Monday, June 29, 2009

Pity for Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was one of the most famous American novelist, short-story writer and essayist, whose deceptively simple prose style has influenced a wide range of writers. Hemingway was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Why do I have pity for this famous writer? In the last Hope Alert I wrote about a “father’s wound.” This will address a most heinous “mother wound” that happened to Ernest Hemingway.

One of the most tragic revenge scenarios I have ever heard of concerned the author Ernest Hemingway. His mother was so furious that he did not go to college she not only threw him out of the house, but on his twenty-first birthday, she sent him a package. In the package was the gun that his father had used to commit suicide. The mother wrote these words: “I thought you’d want this.”

How could a mother be that hateful to her child? Anger and revenge are so blinding that they can change a person into an emotional monster. Hemingway later committed suicide, as did two of his siblings, Ursula and Leicester.6

You don’t need to hire a professional hit man to hurt another human being for an offense. All humans have creative ways to expedite revenge. If you’re looking to make a person squirm, one of the easiest ways is by not accepting their remorse or apology. I have met hundreds who refuse to accept a person’s apology. These unforgiving people continue to nurse the hurt and grudge, which maintains the emotional gap between offender and offended. I know relatives who have not spoken in years. Such prolonged silence is creative revenge.

In our flesh, we hesitate to lay down our weapon of revenge because of the injustice of it all. The situation seems unjust only because we are not trusting God to enact judgment against the offender. We may think that God is too busy to avenge our offenses or He isn’t moving fast enough for our taste.

I doubt that anyone reading this Hope Alert—would ever do anything as hateful as Ernest Hemingway’s mother did on his 21st birthday. But, when I choose to not forgive a family member or a friend or even an acquaintance…my behavior is as stunning as Mrs. Hemingway. Does that remark seem ludicrous? You and I have been freely forgiven through the precious blood of Jesus and our unforgiving behavior—is an insult to the grace of God in Jesus (Eph. 4:32).

(Excerpt from Free Yourself to Love: The Liberating Power of Forgiveness)

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Hard to Find a Father's Day Card?

Year after year, I see people struggling in front of the card rack, trying to find a Father’s Day card? Why is it so hard? Well, for many people, Hallmark doesn’t produce cards for people who have a father they haven’t forgiven--yet. Oh the difficulty of finding a card, when the father wound in your heart shouts against false sentimentality that is often the theme of Father’s Day cards.

How easy is it for a father to wound his child? My husband, Ken, and I watched the movie Walk the Line, based on the life of Johnny Cash. During the movie there were several painful scenes between Johnny Cash and his father. Johnny’s father was a merciless perfectionist, and his incessant criticism of Johnny helped fuel years of addiction. The shame and anger caused in the heart of a child who has been exasperated by a perfectionistic parent is seen not only in the life of Johnny Cash but in the lives of millions who have heart wounds from such unloving parents.

After the movie Ken said, “I was raised by two perfectionists, and I am a perfectionist, and I am concerned about the impact on our children. When we return home, I want to ask them three questions:

1. What do I do or say that discourages you?
2. Do I do anything or say anything that encourages you?
3. What would you like me to do or say that would encourage you?”

Ken asked both our children, and neither had any major complaints. My heart was touched that Ken was sensitive enough to want to ask such questions. Most parents are often clueless concerning the exasperation and hurt that they have caused their children despite Paul’s admonition: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

If you have struggled with shame and anger and you haven’t been able to trace the source, maybe you need to consider the impact of a parent’s words on your heart as a child. A therapist told me, “Jackie, verbal abuse causes heart wounds just like sexual abuse does.” How shocked most critical parents are when they discover the destructive damage done by their criticism and perfectionism. By the same token, silent and neglectful parents can wound as well—another method of aborted love through anger.

Maybe the best gift you can give your father this Father’s Day—is also a gift that you will be giving to your own heart. By faith, choose to forgive your earthly father, as you have been freely forgiven by your Heavenly Father (Matt. 6:9, 12).

(Excerpt from Free Yourself to Love: The Liberating Power of Forgiveness)

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Trash Apologies

A popular counterfeit of forgiveness is overlooking the wrong. This is where you minimize the offense. For example, when you hear a battered woman say, “He really didn’t mean to push me through that door,” or a mother say to her toddler, “Daddy didn’t mean to yell at you,” you are hearing classic minimizing. If he didn’t mean it, then why did he do and say those things? Sometimes we think we’re being forgiving when we look the other way. We think that’s healthy, but it’s not.

True forgiveness is seeing something for what it really is; that’s when you effectively forgive. When someone makes a rude remark and hurts your feelings, don’t just say, “Never mind,” when they ask you what is wrong. We think we’re forgiving if we say, “Oh no, it’s nothing.” That in itself is wrong. Do not minimize the offense by overlooking it in an effort to appear merciful and patient. In fact, we need to pay greater attention to what motivates us to overlook an offense. Sometimes fear motivates us not to say how we are actually hurt. It is even possible that we want to seem forgiving to another, because, after all, we are Christians, but really that is our pride at work.

Minimization also allows for what Dr. Aaron Lazare has titled trash apologies. Trash apologies contain phrases like these:

  • Mistakes were made. (Rather than “I made a mistake.”)
  • To the degree you were offended. (Rather than“To the degree I offended you.)
  • If I did anything wrong . . . (“If” as opposed to “I did something wrong.”)
  • You can’t expect me to be perfect.
  • If I’ve hurt anybody, I’m sorry. (Again, “If” as opposed to “I’ve hurt you, and I’m sorry.”)
  • I’m sorry you are mad. (But I am not responsible for your being mad.)

(Excerpt from Free Yourself to Love: The Liberating Power of Forgiveness)

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