and thinking. Although my mind was not on the show but on the page before me, I do remember parts of it. At one point, I stopped writing so I could listen more intently.
Dr. Phil was there and some things he said fascinated me. They also popped into my head as I thought about the act of forgiving – someone else, or ourselves.
Oprah’s guest told us that we are either nurturing or smothering each relationship we’re in. In other words, if we’re not doing our part to nurture a relationship, then we’re doing our part to smother it. If we’re not finding ways to help one another grow – at home, at school, at work – then we’re doing our part to help stifle that growth and development.
Dr. Phil also said that each of our previous relationships are brought to the next one. We bring both the good and bad parts of our pasts along with us, carrying them like old, worn out luggage, into our present. Talk about excess baggage! Knowing this, though, helps us deal with ourselves. Sharing our pasts helps our friends and families understand why certain words or phrases or events might trigger emotional responses from us. It’s the past speaking to us.
Each day is like an empty slate, ready to be written upon. Some of us hand the chalk to each person we encounter during the day, allowing him or her to write on our slate and affect our lives for good or bad. Perhaps we should be more selective. Further, knowing that each of us has the ability to write on another’s slate, on their life, shouldn’t we be more careful in the words we choose in speaking with them? Shouldn’t we be more apt to offer encouragement to those around us instead of harsh criticisms?
The words we toss at others often echo in their brains. Sometimes, we’re much more influential on a person’s life than we’ll ever know. I’ve written an article called "Admirable Women" about women who influenced my life. In it I talked about the typical people who often influence us – my mom and my grandmother. But, I realized years ago that a woman who was my supervisor for only year also helped shape the woman that I’ve become. She was an excellent manager, and I’ve copied many of the things I learned from her in my own business career. She has no idea, unless she has happened upon my article. Do you wonder how many people you’ve influenced in your lifetime? Do you consider what you’ve written on the slates of people you’ve known or with whom you’ve had brief encounters?
Our brains love to repeat the put-downs we receive in life. They love telling us that we’re shy or that we’re no good at math. Hasn’t it been said that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy? If our brains echo the criticisms we’ve received over and over again, won’t we begin to believe them? To even act as if they were true?
But where does forgiveness fit into these thoughts? Many people experience relief when they’ve forgiven people who have been negative influences on their lives. Sometimes, though, rather than feeling total relief, they still have thoughts of not being worthy. The key may be to forgive ourselves as well, for allowing others to have so much control, not only on our pasts, but on our present too.
When asked how many times we should forgive, Jesus answered, “Seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:22) I think that’s particularly important when we think about the mistakes we’ve made. Forgiving ourselves, and, yes, making plans not to repeat them is important.
God forgives us for every kind of atrocity, as long as we confess our sin and ask forgiveness. If God forgives us and asks us to forgive those who have trespassed against us, shouldn’t it follow that we should learn to forgive ourselves as well?
It’s never too late to change, and forgiving oneself for past mistakes might just make for a brighter future.
"Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." Paul Boese
Here’s to brighter futures. Here’s to a future enlarged!