Last night while shopping, I ran into someone who represented a rather painful aspect of my past. After we exchanged (slightly chilly) pleasantries, I felt a little like I’d just eaten a tub of slightly rancid mayonnaise. Over the course of the evening I found myself recalling things that made me even more sick about the whole thing.
This morning I woke after a restless night’s sleep feeling the seeds of bitterness grow, feeling compelled to mull over the past hurts, to judge, to feel sorry for myself. And of course, as I thought about all of these things that seemed so unfair, I began to think even less kind thoughts, until I noticed just how quickly entertaining these bitter thoughts were making me miserable.
And so I tried to push those thoughts away, to think of other things only to have them sneak back in. Thoughts like “Why is life so unfair sometimes?” and thoughts of what I think would have been a more fair ending to the story. Realizing I was dealing with a bit of an inner attitude problem I contemplated. How can I ward off bitterness when I think that I have been treated unfairly?
If you push the feelings away, they just pop up somewhere else-but on the other hand-entertaining bitter thoughts creates even more bitter feelings.
After a moment of quiet, much to my relief, these words came to me…
“You are forgiven much”.
Life does seem unfair sometimes, but the truth is, I have made my fair share of mistakes and then some. If I can release myself from the bondage, forgive myself for my past mistakes, well it only seems fair that I should offer that forgiveness to others.
In the larger scheme of things, who made more mistakes? Who inflicted more harm? Who forgave more than their fair share-and is that fair? I don’t know.
And what about the people who were hurt before they even had a chance to make mistakes, what then? Why do bad things happen to good people? I don’t know that either.
What I can say is that no matter what happens in my life, I create the meaning. It doesn’t really matter what happens TO me, it’s what I do with the experience that determines the story of my life.
Viktor Frankl, my favorite existential psychologist, was a survivor of the holocaust. He lost most of his family including his wife at the hand of the Nazis. And I think many people would have given into despair after such an experience, but Viktor decided to create another meaning out of his experience, something that could benefit mankind. He wrote a famous book “Saying Yes To Life In Spite Of Everything” otherwise known as “A Man’s Search For Meaning”. Here is an excerpt from this book I found on Wikipedia…
“We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”:36–38.
Bitter pills. And yet, he chose love in spite of everything.
I wish you all peace and love today.