People Out Loud: Peace and forgiveness

December 2015 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

DixonBy Dixon Bledsoe

An acquaintance of mine once waxed eloquent on whether terminally ill people should be able to determine the time of their deaths. He was opposed to it and I assumed his objection was based on religious grounds. But he articulated one of the most poignant explanations as to the value of encouraging someone whose time on Earth is limited to ride out the storm for the benefit of family and friends. They fly in from all over to gather and mourn but relationships are re-born.

He talked about reconciliation, forgiveness and how death brings new hope. It brings people together that have not spoken in years and often over trivial things. A comment that stings. A real or perceived injustice. A cranky moment derived from a sleepless night made longer by a baby’s cry.

It made me think about Christmas and the power emanating from the spirit of the season as Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. A quote from an unknown author struck a chord with me. “He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under the tree.”

In a time of worldwide pain and anguish unparalleled in my 63 years, I have been thinking about forgiveness and the difficulty this act is for so many of us. Mark Twain said, “Forgive not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

As we prepare for family gatherings, Christmas parties, and to celebrate the birth of the Christ, it is the spirit of the season to be men and women of faith, who help foster and perpetuate a time when giving of one’s self requires no bow and shiny packaging. It is a time to make amends and a time to swallow our pride and admit, “I was wrong to react the way I have. But it hurt.” It’s time to say, “Forgive me,” and “I forgive you.”

George Herbert, a 16th century poet, wrote, “He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.” What shape is your bridge in?

An unknown author articulated something for those who take great pains to avoid apologizing. “Apologizing does not always mean that you are wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your ego.” See? You have an out!

We all hurt other people. It seems to be in our nature to do so, whether the infliction of pain on other human beings is inadvertent or by design. My late mother-in-law Carol McDonald gave me a wonderful book when my life had taken a tough turn. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff; and It’s All Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.  As humans, we are famous for making “mountains out of molehills.” But at Christmas, perhaps we should Let It Go. There is a reason the song from Disney’s Frozen won many awards. It struck a chord in all of us. It is so simple but makes perfect sense.

As we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or the winter solstice, it is my fervent hope we can “let it go” and we can forgive in order to achieve reconciliation. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” Stowe’s words are somber and direct and hard to hear during this joyous season. Author Paul Boese may have said it best – “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”

Enjoy the season. Enjoy time with family and friends. We are here for such a short time, and it is time we can’t get back. Make peace. It is time.

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