Life Behind These Bars

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
~ Lewis Smede

A few weeks ago, my father-in-law had a heart attack. A piece of plaque that had plastered itself against his heart became dislodged and blocked the free flow of blood to his body. He felt uncomfortable, his chest constricted, he became short of breath. Thankfully, he noticed what was happening, sought treatment, and was saved. It could have been worse.

Much worse.

This is a man with no previous risk factors, and his condition was a surprise to anyone who found out. But for most people who face this in their life, there are red flags, whether they pay attention to them or not. And as with everything, change is possible. Tragedy is avoidable.

Many years ago, someone in my life hurt me. You know what I'm talking about. It's happened to you, too. Right when I said that, it's the first person you thought of in your own life that hurt you. That one situation you just cannot let go of, no matter how much you think you have, or how much you try.

It just sits there.

For me, this thing that they did has been sitting inside my heart, like a little stone, around which the entire rest of my body has learned to function. And since then, all of the joy that I have felt with that person still flows through my body, but always passes by that little hard spot, nudging it gently, reminding me of what they did to me. So that all of my happiness with them is tainted just a teeny bit by that one hurt.

There are warning signs.
The occasional smart remark I slip into the conversation.
The opportunistic jab at them.
The odd irrational outburst.
Risk factors.
Red flags.

This thing they did to me is like that little plaque that glued itself to my father-in-law's artery. And every time I pretend not to notice what is happening, my heart constricts, I am short of breath, and it continues to block the free flow of love through my body. And I bring myself this much closer to a potential tragedy. To my heart closing down a little bit more.

My anger at this person is like a cage. And I foolishly look through the bars of this cage and think that I am free and everyone else is caged in. But it's me who is locked inside of it.

I am the prisoner.

But, in this prison of my own making, I am also the warden. I hold the key. And I can decide to open the door and let myself out at any time. But I haven't made that choice.

What I've chosen is to imprison everyone else in my anger. To look at the world and live my life from behind these bars. To let that little stone sit there. To let every good thing flow past that little plaque in my heart. To harden up. To let my heart close up a little more every day. Every day I choose to hold on, I do an injustice to our bond.

We all do this. We carry around a hurt in our heart and we lock ourselves inside of it. We let a wrong attach itself to us and decide our fate. We let it harden us just a little bit. We ignore the red flags. We do not change. And for every day that we decide not to make a change, we walk a few steps closer to tragedy.

And it's not just that one hurt. We do it with all our hurts. With all our wrongs. And they stack up inside of our heart, and slowly, we close up. And this affects how we are. It affects who we are.

For me, it has tainted my perception of the world. It has affected the bond between myself and that person. It has affected the bond between myself and other people.

But most of all, it has affected the bond between myself and my self.

So today, I am going to stop ignoring the red flags. I am deciding to make a change.

Today, I am making the choice to walk the path of forgiveness.
To dislodge this little plaque on my own, before it can do me any more harm.
I am unlocking this cage and setting this prisoner free.

I am going to free me from me.

Think of one situation in which you were hurt. Can you make the choice to set yourself free from it? 

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