There’s a block in my writing that I can’t seem to get around. Every time I want to jot my thoughts about anything else, all I can think about is this:
I am not on the greatest of terms with two close family members in the wake of a particularly polarizing election that put a distance between us which I can’t seem to bridge. The hurt is on both sides to be sure, but I’m carrying it in a way that has prevented me from being able to love without judgement; when people who are important in my life refuse to talk or listen about issues that are important to me, I feel unheard, small, and utterly undeserving of being heard, which makes it easy for me to jump to unfair judgements about their character that are often untrue.
How do I talk to people I vehemently disagree with, without making attacks on their character when we inevitably disagree?
Last November, while the votes were still being tallied, I completely freaked out on people I am supposed to love. I ruthlessly insisted on knowing who my family members voted for, and I was not in any way gracious with my demands, which I of course sent via text because tech is my favorite weapon to wield.
This is partially a preservation measure.
The fact is, I don’t understand my Trump-supporting relatives. I don’t understand how anyone could vote for the current version of the Repubican party that bows to an evil so blatant, so black and white, it’s practically biblical.
But I want to understand. I want to have conversations that allow both of us to be heard, though that’s not at all possible when one side refuses to come to the table. But why should they come to the table when I’ve set it so bitterly?
I haven’t been loving. After the things I said in my weeklong explosion of emotion, I’m not surprised these family members don’t want to hear me out. When my mom refused to listen to me, shutting down the conversation in an exercise of maternal authority so foreign to our relationship, I completely lost my mind on her, sending an upwards of 100 texts before she turned off her phone, effectively ending the one-way dialogue. My mom has always been my friend, and she’s never shied away from sharing intimate details about her life, so it boggled my mind that she flat-out refused to share her ballot choice. How dare she pick and choose what she wants to discuss, when I have been open to discussing everything under the sun with her? I became indignant.
But I didn’t stop there. I came after my father in law next, a man with Republican values who lives in a notoriously red state, so like, what did I expect? Well, I naively expected him to have had a change of heart after the past four years of lunacy in leadership made our country the laughingstock of the world; I expected him to join the ranks of Republicans who have denounced Trump in an effort to stand up for what’s right; I expected him to have listened to the hours of conversation my husband’s had with him about why our family cannot, will not, ever support someone who is so blatantly sexist, racist, and immoral as our president. I expected him to care about us as people enough to hear our concerns, echo them because he loves us, and then go vote accordingly. In other words, I expected him to vote the way I wanted him to vote.
But do you know what our couples counselor calls expectations? “Resentments under construction”.
And boy, do I resent the man that raised my husband. I’m angry at my mom, too, because she drew a line in the sand that day that said “no, you will not be heard by me on this issue”. And because my anxiety kicked in and whispered in my ear, they don’t love you enough to listen to you; I lost my ever-loving mind. I even brought Christian along for the ride, who so badly blew up on his dad that now they, too, are on rocky, barely-speaking terms.
All of this has left me feeling like a jagged rock, watching from the shoreline as the waves of grace lap up my fellow rocks, tumbling them into the current and smoothing, smoothing, smoothing all their rough edges away.
How can some people agree to disagree, only agreeing to love?
But GRACE: I have visited these rocky shorelines before, and I did jump in, for the love! Proof:
Maybe I can get there again.
But back to the writer’s block. I’m spending all of my free time writing a book, which is a story that weaves together the prevalent themes of my life into memoir and poetry. A major emerging theme? Resentment, or how long I can hold onto things before something breaks through my subconscious, ultimately forcing me to let the grudges GO. That something? Forgiveness, which Jesus so beautifully embodied when he held nothing against the very flawed humans who nailed him to a cross. Instead of counting their sins against them, he prayed forgiveness for them. Knowing what they were doing was less detrimental to his body than it was to their souls, he asked his father to forgive them.
So, that’s probably the source of my block.
“I’m just trying to get down to the heart of the matter, and I think it’s about forgiveness.“
If I want to be heard, I must be willing to hear. If I want to be understood, I must seek to understand. If I want to be forgiven for all the times I didn’t listen, didn’t hear, didn’t understand, then I must forgive the people in my life who refuse to listen to, hear, and understand me.
But first, I need to forgive myself and set down the anger. Even though it’s HARD AS HELL.
“You keep carrying that anger, it will eat you up inside.”
And that just might be the heart of the matter.
(Now that I got it stuck in your head, let’s enjoy the song together):
From American Songwriter‘s story behind the song:
“JD Souther summed it up by saying that it’s a song that he and Don Henley probably couldn’t have written in their younger days and by explaining that, as difficult as it might be, finding forgiveness is, as the adage says, divine. ‘I certainly could not have come to that place in my twenties,’ he said. ‘Difficult? Well, yes, it seems improbable if not impossible to find perspective when you’re hurting. But forgiveness is sacred and the first one to benefit is the one who forgives.’“
The first one to benefit is the one who forgives. OKAY, WOW.
Now I’m learning to set down the anger, and pick up the act of forgiveness.
I want to grow softer, more understanding of our differences and able to love in spite of them. I want to be tumbled through my trials like a rock tossed for centuries in water: unoffendable, smoothed out as a result of the turbulence. I’m just not there yet. I’m still jagged on the edge, watching that roiling sea of grace beneath me, wishing with everything for the guts to jump in and love, love, love, like I have been loved and like I want to be loved. I want to love them BETTER I expect to be loved, because I think that’s what Jesus wants me to do
I don’t have the answers. I’m learning about what reconcilliation can look like from some of my favorite leaders in religion (listen to this). Overall, I’m learning that Jesus forgave, and if we are his followers we don’t get much of a choice in the matter. We have to do the same.
And I’ll be honest, I feel exhausted thinking about how much work it will take to truly forgive people who flat out refuse to listen to my point of view, because in my brain, being unheard is equivalent to being unloved. Still, I will try to find ease in the process of forgiving, in the moving forward in love for others, because God forgave me and loved me WAY before I ever gave an ear to anything the Bible had to say; long before I ever sought to understand, I was understood by the one who loves me and gave his life for me.
I can’t control that my father in law refuses to have a conversation with me, or that my mom prefers to act like everything’s fine, and even though I’ve apologized I still feel so unheard. But as I’m learning what I can control, I’m realizing the only thing to do is re-posture my heart toward forgiveness, understanding, and love, again and again and again — and that it’s something I want to.
I feel hopeful to have some tools to get there. Our next GirlCreative event is all about Moving Forward After An Election, and it’s sure to be packed full of powerful conversation about how we can set down the anger we’ve been carrying so our hearts can be free to love. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, sign up here — you can attend next Tuesday night from wherever you are (women only, sorry guys).
Maybe you’re in a similar spot and you need to let some grudges go. I’ll tell you right now, even writing these words has knocked my writer’s block down a notch; releasing the grudges that I feel so entitled to has simultaneously loosened my clenched jaw and the proverbial barbed wire wrapped tightly around my heart. If I can trust God with every fiber of my being, I can take Jesus at his word and learn to move forward in love, and forgive. It might not be easy, but like any good thing it will be worth it — every step we take in the direction of love is a step toward becoming who God created us to be.