I am Really Ticked Off. Do I Have to Be Forgiving?
The last two years I've had several difficult personal and professional problems, which left me feeling mad, victimized and obsessed with a few people's General Awfulness.
This is what Hell feels like: to be obsessed with a generally awful person who isn't even aware of the turmoil he or she is causing. Heaven is to have forgiven—or to have forgiven-ish, the best you can, for now. When your heart is even slightly softer toward that person, and you are less clenched and aggrieved, you've been touched by grace.
Grace is spiritual WD-40. It eases our way out of grippy, self-righteous stuckness. The question is, how do we avail ourselves of it?
I've learned that if you want to have loving feelings, do loving things. We think we'll eventually figure something out, and get over the grudge, and that this will constitute forgiveness. But it's the opposite: We take an action and the insight follows. Any friendly action will do; intention is everything. We show up somewhere knowing the person who aggrieved us will be there, and we go up and say hi. If the person is a relative, we ask for help with the dishes. (This is very subversive.)
Any warm action will yield the insight—life is short, and Earth is Forgiveness School.
All of my resentments have been healed. That doesn't mean I want to have lunch with those people, but my heart has softened, which is a miracle. One person still judges me, and bears false witness against me, but thankfully, that is not my business or my problem, because I have chosen freedom. Nothing is more wonderful.
Anne Lamott is the author of Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair.