(This week is the 52ndinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about forgiveness. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim—letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.
DR. KEN BAKER(Irish writer and pastor)
Remember Franklin from parable two? (You can read it here.) There’s more we can learn from him. Let’s take another look at that story. Remember two things. One, the stories are essentially fictional and I have made them up to fit the spiritual lessons. Two, there are many lessons in every experience.
Franklin sat down dejectedly in one of the desks instead of collecting his music and instrument. I sat down in the desk next to him and, since it was just the two of us, asked, “What’s troubling you, Franklin?”
“My mom and dad are getting divorced,” he blurted out. The tears gushed up again.
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. That’s hard on everyone.”
What should I say? The other students would be arriving any minute. My male, linear-thinking mind flipped into lecture mode. No, no. He didn’t need a lecture. But that’s what I did best. I tried to slow down. I was grasping at straws.
“You know, Franklin, in this situation kids always blame themselves. But I want you to know it’s not your fault. You’re not the cause of the problem, and you can’t solve it. This is entirely in the hands of your mom and dad. They have to solve it, not you. Your mom and dad both love you. I’m sure of that.”
Franklin sobbed quietly but didn’t respond. I had no idea whether I was making things better or worse.
“Relationships are tough, the toughest part of life. And marriage is the hardest of all. I’m sure your mom and dad are trying their best. It’s not easy for them either. It’s just a part of life that we have to somehow deal with these days. Half of all marriages don’t make it. Heck, half of my friends are divorced.”
Angeline and Tom came into the classroom. They saw us sitting down and, naturally, asked, “What’s happening?”
“Nothing.” I lied. “Just get your music and instruments out. I’ll be with you in a few minutes.” I lowered my voice again to talk just to Franklin.
“It’s human nature to blame ourselves for things that aren’t our fault. I do the same thing—everyone does. At least in your head, try to remember that it’s not your fault. Blaming yourself will only mess you up. You have to forgive yourself and your parents. Otherwise, it will hold up your life. Just like it’s doing right now.”
Franklin nodded his head a bit but didn’t say anything.
“It’s sort of like playing the wrong note in band. So you played an F-natural instead of an F-sharp. Big deal. Don’t hang on to it. Let it go. You can’t fix it and you can’t change it. It’s in the past. That water has gone under the bridge and is way downstream by now. You can only deal with the water that’s here right now. When the next F-sharp comes down the stream, play an F-sharp and all will be right with the world. All our mistakes, real or imagined, are like that. What’s done is done. Acknowledge the mistake and move on. Do better next time. Forgive and forget. Otherwise you spend your whole life fretting over that F-natural you played thirty years ago in grade-seven band. You’re tied up with that F-natural and can’t get on with your life. You become a slave of that mistake. That’s how much power it has over you.
That’s why we forgive, so we can be free. So, whatever else is going on in your mind, Franklin, forgive yourself and forgive your parents. It’s hard to see it right now, but somehow your life will work out okay.
Most of the rest of the class had arrived by now, and the grating sounds of beginning band students were starting to overwhelm our conversation.
If we can’t forgive, we are forever stuck in past mistakes—ours or others’. All of us make mistakes, sometimes really big ones. It’s part of life, part of the human condition. We can’t change our past mistakes. We have to forgive ourselves, learn something, move on, and try to do better next time.
Many of us are so caught up in guilt and anger we can’t move forward—guilt over our own mistakes and anger over others’. It’s like we stepped in a leg-hold trap on our spiritual path through the wilderness of life. Only by forgiving—usually forgiving ourselves—do we release that trap so we can move forward on our spiritual journey.
Sometimes we think we’ll forgive others if they deserve forgiveness. Deserving has nothing to do with it. We forgive so we can be free. We forgive so we are not bound by anger and guilt—so we are free to love and to experience the fullness of God’s Love in our lives.
We are nearly at the end of this part of our spiritual journey. Before we can move on to the next part, we have to forgive ourselves and others for all the mistakes we’ve made and all the mistakes they’ve made. Otherwise, we are stuck in the past. The path ahead will be steep. We cannot carry the weight of past guilt, anger, and resentment up that slope. We have to let it go. Leave it here. Forgive. Only then will we be ready to take the next step upward.
Forgive others, but more importantly, forgive yourself. Only then will you be free to move forward on your spiritual journey.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.