Sometimes it takes a lot to push through resentment to find the gratitude.
I knew someone years ago who had purchased a condo to help a friend in need--a place for the friend to stay while she was trying to get back on her feet. All things were going well until the friend lost her job and stopped paying rent. Then one day, she disappeared to another state without explanation.
How betrayed he felt! How could she do that? She left him with thousands of dollars in mortgage each month, plus his own home's mortgage! No word, no apology, no help!
For several years, he tried to sell the condo. Sale after sale fell through for this reason or that. Every failed attempt to rid himself of the condo was one more reminder of the betrayal of his so-called friend, a reminder of how angry he felt at himself for trusting her, a reminder to forgive again.
One New Year's Eve at a Burning Bowl Ceremony, he wrote a letter to himself stating that for the new year, the condo would be sold! The letter was mailed to him eleven months later, and eleven months later the condo still hadn't been sold.
He had been sharing this story with me over time via email, and I could now hear the disappointment in his words. He had worked faithfully with the Seven Steps for Moving through Difficulties, a forgiveness process I had shared with him toward the beginning of this difficult, healing journey, and would return to it each time a condo sale would fall through.
When he shared with me about his letter for the year, and his yet unmet commitment to continue to forgive, I could suddenly see the message loud and strong, and I replied:
"You have worked hard this year to continue to free yourself from that condo, through all the sales that fell through, plus the forgiveness work that you have been persistent in affirming. Perhaps the condo is still part of your life, but you have freed your heart so much this year--and your free heart is something you get to take into the new year! Congratulations!
"Sometimes we forget that the Universe uses our human circumstances to do a job that we might not have done otherwise. If the condo hadn't been a reminder of your friend's betrayal all this time, how would you have paid attention to that forgiveness need? It might have been buried in your heart like a needle in a haystack--only to poke you when you least expected it!
"No wonder it's so important to look for the good in all things! It is always there. You have done a great job on fulfilling what you wrote in your letter last year! Now you're just waiting for the sale to go through. Give thanks for all things--mysterious and obvious alike!"
As is true so often in my life and career, I can't give encouragement without seeing how it applies to myself. As I composed my email, I could see the many people and circumstances that have been so challenging in my own life this past year (and some for several years!). I could see how I hoped a struggle would be over, only to have it rear its ugly head over and over and over again. I could see my persistence, but also how it looked so disappointing because things didn't change according to my ideas or timing.
Yet I could also see how the struggle is what strengthened me, slowly but surely! It loosened my grip on my desired results. It reminded me of the inner work left to do. It reminded me to forgive what needs to be forgiven, and that I wasn't finished quite yet.
Outer results are easy to see, easy to be grateful for. But to see that there's something bigger going on? That takes looking beyond results.
What in your life continues to show up and remind you to do your inner work?
Lynn Barrette, LCSW Blending psychology with spirituality, I offer tools for forgiveness, acceptance, meditation and relaxation, and positive parenting solutions.