It was a regular Wednesday.
Not too long ago.
A regular Wednesday.
I was parked on a street outside my friend’s house, sitting in my car, talking on the phone.
I drive a little Prius…it’s like a tin can. My car’s name is Brittany (what else do you name a Prius?). When I’m on the phone, the Bluetooth makes Brittany resonate and you can hear pieces of the conversation from outside the car.
Brittany never could keep a secret.
To my left, I could see a homeless man listening to me as I received life shifting news.
He was just listening.
I was struggling as someone I thought I knew revealed herself to be someone I’d never met.
I was struggling to breathe as I learned the life I thought I was living for was, in fact, not the life that was happening.
He was still listening.
You’ve probably been there too.
They met at the office. One thing led to another.
And, as I was told, “you can’t help who you fall in love with.”
It had been going on for over a year, but I was just finding out.
And so was my homeless friend.
He and I found out at the same time.
Brittany never could keep a secret.
There’s something hollow about betrayal. It’s a very specific kind of hurt.
It seems to empty us of all that is good, and replace it with all that is painful.
Let me be clear. I’m no saint. I’ve been on all sides of all things. I’ve broken hearts, I’ve let people down, I’ve violated the trust of people I loved, and I’ve betrayed. There was a time in my life when I was caught in a cycle of self-service and blame. I know, first hand, the painful process of self-forgiveness, and the life changing power of grace.
Been there. Still there.
Urban Confessional is not a product of my virtue, it is a product of my shortcomings.
But, I didn’t see this one coming.
Maybe I wasn’t listening again. I don’t know.
But, on this Wednesday, somewhere between her apologies and my raging heart, I stopped listening.
I stopped being present.
The homeless guy outside my car was there, though; he was present; he was listening.
As I hung up the phone and stepped out of the car, he approached me.
Hey man, can I have some change? It’s for my mom who’s in the hospital.
Dude. Don’t give me that bullshit. I’ve been listening to someone lie to me for the last hour, I don’t need you to do the same thing.
Hey—Don’t walk away. You’re right. Ok. I won’t lie. It’s cool.
I just stared at him. I wasn’t in the mood.
You look like you could use a joke.
Just listen for a second. You look like you need it.
And there it was. A stranger asking me to listen.
What choice did I have?
As I turned and faced my homeless friend, he made a gesture at me. It was like he was grabbing me, touching the crack in my heart, and begging me to listen.
So I did.
Ok. What is it? What’s your joke?
There I was! Walking down the street and I saw a body on the sidewalk. So I said, THAT’S WHERE I LEFT YOU!
I forced a smile as he let out a laugh from the bottom of his gut.
Ok—thanks. I gotta go.
No—No—just one more! Please. You need it, I can tell.
Ok, one more.
One day, I walked into my agent’s office and said, “You gotta get me some better clothes!” He just looked at me, and I realized he wasn’t my agent, he was my PAROLE OFFICER!
There was something sweet about how hard he was trying.
This time, my smile was less forced.
Not bad, not bad. Thanks.
Wait. Don’t go yet. One more thing.
He looked me straight in the eyes, took a breath, and opened his heart wide enough to hold all my broken pieces.
Then he said:
Look, man. I heard your conversation through the car. You have to forgive her. You got a long life ahead of you. Don’t waste it like I did.
He paused expecting me to respond or walk away.
I wanted to do both, but I didn’t do either.
It’s hard to listen when we’re hurt. The impulse to lash out and get revenge can take over. We can find ourselves spinning out of control with rage and bitterness.
But, destruction cannot heal destruction.
Only forgiveness can.
…and it ain’t easy.
The path of forgiveness is difficult and trying. It requires a love deep enough to hold those who did not hold us. It asks that we extend thoughtfulness, concern, and empathy where we did not receive it, and it asks us to humble ourselves to those who did not humble themselves to us.
It doesn’t make the pain magically go away, rarely tastes as good as revenge, and sometimes it feels unsatisfying. It doesn’t restore trust, or replace justice, and it doesn’t make everything “fine” again.
Forgiveness doesn’t ask us to hold on, it asks us to let go.
But, I wasn’t ready to hear it.
Not from an eavesdropping homeless guy.
Sometimes it’s so hard to listen when you’ve been hurt.
He just waited. He stood there and looked at me.
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move.
And I could barely listen.
I guess he saw my tears asking for more, cause he just kept talking.
But, you have to do the work. Forgiveness is something you DO. It won’t just happen. It won’t just show up one day. It’s an active thing, man. Make a list of the things she did. Then forgive each one. It’s hard, but you have to forgive her.
I was shaking. Caught between wanting to hurt him and wanting him to hold me.
I bet you’ve been forgiven before. You gotta give what you’ve received. Do it, or you’ll carry this with you forever.
Sometimes, a dam on the inside breaks and floods all the dry places of our soul.
Then he pointed his crooked index finger to the sky and said:
That’s all that matters—up there. That’s all that matters. That, and kindness. That’s all that matters.
He smiled at me like a father smiles at his son.
Then he walked off.
I’m so glad I listened.
Maybe if darkness can come from places we never expected, then light can too.
Maybe there’s a truth only the wounded can hear, and it’s only when we’ve been bruised and there are some dents in our armor that we’re broken enough to hear it.
Forgiveness makes loving possible; forgiveness makes giving possible; forgiveness makes healing possible.
Hurt people can only hurt people.
The cycle ends when forgiveness begins.
So, here I am.
Doing the work. Ending the cycle. Making forgiveness active, listening again, and creating space for light.
And, I’m happy to report that more light has arrived in my life.
She’s bright. She’s strong.
And the darkness doesn’t stand a chance.
Have you been here before? Who have you forgiven lately? How has forgiveness made you free?