Remembering “Ghosts” of Christmas Past – Are You Trying to Forgive the Wrong Person?

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

How does one’s heart become hard? By neglecting to keep it soft.

Charles Dickens’ character Ebeneezer Scrooge, from  Dickens’ novel The Christmas Carol, is a perfect representation of that truth. From growing up a neglected child, to embracing greed as an adult, Scrooge paid a terrible price for  his hard heart. He lost his family and all human connection.  

One day, a word floated through my mind as others escaped my mouth. “Bitter.” I was remembering disappointments in life that took place long ago as if they had happened today.

During the course of this conversation, I realized I was hanging on to my anger. It was mine.

My speech was torrential blame. Clearly, there was  little effort applied toward understanding my responsibility in the fallout. While a guilty feeling  had  planted its ugly root in my heart, I had grown desperately deaf and turned off any willingness to hear complete truth. It was time to change.

“How can I get over what’s been done to me?” “How can I move on when I have been so wronged?” These questions and more have bounced around in my head for as long as I can remember.

For decades I took to the Lord my bitterness over destruction of my childhood family. I would pray to forgive, work up a good acceptance, and never fully be able to let it go. I wondered why, when it was my heart’s desire, God did not take resentment away.

Then an epiphany came. My efforts were directed at the wrong person! As long as self-blame was secreted away deep inside, all my effort at putting pain in the past would not work.

In childhood there was no way to win. Either of any two options would lead to someone’s anger at me. I grew up disappointed in myself and emotionally lost. Much of the false guilt collected as a child was never challenged. Some of it as an adult was born out of insecurity, self-loathing, and an unwillingness to lay responsibility where it belonged.

Nonetheless, there was real guilt, too. Extending forgiveness toward myself for parts played in ignorance or selfishness made it possible to move on and forgive others for their wrongs.

Thank God I was able to bless my parents before they died. 

Today’s Helpful Word

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