A Crime of the Heart

by Mary Jane Mapes

Ed, nearly 50, put his life on hold for almost 20 years while he wasted his time, his talents, and his resources on drugs and alcohol. Six years ago he made the decision to change the course of his life by going into recovery. He hasn't had a single relapse. But his life remains miserable.

Although Ed is bright, creative and talented, he has managed to get and lose four jobs in the past five years. He cannot seem to get along. He finds others wanting in intelligence, talent, and honesty. He manages to make enemies of everyone.

No one lives up to his standards, and people are always out to do him wrong. At least, that's what he thinks. And, he's filled with hatred. He hates people for promises broken, for favors denied, and for loyalty withheld. He hates people for comments made, love not returned and gestures unreciprocated. At his best, he cannot bring himself to wish an "enemy" well, and, at his worst, he wishes for evil to befall those who, he perceives, have injured his dog, his property, or his pride.

If it was only anger he felt when things happened to him, then he could work through it. But it's more than that. It is hatred for those he thinks have somehow wronged him.

Florence is an 85-year-old woman. She hates her late husband for dying and leaving her alone. She hates her daughter for being unwilling to take her into her home now that she can no longer live alone. She hates the fact that she has little money and must depend on others for her financial survival. But she totally forgets that when she was much younger she spent money freely, never considering that the time might come when she might need some investments. With malice in her heart, she is now living out the end of her life in misery, separated from the one child that has given her years of love, even when she least deserved it.

Ed and Florence have much in common. Both are filled with hatred toward people.

Hate is such an evil thing. It sits in darkness, snarling like a caged beast. It twists the mind and scars the soul, and leaves the hater feeling depleted and torn apart. It saps energy and life. It can be deadly if allowed to run unabated. And the only answer is--forgiveness. Because Florence and Ed seem unable to forgive people for being all too human, they themselves suffer. Because they are unable to see people who they perceived have wronged them, as separate from their behavior, they suffer. Because they are unable to see others as the needy, hurting, fearful people that they are, Florence and Ed suffer. And they will continue to suffer until they can find it in their hearts to forgive. The moment that they do, peace within will be restored. Energy will return. And life will go on.

Giving the gift of forgiveness is a choice. It is a choice that brings healing to both--namely to the forgiver, and to the forgiven.

Used by permission,
Lifeline Health Letter, Vol. 14:3-4, p. 32.

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