Roller Coasters & Forgiveness

I had a couple of conversations with people this week who are, for very good reasons, fearful of new experiences, relationships, or opportunities. They are focused on the many ways those unknowns could go wrong and they could end up disappointed, might fail, or could be hurt. It had me thinking about two movie quotes and some poetry.

First, it brought me back to great wisdom from the movie Parenthood. We love the current TV show, Parenthood, but the original movie is packed full of wisdom and should be required viewing of anyone who aspires to be a grown-up. Near the end of the movie, Gil (Steve Martin) is at his wits end as he has just left his job and is being asked back, faces financial challenges, his son is struggling with anxiety, and he finds out his wife is unexpectedly pregnant. Gil is full of fear of the future and paralyzed by the unknown. In the midst of sharing all the ways this could go wrong with his wife, his mother teeters in and starts in on what Gil hears as random rambling. His wife is listening for brilliance. Check it out.

I love the roller coaster. Some of the most valuable and meaningful experiences in my life have involved being hurt, failing miserably, being disappointed by myself and others, and heartbreak. Those were painful experiences and I did not enjoy them in the moment or in some cases years of pain and heartbreak. However, I am grateful for having them now as they have shaped me, built me, and made me more fulfilled and happier because of what I learned. I’ve come to cherish those struggles, in many ways, more than my successes. I also wouldn’t have enjoyed the ups nearly as much if I hadn’t also experienced the downs.

I’m often reminded of this quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

If you live your life to avoid vulnerability, sadness, disappointment, and other negative feelings…what is the point? That is the full human experience.

Many of us are fearful of the possibilities particularly in relationships because we have experienced hurt in the form of heartbreak, abandonment, abuse, and more. When we allow these past hurts to determine our future relationships we continue to give the power to those who have hurt us. We are often reluctant to genuinely forgive others because we aren’t sure they deserve it. Instead, we should forgive them because we deserve it. Forgiveness is not altruistic. Forgiveness is selfish. Forgiveness doesn’t really change the life of the other person – they often don’t even know about the hurt, let alone the forgiveness. Forgiveness frees me up to be liberated from the resentment, the grudge, the anger, or the hurt. It also allows takes the power and control over my life and my decisions back from them. Ironically, this can be very scary as it means that I am responsible for my decisions and can’t place the responsibility for my struggles elsewhere. This can be as scary and threatening as it can be empowering.

This quote from Good Will Hunting captures this for me. After revealing previously that he has been dramatically abused as a child, without minimizing this abuse, his therapist points out that he has used this abuse as the justification for putting up barriers that have limited his life in career, friendships, self—discovery, and love.  As his therapist Sean says,

I think that is a super philosophy Will, that way you can go your entire life without having to get to know anybody.

How can you push yourself to embrace life’s downs as well as its ups? What past hurts are getting in the way of you living your life fully? Who do you need to forgive to set yourself free?

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