This past week I was reading a great book, one of those books that people’s reviews on Amazon say, “this book changed my life.” It is The Traveler’s Gift.
When I got to the part where Abraham Lincoln is telling David that he is “at a critical point in your life’s race, and there exists a person to whom your forgiveness has been withheld for too long,” I felt the tears coming down my cheeks. I knew what was coming, where on the next page he says – “yourself. Don’t you be mad at you. Forgive yourself. Begin anew.”
You see, it brought back memories of years ago sitting in the office of a Christian counselor, and the counselor saying that it was time for me to forgive myself, of many things in the past that I felt guilt or shame for, many of them not my fault at all. Well, my reaction was to wonder what kind of trick this might be. After all, it is only God who has the power to forgive, right? And I had asked Him long ago to forgive me, so it was already done, right? After a long pause, I agreed to say out loud that I was forgiving myself of these things in my past. But at that moment, there were several flashes of lightning and thunder, and the bursts of winds banged and rattled the shutters on the windows. I couldn’t help but think that maybe I shouldn’t be in the process of forgiving myself.
For years I hadn’t given it much more thought, but after reading Lincoln’s description of one of life’s important decisions as he shares it with David, an insight shone a light within me. You see, I have believed for a long time that to really be able to love someone else, you have to first love yourself. Of course, I am not talking about the self-centeredness of the “me” generation, but a sincere love that includes some of the key ingredients of our love for others.
I recognized that we can forgive others, even when we don’t forgive ourselves, and that is what Lincoln was saying in the book. But I also recognized that we can’t love others to the fullest extent possible, until we love ourselves completely. And that isn’t really feasible until we have forgiven ourselves.
My first or second week working in Spain, a Spanish engineer came up to me and asked if I was really intent on learning the Spanish language. I said, yes indeed, that was one of my goals in coming to Spain. Then he asked me if I knew what the word “mañana” meant. I said, yes, of course, it means “tomorrow.” He replied, “no, no, mañana means not today – it may be tomorrow, it may be the next day, but it is not today.” Andy Stanley recognized our tendency towards mañana in his book The Principle of the Path, when he said that “The prudent act as if then is now, as if the future is the present. The simple (foolish, unwise) respond as if tomorrow will always be tomorrow.” (As if tomorrow is not today, is never today.) The Traveler’s Gift touched on this as well when Columbus shares with David, “What I put off until tomorrow, I will put off until the next day as well.”
So, I make a decision, I take action, I go through the process of forgiving myself for things in the past, and I look forward to the future. I concentrate not only on not trusting my deceitful heart, but also on determining to have a decided heart.
Many people describe the two books above as life-changing, some of them well known personalities at that. But those books don’t change any lives. They provide principles and wisdom, that if applied, can change a life and make a positive difference. Will you choose to, will you decide to, will you forgive yourself? Forgive others? Will you decide to read one or both of these books? Will you do it today? – mañana never gets here.