Maybe forgiveness didn't 'take' the first time

Last year my header contained a quote attributed to Malachy McCourt: Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other guy to die.

It’s a great quote, great sentiment, and I shared a little of my experience with real, spirit-shredding resentment, too.

I have actually been struggling with resentment, recently, for the first time in my life, and I can attest to the poison-power of it.

The mild aggravation and eye-rolling impatience I have for Mrs. Clinton are nothing like the feelings and fantasies that are attached to the object of my resentment. Not even close. I do not lie awake at night simmering about her. I do not have fantasies of meeting Mrs. Clinton and landing her a facer. I have never considered calling a rather intimidating (with good reason) relation and asking him to go knock on her door and introduce himself and his little friend.

Over the course of the last few months, waiting for some resolution of this situation, I have found myself doing all of those things I described above. I’ve been losing sleep, grinding my teeth, imagining violence – those face planters, that call to my distant cousin – and simply simmering and festering and yes, poisoning myself as I seethed. And the poison was affecting my physical body; at one point, I got shingles.

This year we had a very happy (and fair and just) resolution to this issue; my family-member’s name and reputation was restored -as much as any name and reputation may be restored once a lie has been spread.

And that is the problem, of course; once a reputation has been besmirched with a lie, there will always be that residual stink, like something carried in on a shoe, that dulls all the rich colors and makes us flinch with remembered pain. There will always be the person here or there who will stick to believing the lie, because they like the lie, or because they like scandal. Or, simply, because they are people with a deficiency within themselves, who fill their aching void with malevolence and spite.

I had an encounter today with onesuch. A fellow who preferred the lie, and wanted to continue to serve it, over the truth. And that encounter ignited such a fury within me that I realized it is sometimes a very good thing that I do not have handy weapons on my person.

It is a very good thing that I am not a male, standing 6’4″ and with some muscle behind me, or I have no doubt, this person would be in an emergency room, right now, and I would be under arrest.

I felt teeth-baring fury; if I were a dog, this bastard would no longer have an arm.

To paraphrase Edward G. Robinson: How do you like yer gentle anchoress, now, eh?

I always told you I am no saint.

But…I had also told you (and I had truly thought) that I had managed forgiveness, and put away resentment.

Maybe forgiveness doesn’t always ‘take’ the first time. Maybe once we have given in to the poison and power of resentment, allowed it to seep into our sinews and viscera, forgiveness has to be administered like a therapeutic treatment “reapply as needed.”

Today, I need to find a way to purge some more of that poison, because it is -I now realize- still inside me, and still capable of wrecking havoc. It is like a little pilot-light of rage, combustible only with certain gas-leaks, but then baby go boom; don’t mess with my family.

I can do something outwardly, like consider a civil suit charging slander. Could probably win that, but then my little pilot-light would be kept alive for the years and years such a suit would take, and I don’t have the energy for that. I want it tamped out, and the water of life mixed in with the ashes, so that no more fires may burn.

So, inward I go. This thing won’t be cast out without prayer and fasting. Lots of it.

Whoever said Christianity is for wimps and that belief is a “crutch” has no flipping idea what they’re talking about. The life of faith, lived seriously, takes courage because it requires this painful, necessary introspection. And it is meant to achieve not a victory…but a surrender.

I love the life of faith. I love baseball. Sometimes, I hate them both because of how much I love them.

Yes, that’s a joke. Sort of.

We are engaged in great battles in the larger world of politics and society. We are engaged in the smaller battles with acquaintances, family and (sometimes) friends. But the most harrowing battles we must fight, and fight again, and again, are the ones we fight within ourselves.

If you are inclined to prayer, a few whispered up for me and my family -and especially for my roiling spirit, just now- would be much appreciated. Thanks.

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About Elizabeth Scalia