Growing up in the U.S., I never gave much thought to residential areas without sidewalks.
The first time I saw an area without sidewalks occurred when my grandmother took me and my brothers to visit her sister in the south. That summer, I also learned that not all homes had toilets, but that’s a story for another time.
When it rains and there is no sidewalk, you walk in mud. As a child, that’s not such a big deal, but as an adult, mud is messy on shoes. You see, growing up in the city I didn’t care much for messy. I like the idea of being an urban dweller. Since leaving the States, I’ve come to learn, that folks get along just as easily without sidewalks. Don’t ask me how, but they do. Walking on a dirt path is still uncomfortable for me; I prefer concrete.
That got me to thinking about something more uncomfortable than a dirt path; forgiveness. It’s hard to let go of a decision to write someone off because of a word, action, or even a perceived slight. It’s like mud on your shoes, clinging to you, dragging you back to that initial moment when you felt the first instance of discomfort. Some people are never able to forgive. I think it’s because they become mired in the pain and can’t see a way out. I’m not a psychologist so I can’t speak with any degree of authority, but when I reflect on instances of my unforgiveness I see a pattern of decisions I’ve made. It’s what I call my judicial process.
I am judge, prosecutor, and jury.
The defendant, the individual who wronged me receives no legal representation in my court. Whenever I prosecute a case in my court, I provide ample evidence; even if it’s circumstantial. The verdict is always swift and unanimous: guilty as charged.
I then go through the sentencing phase and my behavior towards the guilty reflects my decision.
Without exception, I always performed these steps when it came to making a choice about forgiveness. Until I recognized that I needed to be forgiven. It was then that I saw how wrong I’d been for so long in my callous regard for others. But I also saw the damage I inflicted on myself by embracing resentment, anger, and rage. Like the mud of an unpaved road, these three loved clinging to my thoughts, reminding me of that pain, that word, that perceived slight.
I have friends who live in communities without sidewalks, and when I visit them, I know I have to “man up” and deal with the mud. I may not like the mud, but I like my friends better. When someone says, or does something that offends me, I’m learning to say, “case dismissed.” I may not like what was said or done, but I dislike resentment, anger and rage even more so.
So instead of prosecuting, I’m like a court appointed attorney for the defendant. I remind the court, that we’ve all been guilty of causing someone pain, and that by forgiving, life becomes so much better for everyone. I can’t say forgiving is easy, but it’s a choice I choose to make.