There was nothing special about my boyfriend and I, tucked into the corner of a Taco Bell joint. Twelve tacos stacked upon one another on a tray that took up most of our table. Beside it sat a mound of sauce packets waiting to be sprinkled onto our glorious feast. We were just another young couple in the Queen city with thin wallets and smiles too bright to mark any qualms in life.
No seriousness hung behind our chatter. No heavy hearts or pressing fears. Our conversation was laced with teasing and laughter. The kind that starts in the belly and forces you to fold your arms around your stomach as you double over, gasping for breath.
When dinner was over, I drove home, my jaw sore from the lingering smile that refused to leave my lips. As the trees flitted by in a blurry myriad of oranges, reds and yellows, I couldn’t help but think back on how things used to be. Of the pain that was so real and so heavy just one year ago. It’s amazing how much can change in so small amount of time.
How is it that a heart, once torn asunder by years of pain, can mend the way it has? I’m gradually learning the answer.
We as people can carry such heavy baggage. The weight of a broken home, or a broken relationship, or a broken friendship (or perhaps all of this and more) bare us down and we wonder how in the world we’ll ever move forward.
I’ve learned there’s no set formula for healing. There’s not a quick fix or a ten-step program that will rebuild the wounds and heal the scars overnight. But in my short twenty-three years I’ve picked up two gifts that have worked miracles in freeing me from even the deepest hurts.
It began with forgiveness. The acceptance that the pain was real, the hurtful things happened, and people (often including myself) made mistakes. But I took that realization further by stepping outside of myself and trying to see the world through the eyes of my betrayers. When I did, I found they weren’t so unlike myself.
When I look in the mirror, an imperfect picture stared back at me; the image of a person who, like the people who wounded me, has made mistakes before. I’ve said things I shouldn’t, done things I shouldn’t, and hurt other people in the process. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see that same reflection. It’s an inevitable reality; a part of our human condition.
But that’s okay.
There’s another gift… though it’s also an element of the first. That gift is Love. Love is greater than your bitterness; your hatred. For when you love your enemy, you defeat them. Not necessarily in a combatant sense, but internally.
We find an inner peace when we forgive those that wrong us. It fizzles out our anger, and allows us to move on. Because the truth is you don’t have to carry it with you. You can let it go, and move forward. Perhaps that means rebuilding bridges. If so, that’s wonderful. But sometimes it isn’t always that way. Sometimes moving forward means leaving the burned bridges behind. But when you do your best to right what you can, you can leave your hard feelings with the splintered pieces. You don’t need to stand guard over them because you tried to mend them, only to find the bridge irreparable. Now the road ahead awaits you.
If you’re hurting, know that often times the key to healing starts with forgiveness. So give it to others, and for heaven’s sake, give it to yourself! When peace sets in, you’ll find the laughter is so much sweeter than a scowl.