Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Be Unstoppable: Walk proud. Live strong.

dare to take the high road copy

There is something deliciously satisfying about the thought of getting even with someone who has caused you pain. Yet, no matter how pleasing the thought, the act of getting even is fleeting, illusory, unfulfilling.

The only thing that getting even does is lower you to someone else’s level. It does not bring you lasting peace. And it definitely does not change whatever happened to cause you grief.

When the man who was actively engaged in making the ‘death’ part of his promise to love me forever was arrested, I desperately wanted to make him pay for all the pain and horror he had caused in my life and the lives of those I love. I wanted him to feel my pain. To know the totality of all that he had done.

Wasn’t going to happen.

There was nothing in this world that I could do that would cause him anguish without also causing me pain. To get even with him I would have to have contact with him. And that was not healing, safe nor smart for me. Nor would it have accomplished my goal. He did what he did because that was a reflection of who he is, where he lived, how he walked through this world. I’d been there long enough with him. I had no desire to go back.

Admittedly, there were moments where my thoughts drifted into gleeful persecution of him. Occasionally, to relieve the pressure in my mind and heart, I would stand in the shower and imagine dipping him in a vat of hot tar, dousing him in feathers and then rolling him up in one of the priceless rugs he so loved and running over him with one of those big road paving roller machines until he was as flat as Wiley Coyote of cartoon fame. And that would be the end of that. I would let the warm waters of the shower wash over me and wash all thoughts of him down the drain.

Cleansed of my need for revenge, I would return to finding my path out of the darkness into the light of living peacefully with all my heart in the now.

Living peacefully with all my heart in the now was my truth. My life. My way.

Thoughts of getting even with him only kept me stuck in his truth, his life, his way.

I deserved better.

I needed more.

We all have moments of wanting to slip off our road of integrity into the muck of someone else’s bad behaviour. Don’t do it. Don’t give into the pull of getting even. It will only leave you wearing the dirt of the past and feeling the anguish of someone else’s choices ‘back then’ in the here and now.

If the lure of getting even grows too strong and you feel yourself succumbing to its call, take a shower. Just for a moment, let your mind wander as far as it must into the imaginary world where your getting even sets things right. And then, lovingly bring it back into the present. Be unstoppable in your desire to walk tall and proud. Be unstoppable in living this one wild and precious life with all your heart beating strong on the high road of your integrity.  Walk proud. Live strong.

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This post is in response to today’s one word – Daily Prompt. Unstoppable.


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Give a little forgiveness| 52 Acts of Grace | Week 11

acts of grace week 11 copy

Let’s face it. It is impossible to get through life without some hurts and pains. Big, medium or small, life offers up thousands of opportunities for we humans to be perfectly human in all our human imperfections.

Often, the other person may not have intended to hurt us. They may have been acting out from their place of pain. They may not even realize there is pain in their response.  Just as when we have been the one to cause pain or hurt, we did not intend it or did not know the source of our own unease that caused us to say or behave the way we did.

It isn’t what happened that makes the difference in your life today. It’s what you do with it.

Give a little forgiveness.

No one deserves to be abused, lied to, manipulated. No one deserves the countless things that happen in their lives that push them down. Name calling, deceit, the loss of a loved one, loss of any kind, feeling humiliated, feeling alone, feeling like you don’t belong.

No one deserves to have their feelings ignored, their truth called a lie, their beauty called ugly.

Yet, it happens.

The challenge is, when what happened ‘then’ continues to dictate how we feel, behave and see ourselves in the now, it isn’t the past that’s hurting us any longer. It’s our repetition of ‘the story’ we’ve created about what happened that is causing our distress.

Give a little forgiveness.

Sure, it may feel awkward, uncomfortable, different. Do it anyway.

And, if your mind immediately leaps to “I will never forgive ____________.” ask yourself, what does holding onto resentment, bitterness, distress get me? How does it serve me today?

This is not a big sweeping, I forgive you, will forget it ever happened or a ‘it’s okay, I swore I’d never let you back in my life and I still don’t trust you but I will’, kind of forgiveness. You may never want to let them back into your life. And that’s okay. That’s your decision. Only you know what is the best for your life.

Forgiveness isn’t about making what another did right or okay, or acceptable. It’s about releasing yourself from the past, letting go of the story you are telling yourself that keeps haunting you, hurting you, holding you down.

Forgiveness is not for them. It’s for you.

And once you’ve started practicing a little forgiveness, keep practicing. It’s not about biting it off all in one big chomp. It’s about taking tiny little bites that are manageable. Bites that slowly nourish you with their soothing grace, setting you free to flow into life without the wounds of the past limiting your brilliance today.

Give a little forgiveness.

And don’t forget to give yourself the same grace.


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#fbf Can forgiveness change the past?

Once upon a time, I got lost in a relationship.

I fell into the arms of an abuser and almost died.

And then, I got my life back when he was arrested.

I didn’t know who I was, where I was or even how I’d got to that place in which I was living with such deep, dank desperation and sadness.

I’d done things and behaved in ways I did not think were possible for me.

And yet, there I stood amidst the devastation of my life having to acknowledge the truth; I had become that woman who lost her moral compass and fallen into the abyss of abuse.

After his arrest, I looked around me and realized, I was lost. I had seventy-two cents in my pocket, a few clothes and my trustworthy Golden Retriever who had walked beside me for much of that journey. I had to find my way back to living without fear, to living with joy in my heart, and it had to begin with me.

I remember the morning after his arrest when I began writing in my journal for the first time in years. Since I was a child, I have always kept a journal. On the pages of my journal I could write without censorship. I could face myself and find where I stood in my life, regardless of the weather blowing outside.

While with him, I did not write. Writing is about truth for me and I knew my life had become a lie. His lies had become my truth and I was too broken to face it. So I did not write.

Writing it out to face the truth

That first breathless morning after his arrest, I wrote and wrote through my tears.  The words poured out as I tried to exorcise the ghost of his existence and my revulsion of who I had become. I wrote of my horror at what I’d done. My disbelief that I could have believed him, have been so gullible, so stupid, so naïve.

And I wrote about ‘never’. “I’ll never forgive myself.” “I’ll never forget what he did.” “I’ll never be able to get over this.” The ‘nevers’ went on and on to the point I thought they’d never end.

My journal did not disappoint me. I had to face the truth. If I held myself to ‘never’ I would not heal. And I wanted to heal. I wanted to reclaim myself. To rebuild my life and to reconnect with my daughters.

In facing never on the page, I asked myself, “Is this true? Will I never be able to forgive myself for what I did to my daughters’ lives? Will I never feel joy again?”

And then I asked. “Is this what I want in my life?”

My answer was an emphatic “No.”

What I want could only be found through forgiveness

What I wanted was to live without fear. I wanted to live with love in my heart. And most of all, I wanted to reconnect with my daughters. During the final three months of that journey I had disappeared without a word and they had waited for a call from the police telling them that I had been found – dead or alive. They feared the worst.

When he was arrested, my daughters were thankful that I was alive. They were also justifiably angry. At 15 and 17, they did not deserve that terror.

I could not change what I had done. All I could do was ask for their forgiveness.

Forgiveness is healing

Forgiveness is a powerful tool for healing. To receive forgiveness, I had to be able to give it, without qualification or reservation. That meant, I had to be able to forgive the abuser. And, I had to forgive myself.

When I forgave him, I didn’t say, ‘you are not accountable.’ I didn’t forgive him to let him know I forgave him.  I forgave him so that I would not have to hold onto anger, blame, shame or guilt. I forgave him so that I could be free of him.

Forgiving him wasn’t ‘easy’ but it was straight-forward. I have never spoken to him again since his arrest. To forgive him I continually repeated the words to myself and accepted them as truth. “I forgive you.” When the little voice inside me rose up and said, “But…” I reminded it that I had forgiven him and could not harbour resentments, questions or doubts. It was the only way to stop thinking of him.

Forgiving myself was more difficult. I wanted to hold myself pinioned to the sword of self-blame. I wanted to chastise myself. Berate myself. Condemn myself for having been a fool, for having hurt my daughters so much. But, to do so would have meant I did not believe myself worthy of my daughters’ forgiveness. By telling myself I would never forgive myself, yet asking them to forgive me, I was withholding from myself the very thing I wanted to receive.

I forgave myself so that I could be free

And so, I forgave myself. I didn’t qualify my forgiveness. I didn’t define it or limit it to specific events. I simply forgave myself.

I cannot give what I do not have. I cannot receive what I am not willing to give. To receive forgiveness, I must be willing to ask for it, and to give it.

I cannot change the past. I can forgive it.

And so I did. And so it is.

 

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#fbf – Flashback Friday — I wrote the original version of this post in February 2006, almost 3 years after he was arrested.

 


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Forgiveness is the bridge to love

Twelve years ago, when I was released from a relationship that almost killed me by the police walking in and arresting the abuser, one of the greatest challenges I faced was to forgive myself.

“You have nothing to forgive yourself for,” well-meaning people would tell me. “He was a psychopath. He abused you.”

That wasn’t the point. No matter how cruel, abusive, or deceitful he was, I did things that hurt the people who love me most. To accept their forgiveness, (which I desperately wanted) I needed to believe I was worthy of their forgiveness by forgiving myself.

It took a lot of work. Commitment. Loving honesty, (not to mention therapy) to get to a point where I could look in the mirror and not see that mother who deserted her children. Not see that woman who did not love herself enough to believe she was worth more than his abuse.

It took a lot of belief in the power of forgiveness to not whisper back to myself every time I looked in the mirror, “Shame on you.”

In her blog today, my eldest daughter Alexis writes, after spending the last five days here at home:

“No matter how far or fast or long we run, our pasts remain the same.

And though I wanted for my visit to Calgary over the past five days to be different, I still carry the weight of a girl that used her pain as a weapon to drive the love of her family away. I am still condemning her for a past she cannot change.

When we don’t make peace with our mistakes, we recreate them over and over and over again. Though I left home in my rearview mirror, I am afraid of its shadow.”

If we do not hold our hearts in the light of forgiveness, shadows lengthen and block out love’s presence.

 

Throughout her life, I wanted nothing more than for my daughter to know that there was nothing she could do that would make me stop loving her. There was nothing she could say that would close my heart to her forever more.

I wanted her to see what I see when I look at her. But she could not see through my eyes. All she could see was the road to the past and the little girl who never felt like she was enough, who felt abandoned, who felt unworthy of love, and in many ways, unworthy of life.

There was a time when I carried my shame like a badge, even though I told myself I wanted, needed, had to, let it go.

I remember in those first days of freedom after that relationship ended, feeling like if I let go of my pain and shame, I would be saying, what I did to those I loved didn’t matter. I thought I would be making small of all the pain and harm I’d caused.

Fact is, those who love us want only the best for us but we can’t know that when we are holding ourselves in unforgiveness by holding onto our past.

While I can look at my daughter and tell her she does not need to forgive herself, she did not know any better at the time how to handle her pain, fact is, she is smarter than me. She knows what she needs to be free to love with all her heart.

When shame blocks the access to feeling your heart calling you home, letting the shame go is the only way to open the door.

Because no matter how far we run, Love is the shortest distance between two hearts. And forgiveness is the bridge.

 

 

 


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Is there truth in dishonesty?

In answer to the question, “How many times should you forgive someone?” Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm replied, “Always one more time.”

I enjoy RSA Animate discussions. Supported by caricature-like sketches, speakers present complex issues in simple and understandable ways.

This morning, I watched a fascinating presentation by Dan Ariely from November 2012, “The truth about dishonesty”.  Towards the end of the presentation he gives 3 rationalizations why confession, as practiced in the Catholic church, might work.

One, the thought of having to confess acts as a deterrent. As in, I think about robbing a bank but then I’ll feel icky about myself and even worse, I’ll  have to go tell the priest what I did and he’ll think badly of me.

Two, after confession you feel good about yourself and want to hold onto that feeling for a little while longer.

Three, confession allows for a new page to be turned. When we’ve behaved badly, and we all have the capacity to behave badly under the right circumstances says Ariely, confession allows us to wipe the slate clean and begin again. This is particularly true for those who have forgotten they ahve the capacity to do good and adopted the ‘what the hell’ theory of living — I may as well be bad as I’m going to hell anyway. Through confession they are able to ask for forgiveness, make amends and move forward believing once again in their natural goodness.

But what if you’re not the one who did a ‘bad’ thing. What if you’re the one to whom badness happened? What have you got to confess?

Perhaps in those instances it is not confession that creates the space for moving forward but forgiveness.

Holding onto unforgiveness is sticky business. It keeps us swimming in the sea of unease, constantly fighting the current of our natural goodness.

Unforgiveness keeps pain alive.

Forgiveness is like confession. It clears the soul and makes room for our natural goodness to shine.

Beyond forgiving one more time is the space where thoughts of forgiveness no longer arise because in the space where our natural goodness shines, there is no longer any need to forgive.