I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.
I awoke Monday morning, after a fitful night of sleep with a strange sense. It was a release, a feeling akin to hope. Whatever unlocked and clicked into place occurred between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 AM while I caught a few treasured moments of needed shut eye.
Somehow, in that brief period, I forgave our president. I’m not sure how and I must admit it was accompanied with a great deal of surprise. I keep peering around corners for my resentment, but it seems to have vanished.
Anne Lamott describes forgiveness this way:
Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.
You see, forgiving Trump, while it still remains a surprise, is not about him being let off the hook. Forgiveness lets me off the hook. Forgiveness provides the opportunity for me to set him aside, to carry on with my day, to discern my work. Forgiveness removes the distraction and frees me. I know the man has no clue of my process, but it isn’t about him. It’s all about me.
I’m not interested in a relationship with our president. It is a very good thing for us to keep our distance. I am not to be trusted. However, as I have released the control, I no longer have to harbor ill will. I can see him for who he is, but I do not need to believe it my job to exact justice or revenge. As an agent of my own choices and of my own life I can give that job to somebody else. It isn’t mine to carry.
There’s a lovely Polish saying I hold close: Not my circus, not my monkey. While I don’t own a monkey, nor do I operate a circus (in the literal sense), I understand and appreciate the gist of this proverb. Discernment and wisdom happen when I ask the most crucial of questions: What is my job here?
I will remain dutiful in my information gathering, in my conversations, and in my writing. I will continue resisting in the ways I believe to be most effective for me. I choose to listen when I can, to remain informed, to scroll Twitter and engage the conversation on social media but I am not required to wade into the waters of damaging and abusive rhetoric. I do not have to be gaslighted, nor must I relinquish my precious mental space. He doesn’t deserve, nor has he earned, my time, sanity, joy.
It’s funny how forgiveness creeps up on us. It is a breathtaking relief, a discovery of lightness and release, the knowledge that I no longer must bear this weighty burden. I no longer have to sacrifice my being and potential and hope to another’s control. I no longer have to hold a person’s feet to the fire or determine their personal fate. I am not the ultimate judge or jury. I am not God, thank God.
Where I need to be, where I want to be is loving and shining light through doing justice and loving kindness. While this may seem milquetoasty, it is not. To own our work, to go about our day with discernment of the tasks at hand, requires a strength and firmness that can feel singleminded. We will be drawn into another’s process or drama – asking us to respond with a resolute YES! or a firm No.
While I’m able to release the president, along with those upholding his agenda, I still remain committed to the resistance. I cannot absolve myself of responsibility. I get angry and I speak when I must, for this work is serious. People are suffering and dying as a result of the emanating hatred. You, my friends, may not see a massive shift on my outsides, but my insides are filled with joy and hope again, at least for today. My work is defined. My path is resolute. My call is clear.
Sometimes our jobs may seem small. We have communities that need churches, partners who needs equals, children who need parents, friends who need friends. Our resistance occurs through loving our people well, through being present, responding to the promptings of the Spirit. Discernment and intentionality are the keys to creating a sanctuary of hopeful wholeness – in our bodies, homes, and towns.
I choose to do my work – to remain informed, to exercise my right to speak, to respond in the ways I deem appropriate. I choose to scour Twitter and listen to NPR, seeking relevant information about what is happening in our nation and world. Eric and I will continue our head-shaking conversations and I will rant on my runs (thank you running partner, wink wink). I am not immune to the rumbling under my feet, yet I am released, released from the burden of exacting revenge. This is not my job, not my circus, not my monkey.
Forgiveness is often a surprise, divine act with no warning. A proper response after accepting the release is gratitude, eyes open, loving well, doing our most important of jobs.
Rumble on, friends.