“I was angry with my friend; I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.” – William Blake
Last year during Lent I wrote a piece about betrayal. In that piece I wrote of times in my own life in which I’d felt betrayed. Since then I could add another to that list. Betrayal is the worst kind of pain, in my opinion. I see betrayal as wrong inflicted when the person(s) doing the wrong are aware of the pain they are about to cause and they do it anyway. It is different from having a tiff or hurting something without meaning to. It cuts deeply. Bleeds freely. And, is more difficult to forgive. But, what are the consequences of holding onto that anger?
In the poem “A Poison Tree” by William Blake that I’ve quote above, the poet offers two scenarios. The first is the first line of the poem. He’s angry with his friend – they talk about it – and the anger ends. The second scenario is the rest of the poem. He’s angry with a foe and that anger festers and deepens until his foe is dead. The point is that holding onto anger is not healthy – for anyone involved.
Not only is not healthy, it is not productive and it leaves us stuck in the past. We may be walking forward with one foot but other one is glued to whatever hurt us and will not move until we let it go. That’s where forgiveness comes in. We have to let it go – for our sake.
See, forgiveness is not something we do for the other person. We are not condoning the action nor are we letting them off the hook. In some cases, the other person may not be feeling a thing. We may be walking around with this weight once inflicted by someone else but now we’re just dragging it along so we can hold over them when in the long run we are just hurting ourselves. Getting to the point of forgiveness is our chance to drop that weight.
What we do with the relationship after forgiveness is up to us. We may be better off without them. We may need to take things slowly. And, the truth is, we may never really trust them again – at least not until they prove themselves trustworthy. But the important thing is that the other foot – the one was that still glued to the pain – is finally unstuck and we can face forward and begin to walk faster and perhaps even break into a skip or a jog.
In the last couple of days I’ve finally gotten my other foot unstuck. It was not an easy journey. I also have a memory like a steel trap, so I don’t forget. But, the burden is lifted and I’m ready to run.