Monday, September 18, 2017

The Role of Forgiveness in Writing Our Stories

Writers know that forgiveness is a theme that comes part and  parcel with the blank page. I will tell you my story if I can just accept that this whole messy topic of forgiveness can be a particularly hazardous undertaking. It’s not easy.

Who doesn’t understand the difficulty of forgiving someone; or, hopefully ... eventually ... how freeing it is? As Louise L. Hays, motivational author and founder of Hay House, said: “Forgiveness is for yourself because it frees you. It lets you out of that prison you put yourself in.”

Writers toil hard to craft a creative work, often due to the quest for forgiveness; the father who abused his daughter, the husband who cheated on his wife, the mother who ignored her children. As Indira Gandhi put it, “Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.”

Yesterday in church we talked about forgiveness; how a lack of forgiveness keeps you mired in “barnyard stuff”… or to use a less primitive image, acts like a nasty storm cloud over your head. Forgiving someone takes time. And, the converse, it’s important to give the person who has not done the forgiving space for God to work on his or her heart.

And then there is the whole business of forgiving ourselves. For the writer, especially the memoir writer who finds writing as a way of healing, we’re often seeking to forgive ourselves for not being the best wife, the best mother, the best daughter. It’s a painstaking process.

This is why I love writing. It is a constructive pastime … whether you are journaling or drafting a book for publication, this journey moves through the trash-canned-strewn moments of childhood all the way to old age and the sheer exhaustion that leads to the inevitable question, who am I?

A woman celebrating a 70-something birthday said, “My new philosophy; I’m tired of always working to make this or that happen, now I’ve decided let it come to me.”

It took most of her life to stop making a full accounting to a father who told her she “would never amount to anything.”

Somewhere I saw a writer posting that you should forgive yourself for not writing every day. It might have been tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true. Perfectionism leads to ruination of the heart and soul.

More than penning life’s beautiful moments; dusting off nostalgic memories and turning them into a positive homily of lessons learned, writing is what Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth, said: "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."

Our bodies react to writing about difficult subjects. It’s why a lot of writers did drugs or drank or smoked themselves to death. Because your mother’s business was your business; your husband’s situation was your situation; your child’s life was your life; the horrors of war were the horrors forever embedded in your soul.

Excavation and entering "the cave you fear to enter" are testimony to the writer’s ability to step back and offer forgiveness  ... her voice and her verse to the world. As Mark Twain put it, “A big heaping of forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

How about you? Has forgiveness played a role in your writing?

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