Pour a little salt in the wound (forgiveness pt. 2)

I got an e-mail from one of my readers about my last blog post on forgiveness. Our stories are similar, it felt like I was reading an e-mail from myself a few years ago.

I started asking myself what the most valuable thing I’ve learned on this current road of forgiveness has been and I instantly knew.

Clean out your wounds along the way.

Keep the dirt out as much as possible.

Choose to be kind and love in the face of those who you’ve connected to your heartbreak.

Don’t pile on top of the hurt by acting rude, indifferent, or fake. Don’t embrace any opportunity to deepen the bitterness.

Start by immediately making your interactions with the people who’ve hurt you positive, loving, and pure. Even (and especially) if they don’t respond in the same way.

Keep the mess out. It’s hard, I know. It’s pouring salt in the wound. Every time you have to choose to love that person when you want just want to punch a wall, it stings. 

But you don’t want to find yourself finally healing from the initial injury only to realize you let the wound get infected by all the things that came after.

So leave your cold shoulder and eye-rolling at the door. Keep the wound clean.

It hurts now, but it will save you later down the road.

This is something that God spent years building in me. I’d be sitting with crossed arms and clenched teeth and I’d hear him whisper: Reach for a hug. Give a compliment. Offer them a cup of coffee.

I would sit there and squirm in my seat. I would tell God all the reasons why it was a bad idea. I would tell him how I shouldn’t because it wouldn’t feel genuine. But he’d say it over and over again: Love isn’t just a feeling, kid.

You love them, because it wouldn’t hurt so much if you didn’t.

So get up and do something with it. You have got to move. You have to move this seemingly impossible mountain with a little step of faith. You have to bring a stone (and it can even be a tiny one) and start rebuilding these burned bridges.

Salting that wound kept me alive.

If there’s one thing I’d tell myself when that whole process began is: it will be worth it. Not because it will produce miraculous and instantaneous results, but because it will teach you more about love than anything else. That passage about turning the other cheek won’t just be a nice little sentiment. That phrase will get so deeply rooted in you that before you know it, it will be the only way worth living.

But the deeper you want to be rooted in love, the more ground you have to break through. You’re going to have to dig and push. You are going to hit some rocks in your heart and in theirs. It’s not going to feel good, this loving in hard times is not a quick process.

This thing isn’t a sprint. Forgiveness isn’t even a marathon. It is more like a triathlon. It has different legs. You might get really good at one part, and then suddenly realize you’re entirely out of shape when it comes to another. Don’t lose focus. Don’t decide to stop going just because you can’t master it all at once.

It’s going to take time.

So, clean the wound along the way. Don’t let time scab this thing over while letting infection take root. Don’t deepen this thing with passive-aggressive comments, avoiding eye contact, or sarcastic stabs. Don’t let that pain become the first domino that starts knocking over everything else you’ve built with them.

It will hurt. You will want to avoid the pain that comes with keeping it clean. But when you get a chance, I promise you won’t regret pouring a little salt in your wounds.

 

 

When They’re Cutting Cucumbers or Washing Dishes

We balanced our bare feet on the edge of the balcony and she just simply asked me why those three words are so hard to say.

In return I asked her why we wait until we’re leaving or standing in hospital rooms or next to pine boxes to say them, to say “I love you”. Because it’s not that we love someone more in those moments, but it’s in those moments that we finally realize how stupid it was to have wasted any time not telling them. What on earth kept us from using the three most important words in existence?

“I want to tell people I love them constantly, especially in the ordinary, when they’re cutting cucumbers or washing dishes.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Because there was a day, two years ago in April, that I was slicing tomatoes in a sunlit kitchen and I missed a moment. I missed one of those simple seconds just to say “I love you and that’s not going to change” to the person sitting on a barstool watching me prepare dinner. I’ve never forgotten it, I’ve lugged that moment around for the last 784 days.

I didn’t think those words would carry the kind of weight they were made to deliver, so I held them back. I didn’t know if they would be enough coming from me.

Darling, you should know something: those three words are absolutely enough when they come crashing out of your mouth and into another’s ears. 

They bear the kind of weight that even Atlas the Titan couldn’t have carried. They are solid and heavy and something concrete for the people you say them to.

I wish you wouldn’t just save them up for rainy days or for moments deemed “appropriate”.

I want you to say them walking down the paper towel aisle of the grocery store or after a belly-aching laugh at the breakfast table. Say them to the people who are there in the little moments of your life, who know how you like your eggs and who aren’t embarrassed by you when you dance in the center of the room.

And say them when it’s inconvenient, when it’s awkward and when you’re not sure how it will sound. Say “I love you” because there aren’t other words that are more important, there’s nothing else that takes priority.

Say it the second you realize it, when people are fully being themselves and you are delighted to watch. Say it then, because they need to know it right at that moment, that someone in the world is filled with the wonder of all they are and all they were made to be. They need to know it’s incredible, it’s breathtaking and that it’s enough.

Don’t be the person who mumbles it as they’re getting into their car and you’re looking at your phone. Don’t just casually toss it on their lap with a Hallmark card when you’re leaving their birthday party. 

Look at them in the face. Show them they are worth another moment of your time. Hold them in an embrace just a little longer and let them know that they really are seen, they really are loved, they really are worth good things.

Those words are enough when they come from you, they bring more to a heart than you’ve ever been able to see. They are exactly what you’re made to say, made to hear, made to need; so say them, and let them be said.

Don’t turn your head when someone tells you. Don’t just shrug it off as though someone asked you “paper or plastic?” 

Drink those words in, every single time you hear them.

They are not casual or common, though they should be said often. They are not simple, clean cut or lighthearted, though they are not really all that complicated and are universally understood.

We decided that night on the porch that we were going to say them. To our friends, to our families, to our baristas, to the people breaking our hearts, to each other, and to ourselves.

Because those words are always beautiful, always enough, and they should be said. Say them even when it’s not a cinematic moment and when it might sound a little out of place. 

There’s no reason to keep them locked up, and despite what people say they won’t lose their meaning with continuous use.

Those are the words that will matter most, more than anything else you will ever say.