A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Today in church the readings included, “Cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” and, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … If you love only those who love you, what recompense will you have?” Also, from a song that I chose last week to be sung at this week’s Masses, “When love is torn and trust betrayed, pray strength to love till torments fade, till loved ones keep no sense of wrong…” These passages came on the heels of a section of forgiveness I read last night in After the Ecstasy the Laundry, a book on inner transformation written by Buddhist teacher and meditation master Jack Kornfield.

I think someone is trying to tell me something. Is it coincidence that a Buddhist meditation book I’m reading conveyed the exact same message that is the basis of the week’s readings at my church job? I don’t believe in coincidence. I think that coincidence is our unseen guides, angels, relatives, God, whatever label you want to use, tapping us on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, pay attention, moron!” Because I didn’t get a tap, but got a celestial whack upside the head, I’m paying attention. (Side note: As I wrote those last words, Louise showed me an online gif of a penguin smacking another in the head. Hmmm… Another coincidence timed with my thoughts on coincidence?? I’m listening…)




Jack Kornfield says that “to forgive, we must face the pain and sorrow of our betrayal and disappointment, and discover the movement of the heart that opens to forgive in spite of it all.” So what instance of “pain and betrayal” is still stuck to me? Who is it that I need to forgive? There are three people in the last 20 years or so that fit the bill, but I suspect that the one I am going to tell you about is the one I need to address. It comes up in my thoughts and dreams over and over…

A year and a half ago, an older woman who is very dear to me (we’ll call her Donna) said some very hurtful things to Louise. Because Louise is not exploring any religion at this point in her life, she was called “selfish” and a myriad of other insults. {sigh} Even 18 months later, I still feel distress when I think about that day. Donna later told me that she had a knee-jerk reaction to my very stubborn daughter and didn’t really mean anything she said. However, she said that to ME, not Louise. She flatly said that she wouldn’t apologize to her. {sigh} To me, this was a double insult, because she acknowledged her error, but would not rectify it with the one person who needed to hear it most.

I think I was also so offended because my thoughts on religion are similar to Louise’s, although Donna didn’t know that. Even though I grew up in the Catholic church, I don’t embrace the vast majority of its teachings. The divinity of Christ (I believe he was a great teacher, nothing more), transubstantiation, priestly celibacy and abstinence, the ordination of women, virgin birth, the process of sainthood, confession, the infallible pope, purgatory, etc., combined with the absolute arrogance of priests and laypeople who say the Catholic church is the one TRUE church – it all makes my head spin. I don’t believe a word of it. So this insult was also an insult to me. (I should say here, however, that there are things about the mystical side of the church that I find intriguing. I do find inspiration in certain aspects of this and other Judeo-Christian traditions. But that’s another post.)

When Louise was 9, right after her first communion, I pulled her out of CCD (Catholic religious ed). I was uncomfortable forcing her to study something that neither Richard nor I believed. I don’t think I did anything wrong – I think it would be morally wrong for me to force her to believe something I found abhorrent. I know when Louise feels a need to explore this part of herself, she will do so with as much fervor and dedication as she now explores science and math. It’s vitally important, however, that her spiritual exploration be on her timetable, not mine or Donna’s anyone else’s. Otherwise it’s meaningless. Her heart, her faith.

I have tried over the last 18 months to forgive Donna. There is a huge wedge between us still, mostly visible on my side. It is still a deep and raw wound. I sometimes wonder if I should let our relationship heal with the wedge in place. I know that’s not the right thing to do, but it would be the easier path. I’m sure she feels the effects on her side. It has affected every communication between us since then, and I want it to go away; I want healing to happen. In After the Laundry, Jack Kornfield tells a story about forgiveness. He writes, “(Forgiveness) is like the meeting of two former prisoners of war. When one asked, ‘Have you forgiven your captors?’ the other replied, ‘No, never.’ The first ex-prisoner looked with kindness at his friend and said, ‘Well, then, they still have you in prison, don’t they?'”

My guides and God are the ones looking at me with kindness now. I don’t want to remain in prison – I want the freedom that forgiveness brings. I want to completely love and trust Donna again. Louise long ago decided that it’s not worth the energy to stay mad. She may not be terribly fond of Donna anymore, but that’s OK, because she was able to forgive without an apology. I know I’ll always be a little wary, but I need to let this go, too. It’s been too long, Donna is far too important to me, and I love her far too much not to forgive her.

Forgiveness is close. I am “facing the pain and sorrow of betrayal and disappointment” in my heart. I can feel the shifting and opening of my heart, and look forward to the day when I wake up and feel nothing but love again. But I swear on all that is good and holy, this journey is a ridiculously hard one.

* * * * *


Comments on: "The Smack Upside the Head" (4)

  1. …everything happens for a reason…there are no coincidences…even Donna…

  2. Just getting around to reading this. Good one. U sure you don’t work at Omega or something?

    • I should be so lucky… I work at a public middle school with special ed kids. They are a blessing…

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