Saturday, September 11, 2010

The art of forgiveness

As Christians, we are taught about forgiveness.  The bible shows us that we need to forgive transgressions against us and also that God will forgive us for our sins.

The concept of forgiveness has been on my mind a lot lately and with today being the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 Attack, I find myself reflecting on it once again.

My Facebook page is filled with posts from friends about today's anniversary.  Most of the posts say essentially the same thing:  We will never forget.  We thank those who serve to keep us safe.  We pray for those who were killed and their families left behind.  We thank and pray for those lost in battle against our enemies.

I agree with all of those sentiments but I have not forgiven them.  When I think about the 9/11 attack, even 9 years later, my blood still boils and I still want revenge.  It doesn't consume me day in and day out, but it is the first feeling I experience when I think about that day.

God tells me I need to forgive.  He tells me that we are all His children and He loves us.  But to be honest, I have a lot of trouble seeing those who seek to kill innocent people all in the name of religion as belonging in His kingdom.  Keeping with the blatant honesty, I big part of me questions whether those who believe in the doctrines of extremist Islam are truly children of God or if instead they were sent here from Satan.

I don't know the truth.  Do you?

I do believe that the vast majority of those who practice Islam are part of God's kingdom.  I've known several Muslim people and they are a peaceful people and do not agree with the extremist ways.  So please don't think my statements above mean that I don't like Muslims.  To me, those who practice Islam and those who believe in the extremist Islam rhetoric are worlds away from each other.

But back to forgiveness.  Forgive thy enemies.  Enemies.

This issue also has arisen in my personal life.  A few months ago I was grossly and publicly attacked by my nephew.  He did so completely unprovoked.  I've never said a cross word to him nor ever argued with him.  In fact, I've had very little contact with him in the past 20 years (not my choice).  I knew him well from the day he was born until he was approximately 6 years old.  He was a good baby, an adorable toddler and the sweetest little boy ever.  I loved to get him giggling as he had the most infectious laugh I'd ever heard.  I can still hear it in my head to this day.

But unfortunately that sweet little boy has apparently grown into a very angry and bitter young man.  He has obviously evolved into someone who can attack a relative without provocation and without remorse.  He threatened my husband's life and he put a lot of fear into mine.  Because I know he runs in a dangerous world of drugs and guns, I no longer feel safe in my own home when I'm home alone.  I've never felt this way before.  And I never would have thought that a family member would ever be the cause to make me feel this way.  And never in a million years would I have thought that sweet little boy would grow up to be that family member.

My dad has gotten involved in the situation by speaking with my brother (my nephew's father) and has told me that my brother agrees that his son owes me a big apology.  But no apology has come nor any word to me from my brother.  This tells me that he doesn't really condemn what his son has done and possibly even agrees with his actions.  My dad has spoken to me about reaching out to my brother to "help start the healing."

And this is where I get stuck.  God tells me I should do this but yet day after day go by and I don't pick up that phone.

The past six years I've put up with a LOT of crap from some of my so-called family members, all over an issue that they only knew one side of.  Those in the family who bothered to ask me my side of the issue all support me and do not judge.  Those who have not asked for my side all judge me and treat me with contempt.  I've put up with it for 6 years and kept my mouth shut for the sake of "keeping the peace."  I had gotten to the point where I would have extreme anxiety in the days leading up to a family gathering and the day of I had to take Xanax just to keep it together and manage to show up with a semi-smile on my face.

But after the attack from my nephew I put my foot down and said NO MORE.  I will not attend any more gatherings and be treated like shit.  I don't deserve it and I won't subject myself to it.  And all of a sudden I felt FREE.  Gone is that burden.  Gone is the dread of the next family event.  I don't dread it because I won't be there.  I have other family I'm related to, family I married in to and many friends to fill my life.  I don't need their brand of "togetherness."

So when my Dad speaks to me about "healing" when no amends have been made towards me, I just can't do it.  Not now.  I don't have forgiveness in my heart for him or the others.  Not without apology and remorse from them.

God, I know you want me to be able to do it, but I just can't.  Not right now.