Are there people in your life whom you have not forgiven? Do you think you’d be happier if you could forgive them?
Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
Would you like to read about a simple approach to forgiveness that has worked for many, who tried it? To find real peace and joy in our lives, we need to forgive those who have hurt us. I shared this timeline in a blog many years ago and if you truly want the freedom that comes with forgiveness, this approach could help.
I got an email from a woman who said her teacher (spiritual) asked the students to bring a clear plastic sack of potatoes to class, with each potato representing someone they hadn’t forgiven in life. In class they were asked to write the name of each person they had not forgiven on each potato. Some of the bags were quite heavy.
They were asked to carry their bag with them everywhere, putting it beside their bed at night, on the car seat when driving, next to their desk at work until they could forgive the people the potatoes represented.
The woman wrote, “The hassle of lugging my bag of unforgiven people around, made it clear, what a weight I was carrying spiritually, and how I had to pay attention to it all the time to not forget, leaving it in embarrassing places.”
Is there anything yuckier than a rotten potato? You know that saying, “one rotten apple spoils the barrel”? Well give me a rotten apple any day! One rotten potato smells way worse than a garage of rotten apples. One potato would affect the whole bag, but that usually doesn’t happen because of the smell! I don’t think I could let a whole bag of potatoes rot, because the stench of one is enough of a call to action.
Naturally, the condition of the potatoes would deteriorate to a disgusting gunk if you didn’t let go and forgive. This is a great metaphor for the price we pay for holding onto our grievances toward others.
So after reading the email I thought about those in my life for whom I needed to forgive. There were two people who came to mind without any effort. I decided to think of myself and these two as if we were potatoes.
Now if I didn’t forgive the two potatoes, I myself would be rotting and I’d affect those who live in the sack with me because I wouldn’t be as loving as I could be. (Terry my potato husband is the only one in the sack with me, (ahemm) and I know he is affected by my negative feelings toward the two potatoes I haven’t forgiven or even seen in five years!)
So, I decided to cut a russet in half and put the halves on my desk with the names of the “unforgiven” on the halves. They are going to sit on my desk until I have completely forgiven them. The halves will show me what’s happening on the inside of me. They’ll also illustrate what I’m doing to the potato I love and share my life with not to mention my potato friends and family who have had to listen to the tales about these two “evil” potatoes who have “seemingly” wronged me. I also know I can’t afford to let this metaphor rot before my eyes AND nose.
Halves have been on my desk for eight days. They are very scary looking, and are starting to smell like dirty feet or dirty laundry that’s been in the hamper too long.
AHA moment! Is it the potato's fault that my office smells like dirty feet and there are gnats circling? No, the potato halves are just being what they are—rotting potato halves. If I allow them to stay on my desk, it’s my fault. Is it the people’s fault (who the potato halves represent) that I’ve been upset and angry? No, they are just being who they are.
If I allow the people the potato halves represent to pull me from my joy, it’s my fault. The rotting potato halves on my desk have done nothing to me that I need to forgive, any more than the people they represent have done anything to me that I need to forgive. There is nothing or no one to forgive, but me for having bad feelings about the potato halves and the people they represent.
In fact the potato halves that represent the people have been taking up way more energy in my mind than the people they represent. That tickles me! It shows me how silly this whole thing was in the first place and is now. Every bit of this has been in my mind! Who can I blame? ME. Who can I forgive? ME!
Potato halves become FUNNY!
The potato halves are still on my desk only because it is very interesting to observe. They are still teaching me some stuff in a very humorous albeit smelly way. Right now I am actually enjoying looking at them! They are funny!
I received this email:
Your essay on forgiveness couldn't have come at a better time. An employee of mine is having trouble forgiving the former management staff of some pretty horrible things they said and did to her. It has been over a year now and she has been feeling as though it is time to forgive and has seen how holding on to this is affecting her health. However, even with this knowledge she is having trouble letting go. Moments before the essay reached my inbox, she came to me talking about how her and her husband might be getting divorced. After reading my email, I printed the forgiveness essay for her to read. Later that night she sent a text message thanking me for sharing the article with her. She said she was beginning to see things in a different light.
I have to report the potato halves are still on my desk! They have dried up! They don’t stink and there are no longer any gnats flying around my office. I think the potato halves are in the process of petrifying! Maybe when we get our petty grievances out in the open (as I did with my essay and cutting open the potato) those grievances get a chance to just dry up! It’s when we keep things secret and pretend we’re fine that things fester and decay.
One of my readers sent me this: "Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past."— Anne Lamott
September 7, 2021:
It has been 11 years since I wrote that blog and I look back on the spiritual work I've done concerning these two people. I was freed! And I have been blessed to fully understand all the circumstances that led me to do this exercise in the first place. This exercise is as much one of letting go as it is of forgiving someone who has hurt you.
If this blog has caused you to think in a new light, read this one: http://blog.cluborganized.com/sweat-small-stuff
P.S. If happiness is one of your main goals in life, I hope you’ll purchase the The Sidetracked Sister’s Happiness File. It’s a month-by-month guide to focusing on being happy in different ways each month. There are 20 hardback books that have been put on sale, so if you'd like one, please order soon. I think they'll sell fast.