Lisa is close to forty, and Stephanie is in her sixties.
Both women have families and children.
Both have jobs and have functioned in society for over twenty years
Both women have been called beautiful by others in their lives and both have more than a little pride.
Both women are intelligent, decent and - I believe - want to be considered “Good” people.
I agree with this particular assessment. I think as far as the world is concerned, Lisa and Stephanie are both good people.
These women have known each other for over two decades and even have some family members in common. In a perfect world there would be nothing between them but love.
Unfortunately, there is a gripe.
Have you ever seen a gripe?
Probably not. Gripes are invisible to everyone but their owners and often, if left alone, are pretty harmless. Most people won't even know they exist if the gripe's owner doesn't tell them.
Like a lot of things though, if you feed a gripe and nurture it and give it all of your attention it will grow in size and weight and eventually, it may even become a part of you.
Gripes live in your emotions and eat away at your peace of mind, your health and if you let them, even your soul. If you could actually see a gripe it would be tumor shaped.
That’s basically what a gripe is. Cancer on your soul.
They usually grow out of some kind of pain.
Back to Lisa and Stephanie.
Not long ago, Lisa hurt Stephanie. Not physically (she didn’t throw a brick at her or anything), but it was a significant hurt. It was not something easily shrugged off and forgotten. It's the kind of hurt that probably makes Stephanie wish it had been a brick. At least then the pain would eventually go away.
This hurt was deep and internal though. As a result, Stephanie has been feeding her very own gripe and now that gripe is damaging her.
It’s really quite sad.
I had the unfortunate opportunity to witness an exchange between the two ladies. Without a whole lot of back story and unnecessary details, the actual conversation wouldn’t mean much to you, so I will use the context we’ve set up to help you understand what was communicated. For the purpose of this narrative we will make the gripe visible.
Lisa said to Stephanie
“I see your gripe is very healthy. It’s grown a lot since I first gave it to you. Do you think it will always stay between us?”
Stephanie wouldn’t look at Lisa, but she did answer, trying to give the gripe a spoonful of pudding while she spoke. The gripe bit her hand.
“I don’t know, probably. It seems like it’s growing on its own. But you gave it to me, and it's important, so I really feel like I need to feed it. You are right though, it’s healthy and large. In fact, just this conversation is helping it grow bigger.”
Lisa looked sad at this and said
“I’m sorry you let it get so large. It seems to me that if you don’t kick it out soon it will live with you forever. I wish you would get rid of it so we can go back to how it was before.”
Stephanie still won’t look at Lisa, while the gripe chews on her shoulder, but she does say.
“My gripe is mine now. You gave it to me and I don’t plan on getting rid of it anytime soon. Maybe never.”
Without another word, and still without looking at Lisa, Stephanie stands up, picks up the now visibly growing gripe and tosses it on her back like a backpack.
It bites her again.
She acts like she doesn’t notice.
She staggers for a moment, because the huge gripe is obviously very heavy. She then leaves, quietly, angrily with the very healthy gripe riding and biting her all the way out.
So here they are. Stephanie has this enormous gripe that is chewing on her, weighing her down and slowly crushing her. She’s given it so much attention she doesn’t seem to know how to get rid of it, even if she wanted to.
And she doesn’t really want to.
After all, the gripe is practically a part of her now and getting rid of it feels like getting rid of part of herself.
Lisa is fine. She’s sad that Stephanie is so intent on feeding the gripe that Lisa gave her, but she’s not losing sleep over it. After all, Stephanie could just put the gripe down and move on.
Let me reiterate: Stephanie is in her sixties and Lisa is awfully close to forty.
What’s the point?
First, age isn’t necessarily wisdom and some people can go their entire lives without knowing how - or even worse - being willing to kill a gripe.
There’s only one sure way to kill a gripe. I’m not certain either Stephanie or Lisa have a good handle on it, but it’s the only known 100% cure.
Aw man, did I just try to spiritualize a stupid story I made up?
Nope. The story of Lisa and Stephanie is sad but true. And there is a spiritual aspect to forgiveness that I will share at the end. But this is just psychology and good sense.
When someone hurts you, that’s their fault. They did something harmful to you that they should not have done.
When you hold onto that hurt and that pain and refuse to forgive them, that’s your fault. You are doing something harmful to yourself that you should not be doing.
Forgiveness is not for them. It’s for you.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying you need to forgive yourself in this context. I’m saying that when you forgive another person - even if they don’t ask for it - you are letting yourself recover from the hurt and move on.
Forgiveness is the ability to recognize someone has done something wrong to you and refusing to allow it to continue to hurt you.
You stop holding on to it.
If you’re holding a snake that’s biting you, will you continue to hold it? Or will you throw it as far away from yourself as possible? After all, the snake can’t bite you if you stop holding on to it and leave it behind.
A gripe can’t hurt you if you stop holding on to it and leave it behind.
There’s an important point right there. Let me say it again.
Stop holding on to it and leave it behind.
This is how you know when you’ve really forgiven someone. If you aren’t holding on to it, there’s no way you can hold it against them.
Now the spiritual application.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, forgiveness is not an option. It is mandatory.
You have to forgive. God says so.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Matthew 6:14-15 NLT
The first time I heard this I thought: That sucks, I have to forgive people that have done awful things to me or God won't forgive me? That doesn't seem fair.
At that time though I didn't understand that forgiveness isn't for them, it's for me.
God isn't giving me some big burden that is going to hurt me. He's taking one from me. He knows that as long as I hold onto my hurt it will keep hurting me. Forgiveness is one of the expressions of His love.
If you are holding a hot coal in your bare hand I'm going to tell you to drop it. Not because I'm rigid and controlling, but because I love you and you're hurting yourself.
Let’s take it one step further.
God is willing to forgive you.
Perhaps you have an inflated sense of how awesome you are. Or maybe you understand just how badly you need God to forgive you. I can’t make that assessment for you. What I can point out is this:
If God - Who is much smarter than you - is willing to forgive you for everything you’ve ever done wrong, you have zero excuse to not forgive someone who has done far less to you.
There are oodles of reasons to forgive someone and zero good reasons not to.
So Forgive - it’s not for them anyway.