Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Am Thankful for People

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Visiting with my children has become one of the supreme joys of my life.  I like to see these people I raised and loved when they were little who have now become capable and successful adults. 

One of the most challenging parts of this endeavor is to get to know this adult child I have known since before he or she was born.  It was a terrible shock to me the first time I learned my child was not an extension of me.  Now I have come to be thankful for that phenomena.  In addition to finding that they are individuals with thoughts and emotions that may be significantly different from mine, they have also changed and matured over the years.  Periodically, I find new vistas in their personalities that I had not seen before blessing me in my daily contacts

This was a truly wonderful Thanksgiving.  In addition to enjoying my daughter, I got to share thoughts and opinions with my son-in-law and their two lovely children. 

This has reminded me that the most wonderful blessing God has given me is people.  As I have said before, many of these people are my children.  I have learned from them and grown through my interactions with them.  But there are other people in this life who have been part of that blessing, too.  Some of them are blessing me in my daily contacts with them, and some are blessing me in the memories I have of them.

Holidays are wonderful times to remember the blessings of all those people who have blessed my life.  I hope for you, memories of wonderful people, too.  This is a good time to make new memories and add people to your list of blessings. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

100 words: Prejudice

Bias and prejudice are like the dust bunnies and dead flies that congregate behind the furniture. Those attitudes that you don't recognize as a part of your world view corrupt your clean house and create a subtle invasion of unpleasant presence until one day a friend comes by and drops a pen behind the sofa. In her attempt to retrieve it, she finds your secret store of hidden filth. Embarrassment! You failed to clean there. Your friend requests a donation for drug rehab, and as you write the check, you make a note to clean the drug bunnies from your attitude.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How Do We Learn Forgiveness?

I've been reading Spiritual Evolution by George Vaillant.  It is very enlightening.  The chapter I am reading now focuses on forgiveness.  He lists the physical benefits for individuals of forgiveness like reducing anxiety, blood pressure, stress on the nervous system, and peace of mind.  He also reports the benefits of forgiveness for countries or societies or civilizations.  Can we really ever live without the specter of war hanging over us? 

On a personal note, we can stop the pain that injustice from family, friends, or co-workers causes by forgiving them.  Forgiving is not always easy, and it helps to understand what forgiveness is and what it is not.

Forgiveness does NOT:
  1. Accept wrong acts--A friend who says something hurtful does not need to suffer the same insult to "show her how it feels," but she may need to be told the extent of the damage her words have caused.  There is a critical difference between being angry at an insult and taking vengence.
  2. Forget wrong acts--Forgiveness is a learning experience.  We should not forget that bad things happened but learn how to prevent them from recurring.
  3. Accept injustice--Forgiveness is not accepting injustice to "keep peace."  Battered wives who accept pain and insult continue the injustice and are never have a chance to forgive.
  4. Remove past pain--Forgiveness does not remove the pain suffered in the past, but it can prevent it from continuing.  Forgiveness removes the gnawing anger at a past insult that continues to destroy present communication.
  5. Excuse the wrongs--Forgiveness does not excuse the wrong, but it gives a chance for the relationship and the behavior to change.  No excuse makes it O.K. to hurt others.
  6. Accept repetition of wrong act--Forgiveness does not give license for bad behavior to continue. 
Forgiveness is a mature life skill.  Children and youth often forgive because a parent is forcing them .  The child who faces this issue may find forgiveness very difficult and perhaps fail to understand the principle.  Children are more prone to tit-for-tat retaliation than forgiveness.  Maturity cures some kinds of unforgiveness.

Sometimes forgiveness is a product of empathy--when you understand the needs and feelings of the person who offended you, forgiveness is almost automatic. 

Jesus demonstrated many of the principles of forgiveness in his ministry and practice.  A woman taken in the act of sin was brought to him by the upstanding men of the town wanting him to pronounce judgment on her.  Only the righteous could accuse her, but none of them past that test.  His forgiveness was implied when he said he did not condemn her, but there was more to it than that.  With the forgiveness came the obligation to sin no more. 

In the prayer he taught his disciples there is this petition: Forgive us our trepasses as we forgive those who trepass against us.  Forgiveness is intended to be passed around.  We forgive each other.  When he was dying on the cross, he forgave those who participated saying, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." Being stupid is sometimes cause for forgiveness, but understanding more makes you responsible for more.  Forgiveness is a mature response.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mothers Still Have Hope

I visited with my son yesterday.  I guess it was good.  On some level it was painful and humiliating.  I'll explain.  He is in prison.  That is difficult no matter how positive the reason for my visit.  The grounds are manicured.  The chain-link fences are immaculate.  The inmates are courteous.  The officers are curt and business-like.

I was there to witness his graduation from a 6-month faith based program that focused on life skills.   He relished the good news that he had been accepted into a Christian halfway house upon release.

He reminded me that his birthday is next week.  He will be 52.  No, this is not some juvenile misstep.  This has been a lifelong pattern of behavior.  He enjoys the benefits he accumulates while pushing the boundaries of society.  His defense is consistent--I never hurt anybody.  He always repents and acts penitent, but somehow the message has never gotten to the control center of his being.  I pray that this time it has.  I always pray for that.