Drinking Poison

Do you ever stumble over the Our Father? No, not whether to wrap it up with “for thine in the kingdom, the power…” or chop it at “deliver us from evil”. My problem is more than linguistic. From time to time I get hung up on “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Sometimes the words hold up a mirror revealing more than I want to see or admit, more than I am willing to give.

Yesterday a friend shared just how complex and convoluted our emotions can be. Reflecting on my post about loss and grief, he confessed an unwillingness to acknowledge anger, an emotion with which he has come to recognize a complex and difficult relationship. Recently, as he probed more deeply into experiences of sadness and fear he has discovered that feelings of anger were being masked by the other two emotions.

My friends honesty challenges me! Yes, loss and grief — as we live these out day by day — get all bunched-up and tangled with feelings of fear, sadness, anger, betrayal, remorse, you name it! Often, unmasking one emotion reveals others joined at the hip complicating and confounding our ability to disentangle from the emotional mess. Reciting the Our Father can become a jarring reminder of the paralysis I sometimes feel around my need to forgive.

Jeanne Bishop, the author I referenced yesterday, had the ultimate challenge of forgiveness! Her sister, brother-in-law and their unborn child were brutally shot by a gunman awaiting their return from a celebratory dinner with Jeanne and their parents. It’s a heart-wrenching, compelling story of forgiveness, something I am incapable of replicating right now.  My emotions remain too entangled, my vices too entrenched for such magnanimity.

Yet, Bishop’s words return, over and over, offering wisdom to the degree I am willing and able to hear:

Hating is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die!

Jeanne Bishop was strengthened by a determination not to give her sister’s killer that emotional power over her! From the moment that the police told her that Nancy and Richard had been murdered, she sensed in her deepest core that hating the person who did it would affect him not a bit, but it would destroy her.

Our emotions are complex and convoluted and frequently mask others more entrenched. Grief from deep loss, anger over genuine injury, hate welling from despicable behaviors can ensnare us. They can kill us.

Self-interest is not the most altruistic of motivations.  Yet, it serves as the most basic of moral imperatives to forgive — we must not give to them that power!


See: Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer by Jeanne Bishop. Westminster John Know Press, 2015. p. 45.

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