In 2015, I had just begun a novel about guilt and forgiveness that would focus on my struggle with my mother’s death and how it impacted my work in drug abuse clinics and managed care. My starting point was a series of short stories about my mother and me, published in What I Wish I Knew: Stories and Strategies to Be Your Best at Any Age. My writing was going well
Then I read that Pope Francis had visited the September 11th Museum at World Trade Center to view a Bible, found fused to molten metal in the rubble of the Twin Towers, that was open Christ’s “turn the other cheek” message of forgiveness.
“What?” I thought. “Forgive the terrorists who killed thousands that day? No way!” I was so shocked that for months I kept quiet about what was evolving in my mind.
Over the past four years, that jolt stimulated my stories to grow into two novels:
- Love, Hate and Hope, featured on this website, focuses on two questions: “How did that Bible get there?” and “What does it mean to forgive yourself and others in an era marked by civil rights, the Vietnam War, same-sex marriage and terrorism?” My first draft is done, and I aim to polish, then publish it, later his year,
- Dangerous Medicine takes you inside the health care industry, as it spawns the opioid crisis and flounders in solving the Welllness Puzzle. It is told through the anguish of a recovering Catholic who travelled to the Holy Land to escape his adolescent guilt. Then, we experience his torment – and stabs at redemption – regarding “seven seconds of silence” just before his mother’s death and, later, his mistake that caused an addict’s death. About a third of the writing is done, and completion is scheduled by the end of 2018.
Here are three tips to forgiveness that my characters (some of whom appear in both novels) discover in their search for greater satisfaction and a life of love that takes them to the Holy Land, the Bahamas, Vietnam and Buffalo, as well as a storefront drug abuse clinic, the Buffalo Homicide squad, folk music venues, a child psychiatry clinic and the executive suite of a large managed care organization. Whether you’re at work, home or somewhere else, I think these strategies can help.
- Stop Stress Blindness
- What do you see when you’re afraid, depressed or angry at yourself or others? The good stuff or the bad stuff? When we’re stressed, most of us are blind to the good about ourselves and the world. That’s stress blindness or, “stupidvision,” as my characters begin calling it after visiting the Bahamas,
- And if you just see the bad stuff, what kind of decision will you make? A bad one!
- How do you stop stress blindness? …You guessed it, forgiveness.
- Be Assertive Forgiveness shouldn’t mean that you let people walk all over you. Before you “turn the other cheek,” lead with assertiveness, and tell the other person what you want and expect. It’s easier to let go once you’re on the record about what you need. Defend yourself if necessary. Fight to create a just world, not for revenge.
- Accept This is tricky. If your hurt is deep, you may be only able to muster five seconds or five minutes of seeing the goodness and grace of the present moment, before that anger comes roaring back. Try practicing mindfulness, or some other form of meditation, to get better at focusing your attention where you (not your stress hormones) want your attention to be.
If you use both skills, assertiveness and acceptance, you’ll take a big step towards curing the stupidvision in your life.
Try using them both of them every day in all your relationships. Keep track of how it helps your communication to improve, and how it can stop your stress, even if its just for a few minutes.
If spirituality is important to you, use awareness, assertiveness (sharing) and acceptance (listening) in your conversations with God.