Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Tree of Forgiveness....

This post is about forgiveness and receiving forgiveness (which I call lovingkindness), prompted by Julie's question of the week.

When I received lovingkindness in the past, I didn't recognize it as a gift. In my immaturity, I believed it was the same as absolution, the same as saying my actions were okay, that I wouldn't be held accountable in this life or the next.

When I was in my early 20s, I was not a person anyone in their right mind would want to know. I was a low-functioning alcoholic with some pretty serious emotional issues.

My boyfriend at the time, Dan, and I were living together.

To put it as honestly as I know how, I treated him horribly. I was unreliable, unpredictable, unappreciative and exploitative. So, yes, I do know what it is to be a rotten human being. And without qualification, that is what I'd become. Rotten, selfish, inconsiderate and completely without regard for the feelings of others. Blaming the booze would be a cop-out. I think the booze just allowed me to reveal the darkest parts of me. You know, we all have a dark side but we choose how to express it. There are acceptable ways to do that.

I never chose an acceptable way.

I used Dan. These days, I can admit that. He provided me with security, gave me money, took care of me and demanded very little in return. Sometimes I look back and think he was experiencing what some women do when they are drawn to "bad boys". There was an excitement in being with someone as emotionally labile as I was, someone who created more drama than Paramount Studios and who just plain abused him.

I think he wanted to "save" me.

That is probably fairly close to the truth. I can say that with a degree of confidence because when I got sober, he lost interest in me. That's fairly standard. The dynamic of relationships change when one person gets sober.

When I'd been sober for a few years, I called him. He seemed legitimately happy to hear from me but also cautious.

The first thing I said was, "I've been sober for two years now..."

That was to assure him that I wasn't calling to create more drama.

Within my limited understanding of the concept of forgiveness at that time, I recited my wrongs to him like a litany and asked for his forgiveness.

In sobriety circles, it's called doing the ninth step. "We made direct amends to people we'd harmed, except when to do so would harm them or others."

Truthfully, I didn't know what the hell I was doing because I was still living on the edge of my own insanity. The only real difference is that I wasn't drinking. That doesn't mean my behavior was that much better. It was better controlled but certainly not eliminated completely. I was still very dramatic and immature. Everything was over the top.

Now when I look back on it, I realize what a gift he truly gave me. And it wasn't absolution. He was willing to put aside my imperfections, to understand that I'd made serious mistakes but in admitting them was making a commitment to change. He knew I didn't know exactly how to do that but the willingness meant something. The recognition that I needed to change was a relief to him. And he was smart enough to not even consider any further relationship with me. But he wished me well ~ and that meant a lot.

I'm very grateful for all the lovingkindness I've received in my life. There's no doubt that my background is one that is filled with quite a history of bad choices and equally bad behavior. Now that I'm older, I recognize what it means to be forgiven. I know how hard it is to put aside the wrongs of the past and let them go. Now that I have been in a position to offer lovingkindness to others, I know what it takes to give the gift I was offered freely and ill-deserved without conditions.

It may be just about as close to "godliness" as we humans can possibly get.

To let go.

To believe in another person enough to forgive.

To recognize our own frailty enough to know that lovingkindness is essential.

Yeah. Godliness. That's it.



How does everyone like the new look around here? Isn't it beautiful?

It was created by TTQ. She talked with me by email to find out what I would like, read a lot of my archives to see what kind of person I am and designed this for me. It is just incredible to have someone make that much effort, to be that considerate, that caring about what I would like. For the record, I love it! Thank you, Linda. :)



caroline said...

Wow, Thailand Gal,
This new format is quite beautiful. It portrays your personality quite well. Rich colors, dark, safe, elegant.

I am moved by the story you tell here. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Bob said...

There is an incident I have yet to blog about that involves my son. That incident involves two doctors and what I consider their inexcusable behavior/attitudes when treating my son. It happened about two and a half years ago and to this day I cannot get over it. I was discussing this incident with a good friend recently and she told me that I wouldn't get over it until I forgave them. She is probably right, but I cannot.

I would like to think I am a tolerant, understanding person but this incident tells me I have some growing to do.

I REALLY like the new site design. TTQ did a great job.

Laurie said...

It is beautiful, as is your post. I was quite surprised by the new look, since I haven't been by in a few days. I've been too busy at the hospital to check in, and I apologize. Even now I'm reading blogs in a stupor, so if this comment makes little or no sense, please forgive me.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think I've already complimented the new look in my last comment. It's very beautiful, quite miraculous that Linda "got" you so well.

And the honesty in this post is beautiful, too. Thank you for sharing that part of your story with us, Chani.

Anonymous said...

When I was young, living at home, I clearly recall my mother telling me that there was no unconditional love. Love from her was based on behavior. I don't know if she was talking about love for her husband (my father) or love for her children, both, all? I just remember a conversation like that.

I don't disagree with the "no unconditional love" idea. I understand that now. But my teenaged behavior was horrible, so I concluded that my mother did not love me. Of course, she did, she acted like she did, and even if there were times that she did not, I believe that she forgave me. Probably. But I guess I have not forgiven myself.

I'm probably fumbling around way over my head, but I'm just trying to figure out where oh where this low self-esteem keeps coming from. My sense of futility.

Lucia said...

Oh! This new look is absolutely stunning and beautiful! What a wonderful thing to have someone take a careful look at who you are and then to design it. Lovely! I love it!

Your post is strong. And thoughtful. And I have nothing to say. But I am thinking.

Tabba said...

I agree with Lucia that your post is so strong. It was interesting for me to read about one of your steps along the how you got to where you are now.

And the site is amazing. I gasped when I saw your header. Gorgeous.

slouching mom said...

The new look is gorgeous, Chani. And I am incredibly impressed with Linda for being able to 'get' you so well. She must be extremely intuitive.

Thanks for sharing this story. You are one of the most honest people I know, and it's refreshing.

Hel said...

The new site is exquisite and therefore well suited to your words.

I agree that we can only truly appreciate forgiveness when we learn how to forgive. I was a selfish self absorbed child until the age of twenty six. Yet my parents have never held any of the awful things I did to them against me. They just loved me.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh wow...the new look is so stunning, so appropriate! Looks fantastic!

Your story is very, very moving. It's pretty relateable in the general, I think. I imagine most of us have youthfully been so self-absorbed that we missed how we affected someone else. I think what is so amazing is how aware you are now, how much reflection you've done...that you realized you were still emerging then.

Your understanding of his lovingkindness is really moving.

"He was willing to put aside my imperfections, to understand that I'd made serious mistakes but in admitting them was making a commitment to change. He knew I didn't know exactly how to do that but the willingness meant something."

That's awesome, and then this, "To believe in another person enough to forgive."

So you accepted that.

It's a letting go and a washing over, isn't it?

What I'm curious about, from Dan's shoes, is, what if you hadn't, what if you hadn't changed, evolved, called and said anything?

Great post. Great. Thanks!

jen said...

i mentioned yesterday loving the new look. its funny, but you (the reader) gets used to a look associated with someone you read every day and care for - and when it's changed its (at least for me, with you) a whole new thing, the visual assists with the persona in a way, it's interesting how it feels so different and yet the same.

how's tha for an over analysation?

and about forgiveness. i've seen many people make amends. i always wonder what it's like for the other person, and how much the forgiveness is for the one who is asking rather than receiving. it's complicated, forgiveness. julie's roundtable has made me think a lot, and i am still unable to put more words to it except for returning to compassion.

compassion on dan's side, for you before and after. and for yourself, in realizing you deserved a new kindness after making changes to your life. julie's question in your comments is a good one, too. (more, please)

is that him?

TTQ said...

Dan sounds like a perfect co-dependent to a t. The type I would later see in my life as "the boring and stable ones" that I kicked away with all my might when I grew bored only to find someone else who would put up and adore my wild behavior. In case you didn't know TTQ is an old nickname from an ex who found my dramatics laughable and endearing, it stands for Temper Tantrum Queen. My husband has never seen that side of me but I use the nickname because it reminds me of where I came from and that change is always possible.

Christine said...

Thanks for this. For letting us "in" and revealing this part of your history and your soul.

Mary said...


I've known you for a few months. This new format is SO YOU. I love it!

I think of all of the blogs I read, you are the most honest soul. Your words come directly from the heart - you writing is inspiring. Your honesty is a breath of fresh air. You might not think so, but it is.

KC said...

I'm amazed by how clearly you see things in the past as they are. It's a nice place to be.

meno said...

Chani, this looks awesome, really fits what i know of you, especially the colors. I want to wear them. Nice job Linda, and Chani.

You may, or may not, have been more horrible than most 20 somethings, but when i look back on that time in my life i see that i was still thinking i was the center of the universe. It's damned embarrassing now. I sometimes still cringe when i think about those days. I need to

QT said...

I love the new look! I feel like I am coming into your den in your new country for a chat- perhaps this look gts you one step closer? :)

Your post is wonderful. I always seem to be in the co-dependent saver role. I will say that usually, once the other person gets sober or relinquishes whatever other bad behavior they have, they don't NEED you (the saver) anymore. So it is a bittersweet ending to a relationship, whose roots, at least in my case, came from a very deep love for those who I saw as hurting and in need.

Anonymous said...

PS. Sorry, I didn't mean to overlook the blog makeover. Fabulous.

Mad Hatter said...

Love the look and loved the post. I am grateful to everyone who has found the largess to accept and then forgive my wrongs.

Mary-LUE said...


There are so many excellent thoughts in this post. First, that lovingkindness is not the same as absolution. I'm not sure if we are thinking exactly the same thing, but I do think that forgiveness is not always consequence free.

I also appreciate your talking about doing the ninth step without really understanding what you were doing. I think that happens sometimes and I am glad for the grace that comes with it. That you went to Dan, doing what you thought was the right thing, not completely understanding it and getting lovingkindness from him in return. And I like that you are able to look back at that time now and not just appreciate what he did, but appreciate more the value of that lovingkindness and what it meant and didn't mean.

This was a perfect post for this week's discussion.

Lawyer Mama said...

I completely agree that the act of forgiving others really makes you understand and appreciate the forgiveness others have given you.

I'm going to be thinking about your post for awhile!

MsLittlePea said...

Forgiveness truly is lovingkindness because it is so hard to let go when someone has hurt me. I feel like if I forgive all the time(and I usually do but) it gives the offender a free ticket to hurt me again. But I want to give someone a chance if they are trying. I've never had a problem saying I'm sorry or asking for forgiveness though-I don't like hurting anyone so I mean it when I do.

This is going to have me thinking a lot too.

Gwen said...

The new blog looks fab.

This was a great post, too. I love your honesty, your ability to see your past self as you were not as you wished yourself to be.

Pam said...

I think I mentioned your new look, it's very you and terrific.

The honesty in your post is to be admired.

Forgivness covers a lot of territory...forgiving those that are truly sorry and are making an effor to change is easy, they are basically good people. But what of those who really don't care? They are out there and forgiveness to them just means the chance to take another run at you. If we can, I think we need to forgive them by way of letting go and freeing ourselves, and then move on and away.