We all fondly remember Randy Quaid’s crazy characters from films like Independence Day and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. But now, we certainly don’t want to remember him from his latest trope on film. If you haven’t watched it, you probably shouldn’t. It’s one of those things you can never unsee. To summarize it up, Quaid goes on a disturbing and an oh-so NSFW video rant against billionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch – Quaid’s former boss. It’s filled with gonzo conspiracy theories, a boat-load of anger and vitriol, and ends with a dirty, dirty act that made me want to pour bleach on my eyes.
Anger and unforgiveness, left unchecked, becomes poison in your veins and Quaid seems to be overdosing on poison right now. It reminds me of something Anne Lamott once said,
“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
Years back, I had a less than savory experience working on staff at a large church. It was an unhealthy environment and the staff culture was downright oppressive. I fondly refer to that period as my “year stuck in a prison shower.” I felt taken advantage of and beaten up, both mentally and spiritually. The biggest problem with that time of my life was that I let it begin to define me. While that bad experience was certainly unhealthy, it wasn’t toxic in and of itself. It was simply a sign that I needed to leave and distance myself from that work environment and certain people. The problem was, I let the toxic environment poison me into becoming a toxic person.
It didn’t realize it until until months later when I was on a job interview at a different church. The pastor sat behind his desk and kindly told me, “Stuart, you’re the exact guy I want for this job, but you’ve still got too much poison in your veins and I don’t have the energy to be your rehab.” His words hit me like a ton of bricks. I had allowed the thing I hated to become part of me.
So the following are a few observations I have made about cleansing the soul and opening the heart up through forgiveness. No one wants to end up like Randy Quaid because the poison eventually makes you bitter and crazy. So if you’re going through some tough times, it is my hope that these may help you. They are by no means exhaustive, but simple truths that have helped me in the journey toward healing.
Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting
Which ever event (or series of events) happened, they were real. They hurt and wounded you. There is a huge difference between the pain and the poison. The first step towards forgiveness is realizing that your feelings are valid. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the hurt and pain didn’t matter, it only means that the poison no longer needs to have power over you. It can be cleansing to admit to yourself that you were abused and hurt… and that pain matters. You matter. Forgiveness simply allows you to let go and begin the process of healing.
Don’t let past experiences or abusive people define you today
This can be a form of reciprocal abuse. The situation may have passed, but when you access those feelings, it’s almost as if you’re there again in that moment emotionally. It’s funny how feelings and memories aren’t subject to time. It’s hard to live life in the present when the past is still wrecking you. Again, I’ll remind you that this isn’t simply brushing away the pain of abuse, but your goal should be to walk toward liberation. Healing takes time. Give yourself time. It’s always helpful to have a trusted friend and confidant to talk about this with. Encouraging words from a good friend can be a salve for your most painful wounds. So be open to talk it out, making sure you’re not simply reliving it again and again or using this time as an angry bashing session. Cynicism is borne in such moments, so be careful not to trade one poison for another. Catharsis is the process of releasing and letting go of the poison so you can move on. So remember, the goal is to move on.
Moving on and living well is the best revenge
I’m no advocate for revenge, but in some way, you need to recognize that moving on is about taking power over your life and emotions. Do you want to allow some person or event to continue to have control over your? Of course not! This is where prayer or meditation can do wonders. They’ve made a huge impact on my life and continue to center me. They also remind me that I’m not alone. Take time to quieten and remind yourself about what is true and good in your life. You are not your emotions and your emotions are not you. In the present, think about what you value most about yourself. What are your strengths? It may be helpful to ask others what they value in you. These truths can become your mantra when you need centering and perspective. Now look toward the future and begin to set mental goals. Who do you want to be? Where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish? To continue moving forward you must embrace the present while looking towards the future.
What about you? What are some truths you’ve learned in your journey of moving toward forgiveness and the process of letting go?