I always giggle and get a little searing pain in my heart when I read the Anne Lamott quote, “I’m not one of those Christians who is heavily into forgiveness,” and that if she could, she would write a book called All the People I Still Hate: A Christian Perspective. I giggle because it’s damn funny, brilliant writing; and I have that little searing pain in my heart because it hits way too close to home.


For someone who has a reputation of being generous and kind (at least that’s what I’m told), I have the ability to hold and nurse grudges as only a Taurus can. And what’s so flipping frustrating is that long after I think I’ve let something go, after I’ve been reminded how many times mercy has been shown to me, that grudge will rear its head at the least opportune time and flatten me. It pulls me down a rabbit hole and I’m crying and reaching for the edge to pull myself out, but it feels fruitless to fight the hurt.

I think we often associate the word “forgive” with the word “forget.” Somehow, I’ve come to believe that forgiveness is only true and real if one is able to forget that they’ve been wronged.


So if that’s the case, I’m screwed. I have an elephantine memory, not only for the details of said hurt, but the visceral way it made me feel. When I’m reminded of it, my bones actually ache and I get dizzy. I see red and I get choked up, feeling like my throat is closing off. That’s what I’m talking about when I say visceral reaction.


I’ve felt, over and over again, that there must be something wrong with me. I’m not working hard enough or forgiving well. I’m only “forgiving” in theory, but secretly I’m still holding a grudge in my heart. And let’s be honest here – guilt and self-hate never made anyone actually feel better about a situation.


But I had a little BFO recently (“blinding flash of the obvious” for those of you who aren’t in the know) when I noticed a scar that I carry on my skin. I realized that an emotional injury is like a physical wound. It leaves a mark. As long as we live in these human bodies and walk among other broken humans, there will be scars left on our hearts.


Thomas Merton (the dead Trappist monk who I have a huge crush on) put it this way: As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is a resetting of a Body of broken bones. Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some pain at the differences that come between them…hatred recoils from sacrifice and the sorrow that is the price of this resetting of bones.” A re-set bone still has a visible line; and it still feels pain from time to time.


You guys, unless we completely shut ourselves off like hermits from the world around us, denying the beauty and passion along with the pain, we can’t help but be scarred. It’s part of the human experience. And those scars will always carry the phantom of pain with them, because that’s just the way it goes. I don’t know why; take it up with God.


But I’m also finding that showing mercy…having grace…is a pain anesthetic. It can be nearly impossible to strum that mercy up, I’ll give you that. Sometimes I have to do it long before I actually “feel” merciful.

Unless…UNLESS…I remember the mercy shown to me.

Grace that found me when I was wretched and not worthy of it.


And so, instead of focusing on the hurt, which granted, doesn’t ever leave, I’m focusing on the cool water of forgiveness that’s been shown to me over and over again. It doesn’t mean the hurt goes away, it just makes it a little more bearable and puts it into perspective. But guess what…it’s not a one time deal. Forgiveness sometimes comes with making a choice every. single. day. To forgive the same damn thing we should have forgotten about already. I know, I know – LAME! But it’s true. Forgiving day by day, minute by minute, is one of the truest things I know.


And mercy, unleashed, is a flood. Floods are no respecters of boundaries or riverbanks or dams. They cover the land with water, irrespective of where the river was originally intended to go. Which means, along with the “other” being shown mercy, I find I’m awash in it myself, which may be the most powerful lesson.

Photo Cred Jasper van der Meij