When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.
~ unknown, used in a Harley-Davidson ad
I rather like that thought. From the perspective of “duh,” if I let someone else hold the pen, it would be a biography, not an autobiography, which, by its very nature, makes it someone else’s interpretation of my life, not my own story at all. And while having someone pen my biography might just mean I was an important person for some reason, crafting my own story is infinitely more personal and real, honest and raw than any biography could ever hope to be. It would be a first-hand account.
I’m already off on another tangent, though, because I’m thinking that quote – when writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen – has far more to do with forgiveness than I’d probably prefer. I suppose it may be my perspective. Maybe it’s because it’s that time of year – Christmas – when the world goes all soft and fuzzy. Right about now we tend to round off our hard edges and soften the focus, making it a little easier to consider forgiveness – after all, the year’s about finished and it’s time to start anew. Plus, all those tear-jerking videos of soldiers arriving home to surprise their kids and other loved ones have really caused a spike in tissue purchases (for good reason), and it seems that once we travel down the road of growing that Grinch heart two sizes larger, we’re simply in a better place to forgive our enemies, not to mention our friends and families.
(Or maybe it’s because this season makes us live a little closer to our surfaces. For God’s sake, I just watched my cousin in a video breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record (Go, Drew!) and found myself teary eyed. C’mon! It’s football! Teary eyed over football? I’m so embarrassed.)
Regardless, for me, this quote speaks less to your garden-variety forgiveness and more to the forgiveness I’ve come to know as true for me: the kind that I give to myself, not give to others. For one thing, I don’t think I can really give forgiveness to another person. I think I give it to myself by letting go of whatever prompted the need in the first place and refusing to allow anything about the situation to have any hold over me. By its very nature, it then allows the other person to accept it for himself. Somehow, it seems richer, more honest, more complete.
It certainly allows me to hold the pen when I write my story.
See, I decide the action. I decide the direction my life will take. I control my thoughts. And how that all fits into forgiveness for me is this: I can surely hold a grudge. I can allow a person or incident to forever cause a cloud to appear whenever I come face to face with some reminder. I can hold onto anger or even hate. I can clutch the shards of glass from something that was broken all my life. Or I can let it all go and allow myself the luxury of forgiveness to take it gently from my hands and scatter the shards and the clouds and the hate and the anger to the wind.
I decide if I want someone or some incident to control me or if I’d rather do it. Not much of a contest there, really, but it’s surprising how comfortable we are, sometimes, with hanging on. Letting go? It can be scary, it can be a journey toward the unknown, it can be letting go of something that is so much a part of us that we can’t imagine life without it.
But I know this. Unless I let go and choose forgiveness, I don’t get to hold the pen. Someone, something holds it and writes my story, because I don’t really have any control. My story isn’t my own. And I’m just stubborn enough to tell my story, not star in someone else’s story about me.
Wait a minute. Maybe it’s a little like the Whos in Whoville.
They woke up. What? No presents? No decorations? Did they allow that cloud of grinchiness to ruin their celebration? Did they allow the Grinch to hold the pen? Why no, they did not. And because they allowed the gift of forgiveness to keep their spirits light by letting go of what happened, the Grinch was able to do the same.
Ah, what a gift. To both.