A Hasty Word You Can’t Recall


Once in a while a realization comes of how perception was distorted or incorrect. In the times of anger or hurt, things get said one regrets; things that can’t be taken back. And the humbling part of such behavior is those closest to us suffer.

You always hurt the one you love,
the one you should not hurt at all;
You always take the sweetest rose,
and crush it till the petals fall;
You always break the kindest heart,
with a hasty word you can’t recall;
So if I broke your heart last night,
it’s because I love you most of all.
From an old Mills Brothers song

In situations in which we have nothing of value to lose, we seldom experience disappointment. In love, which involves our happiness and many of our most precious experiences, there is a great deal to lose. Hence, disappointment and frustration, and consequently hurt, are common. It has been said that completely blissful love does not exist. Indeed, in a survey of over 500 lovers, almost all of them assumed that passionate love is a bittersweet experience. Similarly, it has been found that people low in defensiveness have more experiences of love than do highly defensive people. This link suggests that to love is to make oneself vulnerable in ways that enhance the possibility of pain.

Since the beloved is a major source of happiness, this person is also a major threat to our happiness: more than anyone else, the beloved can ruin our happiness. Similarly, the security involved in love goes together with the fear of losing that security. Feeling happy is often bound up with the fear of losing that happiness. Caring for the beloved sometimes goes together with hurting the beloved. From article by Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D., http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201010/you-always-hurt-the-one-you-love

Perhaps we should say “I’m sorry.” “I love you.” “You are the only person who really knows me, and who still wants to be my friend even when I am terrible.” “Your love is something that allows the rest of the world and all of its small aggressions to not feel so cold.” Chelsea Fagan

To “not hurt the ones I love” is a lesson I still trying to master and consistently practice. Old abandonment issues from childhood conditioned me to anticipate being hurt. The problem with that is a manifestation of expectation can sometimes actually be the cause of what I fear. I am grateful for the reminder that I have not arrived and never will. Life is a classroom and school is never out.

It’s ironic how we ignore the ones that adore us,
adore the ones that ignore us,
hurt the ones that love us,
and love the ones that hurt us.

Letting Go of a Hot Iron


One of the more difficult insights to grasp has been that it is largely pain within a person that causes him/her to hurt me. Long did I believe those who caused me grief without cause, or pain far beyond what I deserved, were simply mean-spirited people. Experience has taught when someone is rude, mean or inconsiderate the vast majority of the time they have unresolved issues within.

Anger, heartache, resentment or some other harbored pain is festering inside most hurtful people that they have yet to face, cope with or overcome. As difficult as it can be, the last thing such a person needs is for me to make matters worse by responding angrily. My human ‘fight’ instinct first kicks in and only with strong intention can I keep from dishing out venom equal to or greater than the poison spewed on me.

When I react badly to someone who has treated me ‘less than’ any momentary feeling of satisfaction dims quickly. I end up tasting a bit of my own toxins I’ve thrown on them. Fire plus fire equals a bigger fire. It’s never any different. Even when things settle down and apologies are given and accepted a touch of bitterness always remains. Sadly, often those leftovers become catalysts for a later resurfacing of the clash.

Refusal to play the game by saying, “I am not going to fight with you” or “I’m not going to give you something to blame me for later” often makes the other person’s emotions flare further. But by sticking to my truth and doing just that will disarm the person eventually. Some time the absolute best I can do for both parties is to put temporary distance between me and him or her. No, it’s not easy but it is best.

Forgiveness is a gift I give myself. The other person need not even know I have forgiven them. Often its impossible to let them know even if I want to. To forgive someone is to give myself the antidote for another’s poison that’s been injected into me. If I don’t, at least in part, I give someone else control over my life. Forgiveness is about setting myself free.

When someone hurts me, I have to let it go or I end up contaminating my mind, heart and soul with the poison that belongs to someone else. Holding my tongue is not easy, but afterwards letting go what was said or done is even more challenging. Knowing they have done it out of their own distress takes time to settle in. Stephen Richards wrote, “When you initially forgive, it is like letting go of a hot iron. There is initial pain and the scars will show, but you can start living again.” That’s about as good of a perspective as I have been able to develop.

Being a normal human being, its impossible for me to always practice full forgiveness where and when I need to. However, I am grateful for the awareness that I should forgive that has made shorter the length and weight of bitterness.

Forgiveness is really not about
someone’s harmful behavior;
it’s about our own relationship
with our past. When we begin
the work of forgiveness,
it is primarily a practice for ourselves.
Gina Sharpe

A Blessing of Grace

swaddle-baby-636 blur

When getting married the second time, I knew exactly what I was doing. I was motivated by love. In the light of day the internal dysfunction that beat on me constantly could not be seen. And in time it took control again. While my then-wife was not blameless, my behavior is ultimately what brought a divorce.

I really did love her. Always will. There I a debt of gratitude I carry for her for how she helped me when I earnestly got into recovery from PTSD, childhood trauma, compulsion, depression and such. Even after divorce she came around and gave me support for a couple of years before telling me she had to get on with her life and could no longer have contact with me.

In time I have come to accept A. moving on. I understand she did what she needed to do for herself. She remarried and has custody of the child of a family member. She always wanted to be a Mother and I bet she is doing a great job raising that little boy.

Two weeks ago my mobile phone rings. Caller ID says it’s ‘her’. It’s been a long time since we’d spoken and I was surprised. I answer and soon notice it’s a ‘pocket dial’. To no avail I tried making whistling noises and such to get her attention so she’d know I was on the other end of the phone.

For a couple of minutes I listened to her sing along with the little boy while driving. It was touching when she switched to “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray, you’ll never know dear how much I love you, so please don’t take my sunshine way…”

You see those were the words we sang at least part of to each other just about every day while hugging and greeting each other after being apart. My first reaction was sadness, but it was quickly replaced with good feelings. It was with the knowing the only way she could be singing those words was if she was past the hurt of our relationship.

It was the happiness in her voice that meant the most. It lifted a good bit of my weight off the hook I had kept myself hung on for hurting her.

While I could have kept listening, I smiled and pressed disconnect instead. Initially the thought came I should text her or email to let her know about accidentally calling me, but thought better of it. There would have been no point except to bring a little of her attention to me.

I will never know if A. realizes she called me without knowing it. I actually hope she doesn’t. The accidental phone call gave me a good bit of relief from the guilt I was still carrying about the end of our marriage.

I will always love her, but can do so now easier in a past-tense sense. Knowing she is happy and content living a life that contains her dream of motherhood made me feel good. After all, if a person truly loves another it’s that person’s happiness that is most important. It’s another small example of a divine force at work. What might appear only as an accidental phone call was a blessing of grace. To the source from which all things originate I will always be grateful for this gift.

Love is when the other person’s
happiness is more important
than your own.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Chains Of Resentment


My finger was pointed at others for a long time. I was the way I was because of them, or so I thought. Wrongs inflicted by others were my frequent justification for how I behaved. Sometimes what I did was worse than what had been done to me.

Wisdom that I was behaving badly did not suddenly descend on me one day. Instead, a morsel at a time my mind and soul learned better. When I stopped letting my field of view be filled with what others had done, I began to get an honest look at myself. A little at a time the truth became mine that is contained in the saying “hating is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die”.

Hatred is like a long, dark shadow.
Not even the person it falls upon
knows where it comes from, in most cases.
It is like a two-edged sword.
When you cut the other person,
you cut yourself.
The more violently you hack at the other person,
the more violently you hack at yourself.
It can often be fatal.
But it is not easy to dispose of.
Please be careful…
It is very dangerous.
Once it has taken root in your heart,
hatred is the most difficult thing
in the world to shake off.
From “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”
by Haruki Murakami

… forgiveness is NOT a gift you give to another, but rather something you do inside of yourself, for yourself. The other person need never know.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation – nor does it mean you have to allow a behavior that can hurt you to continue to hurt you. Forgiveness is, in essence, the acknowledgment inside of yourself that the person who has wronged you in some way is a fallible human being – and that, like a human being, they made a mistake worthy of your forgiveness. Forgiveness sets you free.

Forgiveness lets you remove the pain you carry inside of you that you feel was done by another’s wrongdoing. The other person need not admit the wrongdoing. The other person need not make amends. The other person need not do anything. Forgiveness is something done inside of yourself, to release you from the pain of the wrongdoing. MD Lynn http://voices.yahoo.com/forgiveness-gift-give-yourself-84466.html?cat=5

Being an imperfect human being, all my animosities toward others have not evaporated. However a considerable amount of such loathing is long gone. For others such feelings are considerably reduced. And, there are still a few old wounds that sting. In earnest I am working on those. I am grateful to be free of the majority of the shackles holding grudges put on me. Even the chains of remaining blame are growing lighter, day by day. Gratefully, the light of forgiveness is doing away with my chains of resentment.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that. ]
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

When God Created Mothers

mother-and-childWhen the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into his sixth day of “overtime” when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”

And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic; Have 180 movable parts… all replaceable; Run on black coffee and leftovers; Have a lap that disappears when she stands up; A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair; And six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands… no way.”

“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord. “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.

The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, ’What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say, ’I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”

“Lord,” said the angel, touching His sleeve gently, “Go to bed. Tomorrow…”

“I can’t,” said the Lord, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick… can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger… and can get a nine-year-old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.

“But she’s tough!” said the Lord excitedly. “You cannot imagine what this mother can do or endure.”

“Can it think?”

“Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You, You were trying to push too much into this model.”

“It’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.”

“What’s it for?”

“It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”

“You are a genius,” said the angel.

The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” He said.
“When God Created Mothers” by Erma Bombeck

Although my Mother and I are far from close and will never be, I have no hesitance wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day through the distance that separates us. Without her I would not have been born, nor would I have survived being a small child. Today it is important to be grateful for what she did do. What she didn’t do or mistakes she made belong to the other days of the year. Thanks for bringing me into the world, Mom.

But there’s a story behind everything.
How a picture got on a wall.
How a scar got on your face.
Sometimes the stories are simple,
sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking.
But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story,
because hers is where yours begin.
Mitch Albom

Life is a Course in Life

forgivenessForgiveness is a powerful and affirmative part of our humanity. It should be differentiated from its close cousin, acceptance, which while important, is essentially, passive. For many, the healing power of forgiveness allows us to truly move on. A life lived without forgiveness is a life of real pain.

We are all wounded. You will be surprised to hear of all the wounds that normal people carry with them. It may be hard to believe, but many of these wounds can determine how people feel about themselves for an entire lifetime. And everyone’s been hurt in one way or another.

Forgiveness, like grieving, has its stages. It is well known that grieving has its stages. You loved someone, or you lost something dear to you. You go through denial, bargaining, anger, depression and finally you come to acceptance. Forgiveness is a lot like grieving. The important things that we need to forgive don’t come easily.

First, you have to acknowledge that you have to forgive. It is important to your psychological health. Carrying old wounds is simply a burden that steals the pleasure from the life that you have now. We are not on this earth forever, and sitting in victimhood can be such a loss.

Acknowledging a wound that needs healing is only a first step. You also have to deal with real feelings of anger and at times, betrayal. I often think that the word – FAIR – is a four letter word that should sit unhappily with its other, less decent, brothers. Too many people can’t get over just how unfair life is. Such pain, for what? Life is unfair, but it is also filled with potential for beauty, love and grace. The anger over things having been unfair is a product of our immature minds needing to have a balance in nature. Yes, there may be a balance, supervised by God or by nature, but it often has little to do with the narrative that we want to write!

Forgiveness is ultimately a gift you give yourself. It allows the wounds to heal. Asking for forgiveness is a noble act. It is an acknowledgement that you hurt someone and it makes it easier for the forgiver to forgive. It takes a burden away, but this is only the first step. If you really want to be forgiven by the person that you hurt, just apologizing is not enough. You have to try to right the wrong. This is not a perfect science, but a little effort can go a long way. While nothing can undo an unfortunate experience, making amends counts.

Life is a course in life. We are taught by our experiences and no textbook can really do it for us. Learn what each chapter has to teach you. Forgiveness is part and parcel of the emotional work of learning these lessons well. From “The Intelligent Divorce” by Mark Banschick, M.D. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201110/can-you-forgive

So grateful am I for the lessons in recent years about forgiveness. Today I am many times more capable of letting go; of forgiving others and myself. It’s amazing how much better life is!

True forgiveness is when you can say,
“Thank you for that experience.”
Oprah Winfrey

Deep-Burning and Unquenchable

GriderEngagement005Many events of my life, both good and bad, have faded over time. There are exceptions such as the emotions of a particular time twenty-five years ago that have remained vividly alive. Emotionally it felt like being stretched and pulled apart between two horses. I’ve carried the self-inflicted wound, inside and unseen, long enough. Telling buried secrets stop them from poisoning the soul, so here goes…

My Father left my Mother, Brother and I shortly after my 7th birthday for another woman who was pregnant with his child. The devastation and bewilderment caused me to make a little boy promise to myself: someday if I had children I would never leave them like my Father left me.

Fast forward to 1987; I’m 35, have been married twelve years and have a beautiful young son who is five years old. A restless feeling about the marriage won’t leave me alone and slowly is getting worse. The birth of my boy soothed that away for a time, but by his fifth year feeling I wanted more had returned. The Mother of my son is a caring and good person who I learned a lot about the love of family from. I will always be grateful to her and her parents who accepted me openly and gave me a sense of belonging never experienced before. There was a problem though, I was no longer “in love” with her by the mid 80s when she unexpectedly became pregnant.

The first amends necessary is to B., my first wife. I should have been a man, stood strong and expressed my feelings. The high road would have been to do what was necessary to save the marriage or move on. But I didn’t. Until a few years ago I always put the reason for my weakness and lack of action on my childhood promise to never desert a child of mine. I know even today that was a good portion of my motivation then (or lack of it), but nowhere near the complete explanation.

In my desire not to hurt anyone, I have done nothing far too often. Saying goodbye to a lover has always been very, very difficult for me. Crippled by inaction I accomplished the opposite of my intentions repeatedly in romantic love relationships. I left a path of hurt and pain, not the least of which was to me.

There is no further explanation needed to explain I was ripe to fall in love with another woman in 1987. I met her on a business trip and she was so many things women I had been romantically involved with before were not. Including the woman I was married to, my tendency had been to gravitate to dependent women. K. was instead a breath-taking beauty who was strong, self-sufficient and successful. She had no need for a caretaker but now in her late 20s was ready to make a commitment and settle down. We fell head over heals in love, but did not find a happy ending.

Time has a way of creating rearward facing clarity. The late 80’s were when the spiral into my dysfunctions began in earnest. I became far too good at deception (although years later I learned not nearly as good as I thought at the time), but I sure did deceive myself and hurt a lot of people in the process.

Absolutely and without doubt I loved K. and to this day believe she loved me. In the early months she and I shared it was my sincere intention to get a divorce so we could be together. For a year and a half we shared long weekends every month or so and even managed to pull off a week-long vacation once that contained some of the most beautiful moments I’ve known. K. and I were well matched from intellect to emotion to politics and food. For a time there was no doubt in either of us that we’d be together the rest of our lives.

Ultimately I did not have the courage to do what was necessary. I never could find the strength to ask my first wife for a divorce. About a year and a half into our relationship K. did the right thing, ended our relationship and moved on with her life. We stayed in touch casually once in a while for another ten years until I began a serious relationship that became my second marriage. A good bit of the mementos of K. and I went up in smoke from my fireplace then. The most treasured keepsakes I sent to her with a note saying I could not longer have contact with her which she honored.

I have written all this to cast four admissions into the world on K.’s behalf: 1) The love I expressed to her was true and real 2) There is a part of my heart that will always belong to her 3) I will always be grateful she loved me,  and,  4) I have carried profound regret for hurting you hidden inside me now for 25 years. I am so very, very sorry. I am grateful for the relief admitting the truth just brought me.

Love is like a friendship caught on fire.
In the beginning a flame, very pretty,
often hot and fierce,
but still only light and flickering.
As love grows older,
our hearts mature
and our love becomes as coals,
deep-burning and unquenchable.
Bruce Lee

Hate Hurts the Hater

Hate is never good, but it’s understandably felt by some toward people such as child abusers, perpetrators of violent crimes, terrorists and some who are just plain evil.

Otherwise, with ordinary people there’s an adage that goes, someone most often hates you for one of three reasons.

1. They either see you as a threat.
2. They hate themselves.
3. Or they want to be you.

Thinking about hating someone is sobering. Hate is a strong word. Definitions of hate on-line are: to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest; feel antipathy towards. So if I dislike someone a lot, I in fact hate them. I never thought of it that way. And yes, there are people I really don’t care for. I just never thought of strong aversion as being hate.

I cringe at the thought that I might actually hate someone and subscribe to Madeleine L’Engle’s thoughts that “Hate hurts the hater more’n the hated.”

At this point I really don’t think I hate anyone and readily admit I have at times confused hurt with hate. There are those who caused me great grief and lots of pain for who forgiveness is not 100%. There is no one I can think of who I lack the intention of forgiveness for in my heart. However with some I am uncertain if complete forgiveness is possible. Emotional scars stand in the way. I have come to the understanding that most who hurt others have been hurt themselves, often as children, and end up passing along their pain. Completely true or not, that thought helps me forgive people who have injured me emotionally. Not 100% forgiveness, but close.

Elie Wiesel wrote, “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference”. I readily admit there are those who hurt me I feel completely indifferent about. I wish them no harm or difficulty, but frankly don’t care to know anything about them today. Such people are now blanks where a relationship of some sort has been erased due to the pain they caused me. It’s a healthy sort of turning a blind eye and putting those old pains up high on a shelf and forgetting about those caused them.

It’s only human to like some people more than others, to respect some more than other folks, to not be comfortable with some people and quite at home with others. I am grown up enough to no longer beat myself up about simply not caring for some people. It’s a form of healthy self-care to at least be able to recognize who’s good for me and who isn’t. I am grateful to know the difference!

The unhappiest people in this world,
are those who care the most about what other people think.
C. Joybell C.

Swallowing the Bitter Pill

I am not bad person. Never have I intentionally hurt others. Yet, unintentionally, through selfishness, dysfunction and compulsion I have deeply hurt some of the ones I have cared about most.

Graphically illustrated, that’s in line with the difference between murder and man slaughter. Maybe the latter crime is considered to be less, but a killer is still a killer whether deliberate or not. No matter what contributing factors there may have been, I am responsible for what I do.  Nothing can diminish that. Part of taking responsibility for my past actions is swallowing the bitter pill of knowing I’m guilty of the pain I caused, regardless of whether I did nor did not mean to cause the hurt.

Acceptance of the past is a big step in moving beyond it. The realization was critical in getting unstuck from the past.  Today I can look back and see the results of my actions while not beating myself up too badly about it. My self-disgust of my past used to be brutal. Today it is mostly scar tissue from healed wounds. That’s huge and a healthy move of self-forgiveness. I have learned it’s near impossible to forgive others when I can’t forgive myself.

I have learned that the person I have to ask for forgiveness from the most is: myself. You must love yourself. You have to forgive yourself, everyday, whenever you remember a shortcoming, a flaw; you have to tell yourself “That’s just fine”. You have to forgive yourself so much, until you don’t even see those things anymore. Because that’s what love is like. C. Joybell C.

Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat… Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established… Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation… Forgiveness does not excuse anything… You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. W. Paul Young

Self-forgiveness is a long process of intentional erosion of guilt for a wrong I hold me responsible for. Much like receiving a reduced sentence in a court of law, to personally lighten my self-imposed retribution for a past transgression is when I begin to heal. I am grateful at this point in my life I have the ability to let go of most of the past and be largely alive in the present.

Forgiveness is the fragrance
that the violet sheds
on the heel that has crushed it.
Mark Twain