Choosing our own way

My son Matt is now working on a show called, "Wicked Tuna". This is his boat and here is a picture of Jack hamming it up with captians Paul and JR

My son Matt is now working on a National Geographic show called, “Wicked Tuna”. He’s gone from filming on a crab boat in Alaska, to a tuna boat in Gloucester, MA (which seems much more pleasant to me!) This is his boat, and here is a picture of Jack hamming it up with captains Paul (on right) and JR

My father recently told me that he would never forgive someone for the unkind letter they’d sent to him several years ago. When we get together, he mentions this letter, and how hurt his feelings were when he received it, frequently. He’s not asking for my advice or help to move past this, and as I listen to him, often I feel like I am (almost literally) watching someone put an old, unhappy, tape into a tape player, wait for the sad song to begin, and then relive those angry, shocked, and indignant feelings all over again.

It is so easy to see how this is such a waste of time…when it is someone else doing it. It is so natural to want to make excuses for non-forgiveness. It can also feel like self-protection. But it isn’t. It is a small, weak position to take. It’s guarded and afraid and it seems to invite more of the same.

Most of us have done this: made the proclamation that we were through with someone, that what they did was unforgivable, but this never leaves room (in our lives) for that person to change. When we demonize someone, we lock them forever in a snapshot of the worst moment that we can imagine, and then we refuse to take that picture off the wall of our minds. We keep it there to remind us of how bad they were/are. And even if they do change, we cannot see it. And whether they change or not, we suffer.

I have made it my intention to forgive every one for everything. It doesn’t mean that I then call them up to get together. I may never see them again, and in some cases, this is for the best. Sometimes, they are not ready and a call from me would be inappropriate. But it is my intention to hold only lovely, kind, and harmonious pictures in my mind. This way, if someone does change, wants to make an amend, is ready to move beyond the past, I am ready too. But if not, my mind is still clear.

I am the only one responsible for the thoughts and images that I hold in my mind….and what a relief it is to finally know this. It is true freedom.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl, from Man’s Search for Meaning

13 thoughts on “Choosing our own way

  1. I could have written this Mary, same deal with my mother who continues to re-live her unhappy childhood and difficulties with her mother and her many sisters. I continue to tell her to let it go (my mom will soon be 85) and yet she continues to play the victim. I think I will make a copy of your post today and send it to her. In 2 weeks she is making a visit to see 2 of her sisters and purposely excluding a 3rd one. 😦
    Love this picture of Jack and so happy for you all that Matt is close by!
    xoxo Marian

  2. So true: the obession with old grievances keeps the good things from getting in. Not too long ago — not long enough, actually — I decided that I wouldn’t take offense anymore at things people said or did (those “what did she mean by that?” instances) and it has been so freeing. It has helped me to see the other person’s point of view.

  3. Mary, this is a universal ‘Everyman’ situation and kudos to you for writing it in such a way that it is not only to the point, but gives us a forthright way to deal with it.

    I, like Marian, am printing it out for my mom, who will be 96 this Saturday, and still gets all ‘sack-cloth and ashes’ about wrongs from the past. Seems like ANYTHING discussed lately becomes all about her and her past trials. I’m hoping this will wake her up a bit as to what she’s doing to herself. It sure did it for me.

    Thanks for this post!

  4. Amen to forgiving everyone about everything!! ME TOO!! I just completed a 21 day meditation program with Deepak and Oprah. Day 20’s centering thought was “Forgiveness is for me. Forgiveness sets me free”!! It has opened up so much space inside me to fill with joy. . .

  5. Each of us holds our own key to unlock the heavy chains we continue to carry around. And though it is not as simple as waving a magic wand with the magic words, “I forgive you”, it is setting into motion the intention of doing so, and keeping at it, the process of forgiving. It is the ultimate freedom from remaining stuck in the past and whatever it was that hurt us. Why continue to give it power, feeding its flame with our lingering memories and all too instant replays? Thanks for this reminder, Mary. Great looking family!

  6. Mary, I’ve been guilty of this myself just recently because of a very difficult Bed & Breakfast guest over one night. I don’t have any history with the man but I’ve heard myself repeating my list of grievances, which are in fact the truth and what actually happened but I don’t need to be repeating it and need to let it go. The next guests in were so nice that this sort of thing, when it happens, is usually wiped away by other guests who couldn’t be nicer to have in our home. As each have said here…we all do carry grievances with us throughout our lives. I am mindful of not only being the victim but of being placed in the position of victimizing, which I’ve experienced as well. I also feel it’s important in dealing with those who are behaving as victims (and seemingly, it’s a position to be enjoyed for the attention one gets from it…and I’ve been as guilty as the next in seeking this attention and sympathy myself at times in the past)…that the attention that is being sought needs to be acknowledged but not repeatedly and I’m not sure how to handle this allowing the other person to retain dignity and not say, enough is enough, suck it up. Does anyone have any words to put to that last part and how to say it nicely and still acknowleging the other’s ongoing pain, which they are holding onto.
    SandyP in Canada

  7. This is a great post. Listening to a loved one bemoan a past insult is painful and you wish you could take away their pain. Trouble is that removing the pain is a ‘do it yourself’ job. It’s too bad we all don’t have a third leg hanging from our back that can kick us in the keister when we brood about past hurts. Maybe someone will manufacture one. Happy rainy day to all!

  8. Thank you. I realized when I read this post, that I have deamonized my mother. I told myself that I had forgiven her. Until this post I forgave in theory, not in love.
    Thank you for all of your posts. You help me to see past my anger.

    carol from AZ

  9. Mary, you most certainly surround yourself with such handsome devils!! [ Uh, devil in a GOOD way:)]

    Another well-lived topic…I’m with Susan about the keister-kicker idea. Can we go into business and spread the love?

  10. I think the problem is that people feel pressurised to forgive when they’re not ready to let go. Then they argue with themselves to justify their position, and this makes them hold on even more.

    For me the solution lies in accepting one’s own reaction – it’s OK to feel angry or hurt. And at the same time accepting or understanding that there is nothing to forgive. The person acted in the only way they could act – in their situation, with their experiences and outlook on life.

  11. Love the three men bonding photo! Forgiveness is the gift I give myself, some people are not ready to accept me, that’s ok ,I can still send loving powerful thoughts their way . Today, ” I am ok with things not always being ok”. I can’t fix anyone but myself. Xxo

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