But I think it’s about…forgiveness.

Sanctuary
My land is bare of chattering folk;
The clouds are low along the ridges,
And sweet’s the air with curly smoke
From all my burning bridges.
-Dorothy Parker

Lately I’ve been thinking about bridges that have burned over the years. I don’t have a laundry list of mortal enemies, or anything, but a handful of personal and professional relationships in my adulthood have ended badly.

I have no regrets about cutting off contact with some of the abusive characters I’ve encountered in my life.  Some of my severed ties, though, just leave me feeling a little sad.  I’ve had a couple of friendships disintegrate because of disagreements over money.  My “righteous indignation” led to some harsh words on my part, as well as a lack of tolerance for my friends’ (and my  own) shortcomings.  I’m not proud of the way I acted.  Turns out, being “right” can carry a pretty hefty price tag.

There is one incident in which I was the sole architect of a friendship’s demise.  Deep in a blue melancholy, I deliberately shut out a friend whose happiness over her new relationship was too much for my bruised heart to stand.  My heart and I eventually recovered, I was appropriately embarrassed over my selfish, self-pitying behavior, and I offered a humble and sincere apology to this lovely girl.

She was unequivocally gracious and compassionate, which humbled me further.  However, despite our most conciliatory intentions, after a year of hurt feelings and neglect, our friendship is not–and will likely never be–the same. 

Picasso's Blue Dove

Picasso's Blue Dove

One of the defining characteristics of maturity, at least as I see it, is the understanding that some things cannot be undone.  Some of our words and actions forever change the landscape of our lives and relationships.  I learned this lesson the way I learn most of my lessons: the hard way.

Unlike Dorothy Parker, I find no sanctuary in the isolation of bridges burned.  The older I get, the more certain I become that sanctuary will only be found in forgiveness: for others and for ourselves.

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5 thoughts on “But I think it’s about…forgiveness.

  1. What an eloquent and honest entry, Hils, and great quote from Ms. Parker.
    And yet, today I still clicked “ignore” on a certain someone’s facebook friend request…someday I hope to grow to be as gracious as you! 🙂

    • Hey, forgiveness doesn’t mean making room in your life for an unhealthy or unhappy relationship! It’s entirely possible to forgive people and, in the words of a wise friend of mine, “Bless them and release them in peace.” Sometimes, hitting “ignore” can be the most compassionate action for all concerned parties, you know?

  2. Hil,

    I just watched this interview for the second time. Getting older is a privilege, contrary to the messages being delivered by Max Factor and L’Oreal. When we’ve paid attention enough and experienced enough we can recognize the important landmarks of any situation and therefore recognize the our own needs and desires. Being “right” is not as important to me these days, but it continues to seduce me when I am emotionally bankrupt. Still, I rejoice in knowing the impact and lasting effect of my words and celebrate my own restraint as I take the time to choose them carefully. Creative communication is so much more enjoyable than destructive communication, even if I don’t get to be “right”.

    I think you’ll enjoy this….

    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/05082009/watch2.html

    • Wow. David, thank you so much for passing this along. There is so much richness and truth contained in this interview. I especially loved Ms. Lawrence-Lightfoot’s remarks about “perceived abundance,” as well as the immense importance of lifelong curiosity and a willingness, an ability, to really LISTEN. Thank you, thank you thank you!!

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