Struggling to Forgive

In her book Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott tells the story of struggling to forgive her enemy, the mother of one of her son’s classmates. Through a series of misunderstandings (and cultural differences), Anne believes that this woman is competing with Anne to be the better mom and severely judging her when Anne fails to live up to a certain standard of behavior and values. Despite her loathing for this woman, Anne feels that God is sending increasingly unsubtle signs that Anne needs to forgive her for the anger and hurt she’s caused. At one point, she feels like she is constantly having the benefits of forgiveness explained to her. “There were admonitions about the self-destructiveness of not forgiving people, and reminders that this usually doesn’t hurt other people as much as it hurts you. In fact, not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Eventually, she ends up forgiving her enemy when she realizes the destruction the lack of forgiveness is wreaking on her heart and mind and that Anne is the one who needs to stop competing with the other mom who is sincerely trying to live her best life and extend a well-intentioned (if not misunderstood) hand of friendship (Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies [New York: Anchor Books, 1999], 134).