What “role” am I playing?

A while back, I entered into a verbal agreement with someone and when my work was finished (which involved a considerable amount of time and effort) she said that we did not have an agreement. I was so stunned that I couldn’t sleep for an entire night. I went over and over the grievance, replayed her words in my head…felt the anger of betrayal until I was exhausted. A part of me (a big part!) did not want to forgive her, but for me, forgiveness is not an option. I asked Spirit for help and within a few days, I could see that her not paying me was her problem, I could also see and feel the chaos that she was in. The feelings of anger did not go away immediately. I made the decision to forgive knowing that, if I did not entertain the negative thoughts when they came (which they did), eventually my feelings would line up with my higher ideal, and they did.

I absolutely love the scene in the movie, Les Miserable, where the Bishop, who has been  hit on the head with his own silver candlestick, robbed, and left for dead by Jean Valjean, (a man whom the bishop had invited to stay the night), is given the opportunity to punish Valjean. The police catch him and bring him triumphantly to the Bishop. But the Bishop does not play the role of victim. He tells the police that he gave the silver to Valjean. They have no choice but to release him. Then, the Bishop  says to Valjean,:

JeanValjean my brother,  you no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I have bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now I give you back to God.”

The Bishop could have been a victim, could have had Valjean thrown in jail for life, told the story over and over about how he had been misused. He could have played the small role, become afraid of strangers, shrunk his life down so much that his story of victimization was all that he had room for, eventually becoming, and attracting even more of, the very essence (fear and hatred) of the awful thing done to him. He made a different choice and you can tell that this man’s world would continue to expand. There is such power in taking the high road. Even though the Bishop was a fictional character, I have heard of and seen great acts of forgiveness in my own life, and they always leave me with a sense of awe and admiration.

19 thoughts on “What “role” am I playing?”

  1. Mary, I certainly can understand your anger at not being paid what you were owed. But, at times these things happen to me, when I get hold of myself, I’ve always think, “It’s only money.” Nobody died, nobody was physically hurt; no other great tragedy occurred. It’s always possible to make more money. (I have end up at times asking, please, multiply the little money I do have like the loaves and fishes.) Somehow you will find the money you lost in that transaction.

    This, however, is not to say that I’d be such a fool as to make the same mistake a second time. On the other hand, under some circumstances I might choose to do something again where I know that I will lose money, but this time I will know ahead of time that I will be out the money and make a conscious choice regarding that possibility.

    In the end it’s only money. There are so many more valuable things in this world than money, no matter how precious money sometimes appears to one. (I still stick to the “loaves and fishes theory.”)

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on your choice to just “let it go” and not let the whole incident rule your life. MCS

  2. Mary – These last three posts about Eleanor, the Matterhorn and forgiveness are wonderful examples of how you are a strong woman who lives with no regrets. I believe that if we stay true to our inner voice, we will find the right way to solve any problem. BTW, you are going to find a house that you love, and all of the ones that you look at that don’t work out are just preparing you to be able to recognize the one that’s meant for you and Jack when you see it. Buying a house is one of the greatest lessons in patience that I’ve ever gone through. I’ve done it four times and it’s never been easy, but it’s always been worth it.

  3. This is such a powerful truth that I learned many years ago when I divorced my first husband, Bill Frye. It definately wasn’t easy and I actually had to counsel for a while to come to the place to forgive. But I was so set free in doing so! And I believe it had alot to do with me getting married to Chris, who is a wonderful man of good character and integrity. If I had all that unforgiveness in me, he never would have been attracted to me. “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive others”.

  4. THANK YOU. Forgiveness will set you free. I’m learning to forgive. Your example is a perfect lesson. Again thank you.

  5. By the way, I got the Balm and gave one to my mom and one to my sister Mary…we love it! Thank you…

  6. Forgiveness is empowering, your choice to forgive, like the bishop, inspires us to look beyond the “get even” culture we live in. Once again Mary, thank you

  7. Mary,
    Excellent post about forgiveness! It is only money. (just don’t get between me and my food– :o) You are very strong to have found a way to forgive. When someone ‘forgets’ an agreement and takes you for granted it hurts. I’ve had problems in the past with foregiveness and I thank you for reminding me about the ways to forgive.

    God bless you.

  8. Very powerful words here about forgiveness. When a grudge is held against someone, it hurts ourselves more than the person that has wronged us. Forgiveness can be a lot easier said than done though as we feel and struggle with our human emotions.

  9. Mary, thank you for such a lovely and important post. In the case of the Bishop, two lives were saved instead of two lives being lost. Good point to apply to my own life: to remember love and the higher road instead of bitterness and victimhood and hurt feelings.

  10. To all of Mary’s readers:
    I emailed the following to Mary today, and she suggested that I post it as a question to all of her White Feather community. If you have the time, I would be really interested in hearing your thoughts. Please read below….and thanks to all!

    Hi Mary,

    Your blog today about what “role” am I playing re-raised a question for me that I haven’t found the answer to in about four decades. I am trying to find out what exactly the term “forgiveness” means.

    I want to know HOW I would know that I have forgiven someone for something. E.g., my ex-husband and I have been apart for ages. I don’t see him or speak with him…we have no connection at all, person to person. I don’t even think about him, nor do I dwell on the rotten things he did. However, if I DO happen to think back on that time, I feel the anger rise again and I can be right back into that time period with all its hurts and pain.

    Some would say that by not thinking about it all and not dwelling on it, I have essentially forgiven him. Others would say that, if I am still able to conjure up that anger when I do think about it, I have NOT forgiven him.

    Am I just burying my feelings after 40 years because I don’t have him in my life in any way to remind me of those feelings? Where does “burying” leave off and “forgiveness” begin? I wonder if others have this same question. Might be something to share.

    See how your blogs affect us all? You are a treasure!

    1. Suzanne, I’ve been divorced from a vile man for 25 years. In the beginning I was consumed by all the things he had done. I saw a counselor for a year to unload.

      Last night, I heard Max Lucado on a program talk about Maria Shriver coming to a place of forgiveness after she has divorced that lout she married. I thought yeah, since you have to get to that place, which I think is pretty hard to do – esp. when being wronged as much as she had been.

      Lucado has said that “Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realising you were the prisoner!” Without forgiveness, there is only bitterness. I can’t help but think what a miserable evil SOB my ex is. Sure those feelings surface from time to time. I did forgive, years ago. But from time to time he does pop up in my thoughts.

  11. I had an alcoholic father that was miserably unhappy and took it out on anyone he could – his wife and children. Verbally abusive, though not physically. I truly hated him for a time, got past that while he was alive but wouldn’t say I forgave him. I remember one day about a year after he died thinking of some of the things he’d done and the lasting effects he’d had on everyone. For the first time I thought of him as an imperfect person that must have been in a lot of pain to have acted the way he did. Why he was I will never know, nor will I ever believe this excused what he did. But I felt a release of anger and thought I forgive him because he may have done the best he could. I don’t think about the past much, but if I do, there is some sadness that things weren’t otherwise, but not anger. That is how I think I know that I forgave him.

  12. Is it not the most delicious irony that forgiveness—even when undertaken from a selfish, non-altruistic, energy conserving approach—has the power to lead us to a healing conclusion?
    Just as physiologists have discovered it takes more muscles and energy to frown rather than smile, forgiveness is the gift that keeps on giving.

  13. Suzanne’s question did not appear (on my computer) before I posted my comment so I feel compelled to take up more space. And Kristin’s comments reflected so much of my own experience, that I have to agree that I too buried , not forgave, my mother UNTIL I sat down 30 years later and realized how hopelessly unhappy she was. Women of her generation were extremely limited in their options and divorce was not one of them. She sought solace in a bottle and, when I truly put myself in her shoes as an adult, I realized how trapped she felt. An imperfect person, she died a “Jane Doe” on skid row; it took me 20 years to learn the details. Forgiveness found me, not the other way around. The anger was replaced with love and gratitude for giving me life—that shifted my world and to this day I feel fortunate to be living this life, in this body, warts and all!

  14. It may be “only money” but as Suze Orman says money represents our life force: the time & energy we spend earning it is a part of who we are. And, I lover her mantra, “People first, Money second, Things third”. From Suze Orman I have learned to see money differently; not as an object but as a source available to me to increase my choices, to empower me to make some spiritual choices that are good for me and others. I made a spiritual choice to help a young mother by lending her $600. at a time she needed it & I could afford it. She agreed to pay me back $25. a month. She did that for a couple of months and then stopped. I tried to hold a resentment, especially when I saw her spending money on certain things. Then I decided to just let it go out into the Universe. Who knows someday when I real need it and she has it that money might just come rolling back to me or my daughter.

    There’s a version of “The Lord’s Prayer” that says…”forgive us our debts as we we forgive our debtors” – I understand this more now.

  15. Oh this is a tough one, isn’t it? Forgiveness . . . I have confided in Mary a situation in my family that has given me great consternation – when it comes to forgiving a family member for something awful done to another family member – I am realizing that forgiveness is not just some phrase that we can utter and poof!, like a magic wand, we have forgiven another. It is for sure, a process, but like all processes, it begins with an intention, another word we all talked about this week in the White Feather community. But by setting an intention to forgive, then like anything else that requires practice, we come back to the mat so to speak, whenever our hurt feelings or anger rear their ugly head, and we repeat out intention to forgive. Who knows if that day will really ever come when we can 100% say we know we have utterly forgiven the other? But unlike burying our feelings, coming back to the mat requires that we repeat our intent from the very depths of our hearts. And with the grace of the divine maybe we’ll get there. Thank you all for giving me the courage to write this. I think what is being shared here is so very powerful. Mary, our weaver of friends.

  16. The scriptures are resplendent with references to the “spirit of bitterness,” which does none of us any good. The root causes trouble. While I would have wrestled with the wrong that was done to me, hopefully in the end I would have taken the highroad as you did knowing that carrying a grudge, and perhaps obsessing about the wrong would have not done me (or you) a bit of good at all.

  17. I have loved Mary’s last three posts, and this thread as well.
    I have been in situations similar to those posted above: betrayal, divorce, estrangement from my mother, working for someone who then twists the ends to suit their means.
    It has taken me years of soul searching, both in counseling and on my own, as well as the benefit of the passage of time, and finally, true “maturity”, in the best sense of the word, to get to the place where I know that to hold on to the hurt, the anger, the feelings of being used, only use ME up. I am reminded of a line from a song by Don Henley: ” So I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness, forgiveness, even if, even if, you don’t love me anymore”
    It might be trite, but it is succinct. Letting go of all that frees you up to experience so much more. And I found, I loved myself into healing. Like I would comfort a child.
    I try to see the other side. I look at my role in it. As was said in other posts, if you do, you may come to see how much pain the other person is or has been in. That is what made it easier for me to heal the breach with my own mother. And now that she is dead, my admiration for her strength and courage has only grown. She was an individual before she was my mother, and she was human, just like all of us. She did the best job she could, with so less choice than I enjoy today. It was because of women like her that I have that freedom, and it is because of her that I can write this.
    Every experience is a teacher. Sometimes the lesson is not known for a long time.

  18. Mary,
    That is also one of my favorite scenes in the story–so very powerful.
    Forgiveness is a process that sometimes takes a while and will, I believe, eventually happen as long as I am choosing to keep my heart open to change. For me this means avoiding any negative thoughts about the person I have yet to forgive. It means resisting any temptation to “re-run” the story of the others offensive behavior and, when I can, sending loving energy their way.

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