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Healing Deep Old Wounds

2018-03-29T10:13:19+00:00

Since today is April 1, it crossed my mind to invent an elaborate scheme, a story to fool you. Yet because it’s also Easter, that seemed a bit irreverent. It’s pretty rare that the two holidays fall together.

Today is a day of fools and jokes, but it’s also a day of resurrection and renewal. So I’ll start with some Easter groaners and end with resurrection:

How do you know the Easter Bunny is really smart?
Because he’s an egghead.

Where does the Easter Bunny get his eggs?
From eggplants.

What happened to the Easter Bunny when he misbehaved at school?
He was egg-spelled!

Did you hear about the lady whose house was infested with Easter eggs?
She had to call an eggs-terminator!

What day does an Easter egg hate the most?
Fry-days.

How do bunnies stay healthy?
Egg-sercise.

What do you call a mischievous egg?
A practical yolker.

OK, enough Easter jokes.

Pranks on April First

As a kid I used to love April Fools’ Day. We used to get up early in the morning to trick the rest of the family — things like putting food dye inside the water faucets or plastic buckets of confetti over the doors. I have fond memories. I also loved Easter. I had a bright red sportcoat, and under it I’d wear my James Bond hidden holster (toy gun, of course). We would go to church with family, then gather at one of our grandparents’ homes with cousins. It was a blast.

To this day, even though the kids are 16, we’ll still hide Easter eggs and they’ll have a blast hunting for them. They still love these traditions.

Challenging Holidays

Easter for many of us is a time when we’re together with friends and family, and, like Christmas or other family gatherings, there can sometimes be difficult moments or unresolved pain. Sometimes people hurt us so badly that we find time does not heal all wounds after all. Instead we cling to our stories, and never cut anyone a break for doing stupid things, being human, or making bad choices. So those hurts get carried from holiday to holiday, amplified, rarely healed, and sometimes we cheat ourselves out of those family moments because we don’t want to face those we believe hurt us. It’s called avoidance, and most of us have done it from time to time. I know I have.

A Lesson Finally Sank In

Sometimes it takes me decades to learn important lessons. Maybe I heard them and refused to listen, maybe I didn’t want to hear them or wasn’t ready, but this one finally sank in. Forgiveness isn’t about others. It’s about us.

When I Got Bullied

When I was in the 6th grade, I was severely bullied by a rotten kid I grew up around. I’m not sure why I was his target, but he did everything possible to annoy me and get me in trouble, and, because he often sat behind me, I got lots of things thrown at me. It got old, but I was not strong enough or did not have the courage to fight back. So I took it, got laughed at a lot, was often embarrassed, and could not wait till I got away from him. But he was behind me in 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. It was four years of difficulty. I worried so much about it that I got ulcers. He would make such horrible threats, and, still having a young, immature brain, I believed him. Some days I pretended to be sick just to avoid school.

The Weight of Hate

I hate to admit it because I’m not a hate-filled guy, but I carried hatred for this kid well into my adult years. It ate away at me from time to time even as an adult. Seems silly now, yet we all tend to carry old stuff.

I had heard sermons about forgiveness, but this kid had hurt me so badly, had angered me and frightened me so much, that I could not let go of that anger, and it kept building inside.

Wisdom of Friends

Then one day it came up in a discussion with a friend, and he said two things that really hit home. First he said, “This kid bullied you for four years, and you are still giving him power over you for something that is only a fraction of your life. Don’t give him any more power. Let go.”

Look for the Motivation

Then he said, “When you look back on this as an adult, why do you think he did this?”

I thought about it and it came to me that maybe he was hurting, maybe he was being bullied, maybe his parents were abusive, maybe he was jealous of my happy family — or maybe he was just a rotten kid, but that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him.

Self-Destruction

My friend told me I needed to stop being angry because anger eats away at you, actually changes your physiology, and by not forgiving that kid, I was hurting myself. I wasn’t forgiving him because I didn’t want to let go of my anger. I rarely thought of him, but I steamed every time that I did. And on Sundays, each time the preacher would ask “Is there someone you have not forgiven for something they did to you?” that kid’s name would come to mind.

When I forgave him, I felt a new peace, and healing of an old wound.

Caring Too Deeply?

I know a lot of us hold on to anger because we think we had bad parents who should have done things differently. Yet I guarantee you that most of those “bad” parents cared very deeply. The problem is they cared so deeply, they may have pushed too hard to protect you from the bad things they knew about that you had not discovered. Chances are they wanted better for you.

Good Intentions?

Most parents have good intentions, but maybe they had no role models, no examples of how to do it right. Maybe they didn’t have the benefit of education or understanding. Whatever it was, unless they were actively abusive, they probably meant well. Even those who do horrific things may have been passing it on because of horrific role models. Though it’s not an excuse, it helps us understand why.

Parenting is hard, and even if we try to give our kids an ideal life, chances are there will be something that bugs them. Someone got more attention, someone got a better Christmas gift. We have to understand that most parents do the best they know how.

And even if you had relatives or others who did terrible things to you, you can forgive them — and still write them out of your life. Remember, forgiveness is about YOUR inner peace.

Sometimes I’m Burning Mad

I don’t get mad very often, but sometimes someone really wrongs me and it really hurts me and makes me mad — hurt usually becomes anger. Things like finding people were sharing your darkest secrets behind your back, people gossiping, people lying, people ranting on social media about you when they’ve never even met you. I get so angry that I want to stay mad, but that’s only giving them power and hurting me.

Who comes to mind at this moment that you don’t want to forgive?

Who hurt you in some way that makes you just want to scream?

There is new life in letting go, in forgiveness.

If you were in a 12-step program like AA, they would tell you to call or meet and ask for forgiveness. I agree that can be the best step, and very cathartic. Yet you just need to close your eyes and forgive. Truly let go.

Though it can be helpful to try and understand why, it ultimately doesn’t matter. Some things cannot be explained. You just need to stop letting your past hold power over you and trigger anger in your heart. And you don’t have to visit or call the person who hurt you, especially if it doesn’t feel safe. You are doing this for yourself.

Personal Resurrection

Today is celebrated because Christians believe that three days after his death, as predicted, Christ rose from the grave, proving that he had died for their sins.

Whether that appeals to you or not, there is personal resurrection, a change in your heart, when you let go of hurt and anger and forgive those you believe hurt you.

I Had No Idea

By the way, the person you are angry at might not even know. A few weeks ago an artist friend called me and told me I had said something that hurt him and made him feel bullied. I had no idea. Yet he had hung on to it for a year or more without saying anything because he did not want to make a big deal about it. Though I don’t know if he has forgiven me, I did ask for his forgiveness, and I think we healed our wounds. I cannot control anyone else and what they think, I can only create forgiveness in my own heart.

Anyone in Mind?

If anyone comes to mind who has angered you, who has wronged you knowingly or not, who has not always been the person you wanted them to be, you’ll never fully heal that wound until you forgive.

What if we all use today to heal, to ask forgiveness, to resurrect our families and our relationships, to reach out and, if nothing more, just let them know they are loved. Maybe then we can be silly fools together again like old times.

There is no need to bring up old stuff. Just go into a quiet space, close your eyes and think about where forgiveness is needed, and grant it. You’ll be doing something big for yourself, so that healing can occur.

 

Eric Rhoads

37 Comments

  1. Ken Trulock April 1, 2018 at 5:01 am - Reply

    I am 54 years old and I lost a lot of my adult life to anger. Reading your confessions and account of forgiveness it brought back sharp pains of memory. I was bullied by two kids in middle school and high school. I tried to appease and felt ashamed. I told myself even at that age I should have been stronger, fought back. I hated myself for being afraid and I hated them for hurting me for no reason. Well into my adult life I thought about them daily. Then came Facebook. I found out that one was dead – killed in a motorcycle accident and I hated myself again for being happy. The other had become a counselor of all things and I don’t know if he thinks about those times or not. But it was clear he had his own life and struggles and that he was not the golem of hate he had become in my mind. I took the first step in many to letting it go. I no longer think about them daily. Perhaps one day I’ll be brave enough to take the ultimate step of seeking him out and just talking. Not yet, though. But I have let it go. I’m sorry you had to go through this. Im sorry anyone ever has to go through this. But thank you for sharing it.

  2. Rosemarie April 1, 2018 at 5:20 am - Reply

    Thank you for those thoughts, Eric. I am sure they helped some one else out besides myself.

  3. D H Kingsley April 1, 2018 at 6:11 am - Reply

    Nice – thanks for sharing.

  4. Susan Astleford April 1, 2018 at 6:51 am - Reply

    Powerful, Eric — thanks for sharing this, and thanks to God for healing our so easily wounded spirits.
    .

  5. Laurie April 1, 2018 at 7:01 am - Reply

    Thank you, this is a valuable message and i now have new insights towards my family..

  6. Janet Harlow April 1, 2018 at 7:11 am - Reply

    Thank you so much. I am trying to deal with some anger and hate that has built up over years. It is directed at people that don’t even know me but I hate on them for what they are doing and saying. Real people are and will be hurt and frustration attacks me at every turn. But since hate is poison to me and me only in this act of hate, I’m trying to administer the anti toxin of forgiveness. Let myself out of the prison I locked myself in. Forgiveness will spring me!!! It is hard. But I believe in God and asked for help and as I walk this journey many articles and pieces of wisdom and encouragement are coming at me from everywhere. Including you, Eric. Thanks for your insight and honesty. God bless you and your family.

  7. Carolyn Henderson April 1, 2018 at 7:17 am - Reply

    May our Lord richly bless you eric and the work of your hands.

  8. Julie Spahr April 1, 2018 at 7:37 am - Reply

    Hi Eric,
    Your sunday Coffee emails have meant so much to me, and yet I haven’t taken the time to let you know. What a gift that you take the time to do this for us each Sunday.
    Today was especially on target, and reminds me to keep forgiving those same people, because the hurt doesn’t go away all at once. I also know that need to forward more of these to some friends, and will do so now.

    I was with you at the Fall Paint Out in October, and am on my way to Santa Fe for the Convention.
    So excited to connect again and breath in all the positive art talk and marketing mojo…that is my weakness!!

    See you soon, Julie Spahr

  9. Sharon Crute April 1, 2018 at 8:36 am - Reply

    My childhood was traumatic with both emotional and physical abuse. When I was well into adulthood I knew I had to release the anger and resentment I held toward my parents and I finally found a way to forgive them. Not for their sake but for my own so that I could embrace the freedom to do the work I was put on this earth to do. If anyone else is suffering like this, my advice is to re-read this post and find a way to liberate yourself with forgiveness. It works.
    Thank you for sharing your own pain, Eric, and the kind words words of inspiration on this Easter day.

  10. Sally LaBore April 1, 2018 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Good Morning Eric,
    Your Sunday Coffee articles are wonderful. This morning was especially good. I often share them with family and friends. I was in nursing for 50 years and do understand the suffering people inflict upon themselves.
    Thank You,
    Sally

  11. Dora evatt April 1, 2018 at 9:08 am - Reply

    Thanks Eric, your right forgiveness is one of the hardest thing to do. I am 65 years old and I have chosen to feel sorry for the person who stole and abused my innocence. I believe strongly in God , I still have nightmares from time to time and sometimes a smell an object or a phrase I hear, takes me back to a place in time where as a child I felt powerless. But I don’t give them any more power over me. When I get reminder I leave it to God to hold me even closer as the memories pass . Thanks for sharing i look forward to reading your articles.

  12. Kathleen Alley April 1, 2018 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Dear God:

    Help me, Help me, Help me
    And, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
    Amen.

    And thank you, too, Eric.

  13. Dennis Pokres April 1, 2018 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Hi Eric. I was bullied in high school too. This one kid was 1 year older than me & always made fun of me because I was shorter than him & a little overweight & I have curly hair. He would see me in the hall & wanted to start a fight. I never was a fighter & did not give in to him. He called me chicken & made a fist & said he was going to knock my teeth out. Then the Anti-Semitic remarks started. One day the vice principal heard him & told him if he starts with me, he would be expelled & not be allowed to graduate from our school. This goes back to 1966. The bully turned red in the face Never bothered me again. The vice principal told me if he bothers me again to let him know. That made my day. I never saw this bully since he graduated.

  14. Barbara Davis April 1, 2018 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Thank you, Eric, for this great message. Happy Easter to you & your family!

  15. Debbe Balboa April 1, 2018 at 9:52 am - Reply

    Lovely reminder of how we are should live our lives. Thank you.

  16. Niven A. Nolte April 1, 2018 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Thank you.

  17. Steve Koch April 1, 2018 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Seriously…no joking…its nice to hear that someone had a memorable childhood.

    Nice chat about forgiveness…
    I think our cultural rhetoric regarding this, as good as forgiveness is… and can bring peace,
    It should come w a balance of accountability..
    Because there are truly some nasty individuals that need a good “come to Jesus” meeting..

  18. Tom Nielsen April 1, 2018 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Eric, Thank you for your beautiful Sunday email. As a believer, I was so glad to read such a well written message that hopefully will touch many hurting hearts who do not truly know the meaning of Easter and God’s beautiful message of forgiveness. May God bless you and your family! Tom Nielsen

  19. Russ April 1, 2018 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Nice article Eric. Your “bullying” experience mirrored mine and at the ripe old age of 78 I have yet to forgive. If I saw him today I’d want to take a swing at his nose. I’ll work on it…

  20. Celeste M Mycoskie April 1, 2018 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Thank Eric, i needed that today on a few counts. Easter is a time of renewal, spring, going forward and forgiveness, for they know not what they did. Whether the hurt was intentional, i have to forgive and move on. Love Sunday Coffee. Keep up the good work you are doing. The “art world” needs you!

  21. Carol Anderson April 1, 2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Thanks Eric, we all need a reminder to let things GO! The sad part is that it takes us SO long to realize others won’t change, no matter how much you give or try to please.

    It took many years to realize I was being used as a punching bag and that I had to let go of the only family I have. I was always forgiving and turning the other cheek. The perpetrators are still nowhere near letting go and nothing will ever be resolved until they overcome their own demons. Funny, they would never want to know why I left, but every visit felt like death by a thousand cuts to me.

    I’ve learned that those who perceive hurt are sometimes covering for their own guilt, which they will continue to be haunted by until they confess to their own shortcomings. But they refuse to look at themselves as having a problem.

    I have moved on and even feel sorry for them now. I know I am without guilt and free of the burdens others placed on me to meet their own needs.

  22. Mary Montague April 1, 2018 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Thank you. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been hurt by another at some point. If they say they haven’t, they probably aren’t being honest.

  23. Cindy Alexander April 1, 2018 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful Easter message. Thank you for this reminder.

  24. Christopher Carradine April 1, 2018 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    Reminds me of two situations that involved bullying. The first was when our youngest was attending 9th grade. There was a brace of bullies who were entitled because their fathers were major money contributors to after school sports. So despite outright pornographic taunts, much of it homophobic, my son could gain no relief. A meeting with the principal produced no results so my son just had to endure. Not the least was their vandalism, our son being a classical music student gave them cheap shots at his trumpet or his sheet music. The school year ended with no seeming resolution and we braced for 10th grade. However, our son had a summer growth spurt and had risen to 6’-2”, While the bullies, not as genetically endowed, remained now at least a foot shorter. Sure enough the first day back at school found the punks again after our son. That was when our son pointed out his size vs theirs, and added he would hit them with his trumpet case if they didn’t leave him alone. That succeeded. There was no issue of hatred or unresolved anger, he just shut them off and wasn’t bothered again. At length the most unpleasant of the bullies ran out of associates, and approached asking to be friends. Simple answer was “no” and you might have thought of that when you were hurling pornographic insults at me. He was never bothered again.

  25. Christopher Carradine April 1, 2018 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    But bullying is not exclusive to school age playgrounds. I can imagine many of our fellow artists could relate to the story I’ll tell now.

    I was bullied for three decades in my corporate career. It took a unique form. I was commited to my company and shareholder value but I also was a prolific designer and idea man always seeking to enhance the brand. One of my colleagues was bereft of creativity but an exceedingly wily corporate politician. I had not guarded against his tactics until it was too late. My ideas would find their way to senior management, but only after he’d paid me a friendly social visit. He would pick my brain and almost immediately secure a private meeting where he’d not only tell my ideas but take full credit.

    I was naive in the corporate arena, foolishly thinking my creativity would get a fair airing. I was almost rescued when a counterpart colleague closed my office door and said I needed to stop giving my ideas to so-and-so, he was getting promoted past both of us on the strength of our ideas. That could have ended it, he had the clout of veracity, but he was tragically killed riding his bicycle near home.

    So the politicking eventually saw him promoted above me, while I was a major department head, he had the overall creative management of a 1 billion dollar project and my staff had to provide essential services, so I had to “get along”.

    With a family and the wild fluctuations of capital available for private projects, I joined my company and focused on three things, in order:

    1.. keep job

    2.. do art

    3.. make the world a better place.

    But the game continued without a let up. I was trapped because his stolen creativity had advanced his career to the point that any appeal to fairness, such as that was a concept I explained to so-and-so, would only fall on deaf ears; I’d Be accused of jealousy or worse, be tarred as someone who couldn’t be a team player. As proficient and creative as I endeavored to be, this tyrant never let up. My only release was when he was fired.. a big time political ploy backfired. I was deeply relieved to finally be rid of this scourge, when a management change installed friends who immediately hired him back, and assigned him leadership of a project I’d been developing for 6 years. So, do I harbor an abiding anger… absolutely, 28 years of unnecessary corporate bully politicking took a heavy toll. I imagine I could at some point relieve my self and offer forgiveness, but that would require so-and-so to both recognize his damage and accept forgiveness. In the end, it might be best if he forgive himself but that is not his style. I am not sure he even recognizes how much damage he inflicted, but as it became his habit, I had only two option: resign and return to dog eat dog private practice, a stick with it, doing everything I could to stay employed and ran my pension.

    I guess I’ll have to think more deeply, but at this writing it’s not going to happen, I’m actually not consumed by hate, only a bit scarred and tarnished by corporate politics. And to tell the truth, the tolerance of politics over substance cost the shareholders billions in value.

    I am sure there are many more such stories, the corporate world, amongst its many sins, is not easily traversed. There is always jockeying for limited promotional opportunity, and with rare exception those positions are usually filled by clever politicians. The other process governing corporate politics is gaining access to limited investment resources. Finally, the bully politicians rarely understand shareholder equity; this is far down on their agendas. In the final observation, I allowed the bullying, but only to keep my job and earn my pension. And wouldn’t you guess? The same delightful fellow several times over the years “confided” he had insider info that I was about to be let go, or he’d advise me to resign and rely on consulting contracts he’d supply. Yeah.

    I stuck it out, earned my pension, but the bitterness lingers.

    • Carol Anderson April 1, 2018 at 5:44 pm - Reply

      Chris, this reminds me of my own work experience, being politically thrown aside at 58, but I will pass along a way to overcome your lingering bitterness. Please take this with the kind and caring attitude it’s given.

      1. You have your health (presumably)
      2. You have your art
      3. You have your pension
      4. You have the rest of your life ahead of you, so…
      5. Have Gratitude! (it works)

  26. Jana April 1, 2018 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the wisdom about forgiveness, dispelling the common (and often wrong) idea that to forgive is to make yourself vulnerable to the offender and let him back into your life. It simply means I stop drinking poison and hoping my enemy dies; I just let go of the need for revenge.

    Great words of truth, presented in an easy-to-digest way. Happy Easter!

  27. Richard Lindamood April 1, 2018 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Thanks for a great article on a great day. As a Methodist pastor I appreciate your candid disclosure of struggling to forgive someone who hurt you deeply. Your advice was right on. Your insight on the personal effects of forgiveness / un- forgiveness reflects wisdom that would benefit all of us who struggle to forgive others. Thanks for sharing this deeply personal story. God bless!
    Pastor Rick Lindamood

  28. Christopher Carradine April 1, 2018 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Thank you Carol. I have all five plus Carolyn and my treasured son Henry. I related the story since I’m guessing many of us have similar histories.

    I was actually only intending to call attention to the bullying of adults in the workplace, not “hostile workplace” not sexual harassment or the other gentrified new speak misbehavior.

    But adults in really big Dow30 companies behaving like high school bullies, still getting away with it and being rewarded is a serious and systemic problem. So in my circumstance I can entertain forgiveness for my own health but 28 years is a bit difficult to overlook.

    But Eric is absolutely correct, so I’ve something to occupy my fetid mind driving to Santa Fe in two
    weeks.

  29. Monica Wood April 1, 2018 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Beautifully written, Eric. Thank you for sharing. God bless you this Easter day. He is risen; He is risen indeed!
    See you in Santa Fe!

  30. Don Ryan April 1, 2018 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    What an awesome surprise to read this, when I thought I was going to read an advertisement to buy one of the magazines.

    I had also been bullied in school and although going on to the military and extra training, I still could feel that fear years later. But becoming a believer the Spirit opened my heart to forgive, because I was fist forgiven. Thanks Eric

  31. Frances Pampeyan April 1, 2018 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Thanks Eric for your honesty and good advice. I had a wonderful Resurrection Sunday today. Christ is risen!! I always enjoy these Sunday morning letters, and also people’s comments.

  32. James Payne April 2, 2018 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    As i read this, my mind went back to the 6th grade where i was bullied by a guy who was in a wheel chair. He did everything to me that would hurt me but everyone else thought it was funny. and of course, him being in that chair always made him the innocent one. Like you, I carried this hurt with me for several years.
    After reading your post, it has made me have “forgiveness” on my mind.
    Thanks so much for what you wright.
    James P.

  33. Liana C. April 3, 2018 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Anger is it’s own prison. With it comes resentment, aggression and vengeance. Yes, letting it go and moving on is a form of forgiveness. In the past, I have tried numbing myself to situations where I have found myself bullied or dismissed. But this is like building walls against feeling the pain. With the years I have realized that people who seek to hurt others generally are suffering themselves. It does not excuse the behavior but it does allow me to see the situation with more compassion. Bullies who are in power, however, must be brought down. Finding the skillful means with the least amount of ego investment is what bends the arc of history towards justice. (MlK comes to mind.)
    We live in very interesting times and it is important to remain grounded in kindness and compassion. It’s what gives me courage to also say, “No, this is cruel behavior and you have overstepped.” Letting go of anger as you so eloquently put it, is the next step towards healing.

  34. Johnyne Rees April 3, 2018 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Thank you, thank you, Eric, for taking time and for being so transparent to compose and send this very powerful message!! Lives will be changed because of you! Forgiving can be the most freeing thing a person can do (and the hardest). And God gives abundant, (yes, amazing…) GRACE to empower us to forgive, all for the asking. I bought Kenneth Salaz’s painting “Grace,” which was on the cover of Plein Air mag several years ago, because it had such an effect on me, bringing me through a hard time of bitterness for which “grace” was the only answer! Now we carry that message of grace into the black/white divide in America. See http://www.reconciliationeagles.com.

  35. Meg Leonard April 4, 2018 at 10:56 am - Reply

    Great message, Eric. Your words resonated with me as I came to the same place re. personal resurrection this Easter. Thank you for sharing.

  36. Ceci Chenault April 4, 2018 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this post! Your insight has gone to heart of what is wrong with so many people and the problems in the world today. This will be shared with my friends, family and their families.

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