2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.
There is nothing like a new year to strengthen one's resolve for a fresh start at life. I believe forgiveness, as an act of the will, is the best way for a fresh start.
I have much to ask forgiveness for; this whole 'being human' thing can be pretty tricky. I also have much to forgive and when one suffers from the sin of pride as often as I do, forgiving others can be difficult.
Listen, I should be clearer on this: I can forgive pretty easily; it's the forgetting part I have trouble doing. I can forgive readily; it's forgiving while no longer allowing wacky and destructive behavior to be a part of my every day life that is really tough.
Last week, for instance, someone I do not know and have no interaction with at all sent a rather snarky private message to me on Facebook. They started their message with one of those accusatory statements no one can answer. You know the type. They look like this: "Hey, you, exactly what kind of person leaves their dirty underwear on the front porch? It's the same type of question that is sometimes a punch line for prosecuting attorneys when they are telling a lawyer joke (So then I said, "exactly when did you stop beating your dog?" and boy that shut him up).
The person then went on to write:
I just came across a couple of your blogs and felt they were done without being mindful of anonymity.....just didn't seem right to me, and I been around the program for 28 years.
This was immediately followed up with one of those statements that is meant to stop the conversation (it doesn't matter, have a good new year).
I have come to identify this type of communication as the Emotional Drive By Shooting. The person is angry. They want to 'get you'. Unfortunately, they realize about a second after they hit the 'send' button that they made a really dumb mistake and they scramble to take it back. Having endured this type of verbal folderol for years I no longer play this game. Instead, I request an explanation from the shooter and then I respond to just what they have written.
The question of anonymity, for instance, is pretty easy to answer. I use guidelines established by the 12 step program to which I owe my sobriety. I do not use my last name. I do not name anyone I interact with as a sponsor or a sponsee. I speak to what I experience and I do so in a general way.
The focus of my blog is to examine what it is like to be a Catholic, a woman and sober in today's society. If someone hates my Church, my politics, the manner in which I handle my personal life that is their right. I would suggest, as I suggested to this particular drive by shooter, that if they find my thoughts and expressive manner offensive they need to stop reading the blog.
The other part of this that stuck out for me is the way the person chose to describe themselves. Note, please, that they did not claim to be SOBER for 28 years; rather, they stated they have been 'around the program' for that long. This can indicate that they have been sober for 2 years, 2 days, 20 years or are not sober now.
Being 'around' something does not mean one is an active participant. It does not mean they have ever read the guidelines published for this medium and can mean they have a rather cockeyed interpretation of anonymity and how it is practiced. Because I understand this, I offered to continue the conversation verbally and told the person they could contact me directly and I would be happy to speak to them. They chose to block me immediately, which (quite frankly) is probably a really good idea.
I share this because I have really struggled over the past two months with trying to defend and explain myself, my choices, my actions and my words to a group of people who are not sober, not Catholic and are truly bigoted in their approach to the world. My religion, the one they hate so much, requires that I forgive them. My sobriety, without which I would not be able to practice my religion, requires that I forgive them. My stubborn Irish/Italian pride requires that I hunt them down and smash them in the head with a shillelagh or a cream pie, which ever happens to be handy at the moment. Concupiscence, that tendency we all have towards sinful behavior, wants me to (at least) go to meetings of like-minded and similarly afflicted people and hit them at group level using the soft and deadly words most people with five years or more sobriety know how to use (my sponsor told me that often times these people are spiritually sick and we should not treat sick people badly and that I need to pray for them).
Every single person, Catholic or not, struggles with the practical application of forgiveness. Does forgiving someone mean allowing for bad behavior to continue? I don't think it does; in fact, I know it doesn't. While the Church may grow from the blood of martyrs She does not require us to purposefully and intentionally invite verbally or physically abusive people into our homes, virtual or otherwise. If someone is repeatedly and predictably attacking you, get out of their reach. Disengage. Keep them in prayer, of course, and place them solidly in the heart and arms of Our Lord but do not keep leading with your chin. This is not good for you but, more importantly, it is not good for them.
This is what allowed me to capture some clarity around this issue - the idea that I can be of true service to someone by removing myself from their line of vision, from their home, from their life. It is not me throwing them away for my own convenience; rather, it is me recognizing that for whatever reason I am an object of torture and derision for them and they are not doing well having me in their life. I am hurting them. I am causing them pain.
It is better that they not have anything to do with me.
Of course, it won't feel that way to them. They will feel unloved and discarded and they will demand an explanation. However, nothing I can say to them will be a good enough explanation.
If they want to walk the same spiritual path I walk, they know where the Catholic Church is and they know how I stay sober. No one is keeping them from either place. They are welcome. They do not need me to find Jesus or sobriety.
So, this year I resolve to try to be more open about who and what I am so people who are not inclined towards my way of life can be honest and walk away from me. I hope to grow as a Catholic, as a woman. I hope to deepen my prayer life and my relationship with Holy Mother Church. I want my relationship with The Triune God to become much more than merely 'personal'. I want it to be intimate in the way a Bride and Bridegroom are intimate. I want to do better.
I also want to lose thirty more pounds.
Have a fabulous New Year, everyone.....God bless you!