How can I forgive when I think I already have?

I recently became aware that I have some work that is incomplete.  You see when I was a teenaged boy there was a single incident that happened to me that (literally) altered my life. 

I wasn’t sexually molested.  I wasn’t abandoned (in the traditional sense).  I wasn’t bullied everyday at school.  But I  can see it all unfolding before me right now as I sit behind this keyboard. 

You see I was basically raised by my mother.  My father was out-of-town four or five nights a week.  I had four sisters and did not have a brother until I was thirteen.  So for all intense and purposes I lived in a girls’ dormitory.  Or at least that was my limited perspective on it as a “boy child.”

I could rarely do anything right.  Don’t his your sisters.  You don’t know your own strength.  Still to this day I can show you the scars on my hands from their fingernails.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know I was a handful… probably even two handfuls.  But what’s a boy to do when he has a father that wants little or nothing to do with him?  When he finally gets to see his dad and can only piss him off? 

So I finally got my big chance.  I made the highschool JV football team.  And I was good too.  But I didn’t know how to act.  I was always doing things to draw attention to myself.  Good or bad attention as long as I got attention that’s all that mattered.  I wish I knew then what I know now.  As I am sure my adult coaches, teachers and even my siblings and parents do.  All I knew how to do then was to (basically) do whatever made me feel good and got me attention.  I was just… a jerk.

The final straw was the night we lost our only game of the season.  I was cutting up on the bus and the coach told me to knock it off.  Well of course I did when he was looking but I kept pushing the envelope.  Egging it on and trying to make myself feel good!  But when we got back to the school the coach had a surprise for me.  He summarily kicked me off the team.  Right there in front of the entire team.  He just grabbed me by the front of my jersey and told me to get my stuff and get out of their that I was no longer on the team.  What?  I mean I know I was a jerk and didn’t listen to him on the bus but to kick me off the team for being a jerk and flaunting his authority behind his back in front of the entire team.  Oh… yeh well if you put it like that it makes a little sense.  I guess.

I remember it was foggy that night.  I walked up and down the street that night for literally hours kicking a soda can (still wearing my cleats and football pants.)  Up and down.  Up and down, crying like a little baby.  I can’t remember being so hurt and lost ever.

Now if that wasn’t bad enough.  I later found out that my mom called the coach and talked to him about reinstating me on the team.  Instead of the coach reinstating me on the team he let the entire team vote me back on or not.  I got THREE VOTES for and the rest was against.  I was crushed.  I mean I knew I was not the most popular guy but to be so soundly rejected by practically all they guys you thought was your friend…  You just can not imagine the humiliation, rejection, hurt and yes, anger. 

When that school year was over I asked my mom and dad to sign the papers so I could join the US Navy.  So at the ripe old age of seventeen and with my tenth grade education I set off to make a man out of myself. 

Those first years couple of decades were admittedly rough.  I came from a small town in Mississippi and led a pretty sheltered life.  I had already begun to drink some beer but didn’t know anything about drugs.  However, being young and in the navy I soon learned all about drinking and drugs.  I didn’t feel much during those decades.  I was either drunk, high or both. 

The thing about being drunk/high is that I didn’t have to accept any of the blame or responsibility for where I found myself in life.  After all, I was just a kid I wasn’t supposed to be smart enough or have all the “tools” to deal with my abusive, alcoholic, womanizing, absent father.  Surely it wasn’t my fault!  You know those excuses will only get you so far in life. 

I ended up going through an in patient drug/alcohol treatment program put on for veterans.  That was my first clue that maybe I should actually look at the choices that I’ve made.  Okay so none of the things in my life had changed.  I still had every adult I counted on give up on me but heck if I had a kid like me now I would find it  easier to give up on him too.  Probably.

But back to FORGIVENESS.  You know for years and years and years I wondered what ever happened to that coach that kicked me off the football team.  I would even hope to run into him one day so I could give him a piece of my mind… or worse.  But that was all the alcohol and drugs talking then.  Eventually I hit the proverbial “bottom.”  I had done the Monty Hall get to know God salvation plan many times.  You remember Monty Hall from “Let’s Make a Deal” don’t you?  That was me for many years.  “Oh God, if You will just get me out of this mess then…”  Let’s make a deal God.

Finally the day and circumstance came that I actually heard the Lord say to me, “If not now I won’t ever bother you again.”  That was pretty scary stuff.  Since that day I have changed my life style.  I have NOT been perfect nor will I ever be perfect.  But I no longer intentionally hurt people.  I do hurt people but not intentionally.  I’m still learning.

I have forgiven that coach so many times in my mind and even prayed for him on occasion.  I thought I was “up to date” on that forgiveness thing… until I ran into him on line.  That incident happened over thirty-seven years ago.  I haven’t thought about it much in the last several years.  And I thought I had done all the forgiving I needed to do to be “up to date” on my forgiveness card.  But honestly when I exchanged a couple of emails with the guy I was like (to myself)  “He’s not sorry.  It was all about him and he could have cared less for me.”  Well duh!  Who am I to see into his heart and know what is going on in there?  Heck I thought I had my heart all clean and pure with regards to that single issue.  I can be pretty good at compartmentalizing my Christianity if I let myself.

So let’s scrape the forgiveness scab off once again and see what it will take to really heal that thing.  It would be easier to just place blame and forget about it but that is not what I am called to do.  I have had too many people give up on me over the years.  I’m not going to be one of them.

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7 Responses to How can I forgive when I think I already have?

  1. I had an experience similar to that, only it was getting kicked out of my home…my foster home. I will never ever forget the experience of pure dread and fear I felt when they sat me down and told me I had to leave.

    I don’t/didn’t agree with their decision, but I understood it..kind of.

    But even so, my greatest shame was letting them down in some way. To this day we are sporadically in touch, and my heart hurts a little every time I think about it.

    The truth is the same for your situation as it was for mine. I was simply not their highest priority. They weren’t thinking about me, they were thinking about themselves and the other foster kids.

    But how can we blame someone for doing what we all do?

    mssc54 replied:

    Hayden, wow that must have been very difficult to handle.

    I now understand what was going on when I was 16-17 years old. But knowing that (basically) the entire team didn’t want me around was… gosh I really did not know I was such an ass. 😦

  2. Gisele says:

    I can think of 3 people in my entire life that I TRULY had to WORK to forgive them…and I can say that one by one, in all 3 cases, when I TRULY, DEEPLY and COMPLETELY forgave – i felt it in my very SOUL. I thought on more than one occasion that I HAD forgiven, only to have it come back and haunt me. But I continued doing what I had to do, to get answers, work at reconciliation or WHATEVER IT TOOK. And today, right now, I cannot think of a single person on this earth I need to forgive anything….That’s a good feeling.

    mssc54 replied:

    Gisele: Wow, only three people in your entire life! YOU are blessed and highly favored!

    I recognise one “huger” issue that I had to overcome with forgiveness. I did it by fervent prayer for the person. Guess I had better get to it.

  3. marlajayne says:

    This is a tough one, and there are lots of ways to look at it. The first thing I thought about was Serena Williams and her behavior at the U.S. Open, an outburst that cost her the match and probably the entire shooting match. The only athletic thing I’ve ever done is participate in marathons and half-marathons and 10K stuff so I know nothing about team sports and decorum and so forth. My husband, however, has had much experience in many sports venues and says he can understand the “ruling” on Serena.

    Another thing I thought about was something I read once about someone who later became famous t.v. personality, a news commentator, I think. Anyway, the person was cut from the team, and the only thing the coach said was, “Face it Son. You’re just not good enough.” The person (sure wish I remembered who this was!) said he held it together until he got home and then he flung himself across his bed and cried. By the end of the day, he decided that never, ever again would he have someone tell him that he wasn’t good enough. At the end of the article, he said something like, “Here I am making over a million dollars a year (this was a long time ago), and that coach is probably a bitter, balding old guy…still hateful.’ In other words, he used the cruel comments to motivate him.

    Final thoughts. I’ve learned that when I don’t forgive and let stuff to, it torments me but doesn’t bother the other person in the least.

    mssc54 replied:

    Marlajayne: I have always been able to overcome others’ comments. Still I recognise that I (to a large degree) earned my dismissal.

    Perhaps at some point I need to look at forgiving myself for being such a screwed up kid. Not that I am in any way a perfect adult.

  4. amber says:

    Your honest look at yourself Michael in this situation.. and your feelings… really humbles me. I wish right now I could give you a hug. Because these are the words of a man… not a boy.

    mssc54 replied:

    Amber: Thank you.

  5. Hobo says:

    MWC – You have always been a close and dear friend. It is so great for you to remove this burden forever. God has changed your heart for a reason. You have so much to offer and such a story to tell (we both do).

    Straight ahead…..Don’t look back

    Your Brother in Christ

    mssc54 replied:

    Jimbo Hobo:

    I believe that one of the fruits of a changed heart is to be ever vigilant to the schemes unfolding around us and too step up to the challenge. Even when I fall short that doesn’t mean I get to stop.

    I love you man.

  6. Joy says:

    Wow Michael. I just got to this post and I’m blown away by your honesty. I give you so much credit for what you’ve done with your life. I’m with Amber, I’d love to give you a great big hug.

    mssc54:

    Joy: I’m so glad you are a bit better. I have found that a bit of “transparency” is good for the soul and can heel past hurts. 😉

  7. Becky Covington says:

    Hurt, rejection and fear of man is such a curse from the pit of hell. It’s a good weapon the enemy of life uses to keep us from being our uniquely created selves, and it hinders the walking out of our destiny, and those we hurt along the way.
    I can just imagine how your felt walking on that street afterwards. This sounds so corny, but it’s really true and i can tell by your writings that you know it’s so…Jesus hurt with you and for you then. Not a comfort to you then i know!!! Can you imagine how Jesus was hurt by bearing all of our sin and sorrow? We have to continually let him heal us and get back up again to help restore others. He is sure doing that in you Micheal! I have really enjoyed reading your blog, and your being ‘real’. Thanks for not hiding your ‘junk’. I know you impact a lot of people with the goodness that God has shown you, and his heart he’s placed in you.

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