Forgiveness. Really?

Redemption. We’ve talked about this before, yeah? You and I, you and your spouse, with your daughter, your boss, your neighbor, your therapist, your lover, probably even your cat.

     What is redemption anyway? The act of saving or being saved from error or evil; the action of regaining possession of something in exchange for payment; clearing a debt; release from the consequences of an offense for the person who committed the offense.

     Okay then, what is forgiveness? A conscious decision to release feelings of resentment toward a person(s) who has harmed you.

     Interesting. In the program, we used to talk about forgiveness is not forgetting, it is not condoning, it is releasing. Lewis Smedes noted “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”


     Last year, in one of my sojourns to work with the kids in Juvenile Justice, I told the Haitian story from Diane Wolkstein, “One My Darling, Come to Mama.” It goes like this: A mother has four daughters, she loves and dotes on the first three and despises the fourth daughter, Philamandre. Every night when the mother comes homes, she sings as she is coming up to the house door, “One my darling, come to Mama. Two my darling, come to Mama. Three my darling, come to Mama. Stay Philamandre, stay. Stay where you are.”

The three daughters would let their mother in, they’d eat dinner together. If there were any scraps left from dinner, then Philamandre could eat.

     One day, the three daughters were kidnapped. When the mother came home, she sang. No answer. She sang again. No answer. She opened the door, saw the daughters were gone, and ran away like a madwoman, singing the song frantically. Philamandre realized she was on her own, went to the town and found work. Eventually she came to work in the palace of the king, and over time, the prince and she fell in love and were married.

Years passed. One day, she heard the maids talking about a crazy woman singing a song out in the street. Philamandre, now queen, went to the window to look out. Yes, it was her mother. Her clothes were rags, her hair was wild – filled with sticks and bird droppings.

     The queen went outside, brought the her mother in. She bathed her, gave her new clothes, and trimmed her hair. “Mama, the others are no more. I am here. You did not take care of me. Yet now I will take care of you.”

     I said nothing more for a minute or so, looked at the five young women sitting in a semi-circle in front of me, dressed in the standard-issue orange trousers and blocky shirt, and then said, “I’ve never understood that story. How someone mistreated could then turn around and take care of the one who mistreated them?”

     One of the girls looked me in the eye, “Maybe she didn’t want to be like her mother.”

     I’m three times as old as this seventeen year old, yet she has wisdom like that?

Honeysuckle 5-31-2020
Honeysuckle in the rain 5-31-2020

I have often pondered how abused children, when adults, re-establish relationships with their abusive parents and often take care of them, specifically with a couple people I know.

     I have been thrown under the bus, as they say, for things I did not do yet got the consequences as the person who did the action would not take responsibility for it. I have been lied to, stolen from, betrayed, mislead, as we all have, sometimes by my own family members. I was bitter. It wasn’t right, where was justice? I was resentful.

     In looking up Lewis Smedes, he was a professor of theology and ethics, and author of fifteen books. “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”

That young woman who responded to me may have been in custody for an illegal act, yet she had certainly learned a few things along the way. Indeed, there is hope for the future.

Years ago, one of my siblings did some egregious things. I believe I have forgiven them yet want no contact with them. One of my cousins chided me for that, saying, “But they’re family.” In my head, I am going, “Yeah, but…” Recently I came across another wisdom of Professor Smedes:

“You can forgive someone almost anything. But you cannot tolerate everything… We don’t have to tolerate what people do just because we forgive them for doing it. Forgiving heals us personally. To tolerate everything only hurts us all in the long run.”

Oh my.

So tolerate is now in the mix. Forgive. Permission to not tolerate. Redemption. Significant issues for me in my life, as many changes are being presented. Some of them being who am I now in my life, who do I strive to be, who do I wish to be with? How do I do this? Where shall I live? How do I pursue what gives me meaning?

I leave you with this from Hans Z and Lisa: while I go redeem my coupon for the turkey taco. Let me know what you think~


  • Michelle Twigg

    May 31, 2020 at 10:50 pm Reply

    I have enjoyed this post Mary. I would say that perhaps the Queen had also learned compassion and empathy and it allowed her to see her mother in a new light.

    • Mary

      May 31, 2020 at 11:04 pm Reply

      You are brilliant! Thank you, Michelle.

  • Kathy Bennett

    May 31, 2020 at 11:14 pm Reply

    Mary, it always amazes me that your posts hit bang on where my head is at the moment I received them. How do you know that I was thinking along the same lines???

    • Mary

      May 31, 2020 at 11:32 pm Reply

      How wonderful to know that, Kathy. Thank you. How is your world revolving? I had hoped to make the SCC-CC conference this year. Alas. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

  • Dr. Richard Lowell

    June 1, 2020 at 1:35 am Reply

    Hi Mary,

    I have considered counseling many times in my life, and even tried it, but I came to the conclusion long ago that true understanding of “self” would require extensive study, so I enrolled in the Master’s program at City University, and between 2003 and 2012, 9 years, I earned a masters degree in counseling psychology. I learned many interesting concepts and was afforded the opportunity to work with clients during a 250 hour internship. So! What did I really learn? I learned that it all starts with me. All those “problems” out there that seem to be the result of other peoples acts are not owned by them.. they are owned by me. It’s hard, sometimes, to look inward when the perpetrators of my discontent live at other addresses but understanding myself, my foibles, my shaded perceptions, my biases, my inherited values and my emotional responses goes miles to explaining how I regard the earth and all the humans I have the honor to share it with. What we forgive and what we tolerate has become a lot easier now that I know what to forgive myself for and what I am willing to tolerate within my own soul.

    • Mary

      June 1, 2020 at 1:51 am Reply

      It all starts with me. Indeed Richard, thank you. The concept of to forgive and yet not tolerate clarified much for me. We each look through our own filters to assess the world and others. Best to you~

  • Kathy Bennett

    June 1, 2020 at 2:33 am Reply

    I haven’t been to an SC-CC conference since I retired. No funding from the library anymore… I have been doing well at home. Our youngest daughter livest with us and has been doing all the shoppiing, so there is no need for me to go anywhere. I do sit on the front step a lot, and from there I can see my small flower bed where the tulips are in bloom. The colour is amazing – red, pink, yellow and stripey orange! The weather has been agreeable for the most part, although it is hot today. Time to find the cool air fans!

    I hope you are doing really well and staying safe. Are you isolating? How bad is the covid virus where you are? We are fairly clear of it here, although there is still the odd case now and again.

    It is so very good to hear from you! I love reading the material you are sending out. Stay safe,


    • Mary

      June 1, 2020 at 4:12 am Reply

      Thank you~ Sending you an email. Love right back to you.

  • Karen Foley

    June 1, 2020 at 8:36 pm Reply

    Great story, Mary. You are a wise woman!

    • Mary

      June 2, 2020 at 5:28 am Reply

      Thank you for reading, Karen. Hope you are making some music~

  • Meg Philp

    June 15, 2020 at 10:14 pm Reply

    Hi Mary. Good to read your post. Diane’s collection of stories is a keeper. I have learned and found so much in them. In my explorations and from all the courses I’ve taken I remember “ Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It’s remembering without bitterness.” Your post helped me understand that more. Keep telling your stories. All the Best to you. Keep safe. M

    • Mary

      June 17, 2020 at 4:24 am Reply

      Thank you much, Meg. And Lewis Smedes insights were helpful. I’ve learned a few things just since writing this. And of course, Diane. Blessings upon you, Meg.

  • Allen Hilderbrand

    June 21, 2020 at 2:42 pm Reply

    It is always with great pleasure when I have the opportunity to peer into your feeling and thoughts. Having similar discussions with the girl in orange gives me insight and ways to try and help her move into the next phase of her life. It is now long from now that she will be transitioning from her childhood into the adult world of Corrections. Life indeed has many twist and turns for all of us to adapt, accept, acclimate, and accelerate into before changes blend into experience. I think of you often and always look forward to our adventure each time we meet. The colors of a rose grows over time as the flower blossoms and extends it reach outward. I have watched, listens, and admire your colors over time as you have extended your reach – your stem is of the highest grade and quality!!!!

    • Mary

      June 21, 2020 at 10:10 pm Reply

      Bless you, Allen. You have opened many doors for me, and vistas. Surprise – some of my richest learning was from the difficult lessons.

  • Patricia Moore

    June 22, 2020 at 3:29 am Reply

    Mary ,
    I was able to take a moment to read your blog and follow the music link you provided . This “cause for pause” left me feeling re centered , grounded and at peace with the world .
    Once again I was left wondering why I don’t do this more often – which is a recurring thought whenever I connect with you , real time or no –
    music , story , conversation , humility, inspiration …YOU uplift me with your spirit , the way you frame your experiences and navigate through the world .
    Thank you for sharing the gift that is YOU .
    With Love and Appreciation ,

    • Mary

      June 22, 2020 at 3:57 am Reply

      Oh Starlite~ Thank you. You have shared much with me as well, including your family. Hug to you. I still have the ‘Respond with Love’ sticker on my dashboard!

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