Forgiveness – the Impossible Part

 

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.   - Mark Twain

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. – Mark Twain

Forgiveness evaded me for most of my life – not the understanding, but the doing. As a 5 year-old Christian, I understood the concept: I disobey, but God doesn’t spank. The concept matured over the years, but the part where we turn around and do the same for others never followed.

I’ve taken communion countless times, reminded myself to forgive and be forgiven, repeated the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” and assumed that the process was working. Harboring unchanging grudges and white-washing it with a beautiful ritual seemed sensible and normal. Repeating the ritual despite the fact that old wounds didn’t heal never struck me as insanity.

What we forgive too freely doesn't stay forgiven.  - Mignon McLaughlin

What we forgive too freely doesn’t stay forgiven. – Mignon McLaughlin

Forgetting works well for little slights, but larger injuries refuse to be forgotten. This includes the wounds from past cataclysms–betrayals, lies, abandonments. But then there are the smaller wrongs that injure not as much by their severity as by endless repetition. What is more searing–an amputation or a thousand cuts? Families, friends and the people closest to us inflict and endure mostly the latter.

The toughest act of forgiveness might be forgiving loved ones for what they are not. Every father is sometimes absent and every mother is sometimes neurotic. No spouse can maintain the intensity of love’s earliest days. No child can match our hopes for them. Mental health requires us to cope with a constant stream of such disappointments. Either we forgive people for being human or shrivel into bitterness.

Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a constant attitude.  - Martin Luther King Jr.

Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a constant attitude. – Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that forgiveness is a constant attitude, which is exactly what ADHD brains don’t do. Intentions and mind-sets disappear the second we turn to the next shiny thing. The whole basis for computerized attention tests is that people with ADHD can’t keep our brains poised to click on certain symbols, but not others, for 20 consecutive minutes.  How, in heaven’s name, are we supposed to maintain permanent intentions?

A few months after starting Strattera, I had an earth-shaking experience. For the first time in my memory, I changed an emotional attitude by decision, not impulse. It happened while I was playing Uno with my wife and our sons who were 5 and 8. My wife was aggravated at how competitive I was being and told me to lighten up. I told her I would try, knowing from the previous thousand efforts that my game mode controller only had two settings: ‘Destroy All Competitors” and “I’m Bored and Will Now Leave”.

I aimed for the middle ground, and to my inner surprise, I was able to pick a new attitude and maintain it. “Make a reasonable play and watch the game roll,” was suddenly a third option that I could select. “Crush your young sons,” was there, too, but magically wasn’t the only shift point on my mental transmission. Competitive urges kept popping up, but I would tell myself to value family fun more than winning, and the urges gradually quieted.

Forgiveness, it turns out, is more like playing Uno with my boys than kneeling at an altar. Choose an attitude and correct it when it starts to blow off course. When bitterness pops up, I can now, with effort, choose other attitudes:.

  • Gratitude for lessons learned
  • Wishes for the growth of the other person
  • Desire to be free of bitterness
  • Self-love that desires peace

Over the past few years, some life-long resentments have faded to simple memories and very old wounds have finally healed.

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.  - author unknown

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. – author unknown

Forgiveness is the ability to sense anger and resentment and redirect the emotional energy. It is a skill I literally don’t possess unless I take a particular medication.

The FDA has not approved Strattera for Forgiveness Deficit Disorder, so your results may be different than mine. I checked the 18-page, micro-print insert that the manufacturer stuffs into every sample bottle of Strattera. Not a single word about forgiveness, maybe because it’s lawyers that write those things.

If forced to give up either Strattera or communion for the rest of my life, I’d stay with the medication. I would pretend the capsule was a wafer and that the water was wine while I swallowed and quietly repeated the ancient liturgy. A gracious God would forgive me for thinking this way.

Physician specializing in diagnosis and management of attention deficit disorders and related conditions.

Posted in attitude, treatment
5 comments on “Forgiveness – the Impossible Part
  1. Roy Hough says:

    Oren, your insight on forgiveness is not only amazing’ but inspiring as well…Thank you so much for sharing.

    Like

  2. Julie Vlietstra says:

    I just had a friend tell me that I kept bringing up the past and situations that I hadn’t forgiven. It was very insightful & helpful – even though I didn’t like hearing that I hadn’t forgiven. Your insights were spot on. Thanks for writing about forgiveness.

    Like

  3. Dr Jim Beard says:

    Best sermon on Godly attitude that I have heard of late. Keep the faith, and the family. J Beard MD

    Like

  4. Lana Kaneko says:

    Loved this post! I live in a household with two ADHD men (one husband, one son). Your description of the UNO game made me LOL! Maybe that’s evidence of the work of grace in me in being able to offer forgiveness for those 1000 cuts
    untreated ADHD yields on a daily basis sometimes.

    Like

  5. Elias Sarkis says:

    Very profound! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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Oren Mason MD
Oren Mason MD

Oren Mason MD

Physician specializing in diagnosis and management of attention deficit disorders and related conditions.

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