My grandmother once told me that forgiveness was the greatest of gifts because it was the most difficult for us to part with. We hold it precious and grant it sparingly, she said, when all around us every day it is required as none of us are perfect and as all of us blunder.


As grueling as it is for us to acknowledge wrong doing and to muster the courage to seek forgiveness for those ill begotten deeds done unto others, it seems it is harder still for most of us to grant absolution to our offenders. I suppose it is understandable given how we so rarely forgive ourselves of our own mistakes, instead choosing to carry them about like a rotting albatross.

Forgiveness has been on my mind of late, timely given that Yom Kippur looms but a few weeks ahead. I’m not Jewish but I’ve always liked the theme of the annual process of atonement that’s the premise behind the holy day. I’ve learned much about humility these last few years and it seems the two go hand in hand.


In her book, And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road, Martha Stewart’s former Editorial Director Margaret Roach wrote, “I'd need to tell my story again and again only so that I could finally hear it…and..bear witness to myself…Moments of increasingly horrific, shaming self awareness…told me how far from alright I had become, how close to all wrong.”

It is regrettable that more often than not it takes being shoved over the edge before we recognize that we’ve veered off track. I’ve met a few cliff dwellers in my day, those in continual abreaction, refusing to fall but hesitant to pull themselves back up over the precipice. They figure they’re in the safe zone. Trudging the road of life is bound to result in more failures landing them right back in a freefall. May as well stay put and enjoy the view.


The boxers among us, however, disagree. They are convinced that we must live in spite of ourselves, lest we turn to stone. Get up and keep up a good fight. Life’s nothing but the street-smart school of hard knocks and that the facing up to ourselves is inevitable, avoidance moot. May as well muscle through the thick of it before the dreaded Judgment Day while we still have the chance to make amends, learn from our errors and go on to live productive happy lives.

If only we weren’t so quick to condemn ourselves, throwing the baby out with the bath water time and time again. Because as I see it, it really isn’t whether we win or lose, so to speak, it’s how we play the game. There are those who refuse to engage, those who are never seen from again, having been dragged down by guilt and shame and self pity and every other self annihilating emotion we humans can conjure. The self loathing behind the guilt we feel at having wronged someone is a tough one to plunge through. But, plunge we do—most of us, some even learning to twist out of the freefall and perfect their swan dive in the process.


Using canyon currents to rise above the depths of misery and self induced despair, these coasters aren’t riddled or wracked by their humanness; they’ve somehow mastered it to the point that they seemly glide above the column of tight fisted trudgers and cliff clinging dwellers, soaring where no road goes, far above the forest.

Recently, I decided that I wanted a set—of wings. I wanted, too, to be free, not just from but also to. I wanted to be free from restraints, including those I imposed upon myself. I wanted to bypass the weight of penance and move right on through to absolution. I did so want to lose my albatross, to chuck it to the winds and be all that I could be, all that I was born to be.


I woke up one day, spread open the curtains to the dawn and declared myself worthy and capable. Worthy of forgiveness and capable of forgiving myself as well as others regardless of the sin. Worthy of love and capable of unbounded happiness despite my flaws and frailty. Worthy of flying weightlessly and capable of letting go and cutting loose so that I may do so.

Blinded by the new day’s light, I stretched my aura out to the horizon wanting to see beyond what I had seen before, experience more than what was defined or mapped out. I decided I wanted to be OK with myself, as well as with others--no matter what. In fact, I decided I wanted to be more than OK; I wanted to do more than cling or fight or fall. I decided that I, too, wanted to soar with the magnanimous beyond expectations and restrictions, beyond the constraints of perceptions and assumptions.


A tall order for the likes of me, but I may as well have a few aspirations to tide me over the next fifty years. Putting my 'house' in order and setting wrongs to right felt like a good place to begin. I knew I wouldn't be able to make amends with others until I did so with myself. Now, wherever I wander, I see faces in stone reminding me of my choice to aspire to ethereality. Reminding me that I am, after all, deserving of a life well lived and a soaring soul.


nan shartel Sept. 1, 2011 @ 6:20 a.m.

according to the bible we won't be forgiven unless we can forgive


nan shartel Sept. 1, 2011 @ 7:17 a.m.

atonement...i don't get it...atone for the natural order of things the rising up and falling down in the learning curve

now lets now take all criminal activities to our fellow man out of this conversation shall we...because i'm not talking about forgiveness for murder or the like

even military activities where the hands of the public at large are tied for the most part by more powerful players

but failures all kinds of failure that may or may not cause harm...especially emotional harm if that was never the intent need not be looking to atone

do we need to free ourselves from guilt...self imposed guilt..guilt is a social application tied to judgement...

"judge not lest ye be judged" the Christ said

judgement and expectation are the twin nets to catch a hasty heart in....they r the albatross

and this is an excellent blog Roody!!!

AND i figured out how to comment again...yay!!!!


Ruth Newell Sept. 1, 2011 @ 9:08 a.m.

Really? You don't? I just love the concept of atonement. Makes lots of sense to me. I dunno if I agree that guilt is socially imposed although I do acknowledge societal pressures (taboos for instance)do and have played a large role in this topic. But, I think our conscience is meant to serve a purpose. It's not for me or anyone else to dictate what that purpose should be though.

Perhaps what represents one's albatross is different from person to person. And as I understand it--from a psychological perspective, there are a host of attributes that stem from shame/guilt/self-hate. Resentment, insecurity and judgement I believe are in that stack. Expectations, that which we feel entitled to, or deserving of--what we feel we 'need' or 'want'--again, each person's journey/lessons are their own. Awareness I think is a big step to awakening but we are all human and do all experience these things, regardless of whether we want to or not. Or so it seems to me.

Glad you made it through the ciphering to comment:)


nan shartel Sept. 1, 2011 @ 10:30 a.m.

i would say the next step of reconciliation is far more positive then atonement...our consciences do have an important place in our social adjustment ...but to reconcile with the one affected by our actions is much more mature and non ritualistic then atonement...i consider it (atonement) self flagellation of a sort...i have no problem with owning up to bad actions or making reparation for it

perhaps my being a secular humanist/non religious has something to do with my thoughts on this matter

perhaps it's as u say...different words and drifts for different people...just fuzzy semantics


Ruth Newell Sept. 2, 2011 @ 4:46 p.m.

Well, by definition that's what it means...atonement means making reparations or amends for wrongs done. That's the only meaning I'm intending. Self flagellation--no different than self me.

'Cides, I welcome the making up bit.


nan shartel Sept. 2, 2011 @ 7:32 p.m.

me 2 hunnypant...dat makin' up is da bomb!!!


richzombie Dec. 18, 2011 @ 12:05 p.m.

a wow for the piece ...but another wow for the comments from you and nan ... and of course another wow for the making up bit - haha you two really do crack me up / thanks !


Ruth Newell Dec. 18, 2011 @ 1:14 p.m.

Why you are most welcome. Thank you, as well, for being WOWed.


quillpena Dec. 18, 2011 @ 4:40 p.m.

I've done a lot of bad things in my life, but I've done a lot of good things too. I'll never not feel guilt for the bad, nor shall I ever feel I did enough good. If an afterlife awaits us, I only hope when I'm forced to review my life, that I'll be able to forgive myself and be able to allow others to forgive the things I've done. If not, what then? Self imposed hell? Will it last forever or only for an eon? Will it matter in a realm where there is no time?


Ruth Newell Dec. 18, 2011 @ 8:34 p.m.

Hi QP...which begs the question as to what does matter?


nan shartel Dec. 19, 2011 @ 12:19 a.m.

who hasn't reason for self examination Quill....we live we learn...we do better

we hope

and as long as we strive in that direction i think all can be forgiven


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