What a Difference One Word Can Make. . .

Several months ago, someone forwarded me a blog entry by Patti Moore entitled Forgiveness in the time of COVID19. It’s a sensitive, thoughtful piece that urges us, basically, to cut ourselves some slack in these very trying times. You can read the full entry here:


I’ve been thinking about this off and on since I first read it, playing around with one of Moore’s closing questions: What 3 things do you need to let go of or forgive yourself for from the past 5 months?”

Predictably, I came up with all sorts of self-flagellation issues: (You’ll also notice I can’t count.)

  • being unproductive
  • wasting time (okay, so that’s the same thing, but it came up on the list)
  • eating potato chips
  • hubris: thinking that my point of view is important
  • consuming too much
  • flailing, being unsure of what to do
  • trying to control things

A perfectly nasty brew of negativity.

This morning, I revisited all of this as I was writing in my journal, wondering where all these repugnant messages are coming from. No particular source came to mind, but I remembered the technique of talking to voices that chatter away in our consciousness, so I engaged them in a little chat. “Thank you for your opinions,” I said, “but I think you’ve got it wrong. I’m doing the best I can, so quiet yourselves and let me be.”

Just like that, the clouds parted. I realized that the first step when thinking about forgiveness is to discern when it is “forgiveness” that is in order, and when it is realizing there is nothing to forgive, rather, that there is something to release.

This sent me straight to the dictionary, to discern the nuances of meaning between these two verbs.

to forgive:

to cease to feel resentment against

to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.

 to release:

 to free from confinement, bondage, obligation, pain, etc.; let go:

to free from anything that restrains, fastens, etc.

“Free from bondage, pain; let go.” That’s what is needed, not “pardon for an offense,” etc.

Moore mentions that “ . . .forgiveness is the release ” (yes, that very word) “of resentment or anger . . .” but in my readings of her piece I did not really fully take in the “release” part. For me, getting to that took examining forgiveness itself, and realizing that sometimes – too often – I confuse “Things That I Wish Were Different” with “Things That Are Absolutely Wrong, And My Fault, For Which I Need Forgiveness.” HUGE difference!

With that idea in mind, I made a new list. “Things I Consciously Seek to Release.” It’s quite a different set of ideas. Here they are:

  • Rigid expectations
  • Projecting judgments
  • Guilt
  • Needing to single-handedly save the world(I know, I know: As if . . .)
  • My soul to the unity of Oneness

Although Moore wrote of both forgiveness and release, I saw what I was looking for in her blog entry. Because I was tuned to blame, it was the “forgiveness” half of her equation that I glommed onto, hoping for absolution, to feel better. I’m glad my “conversation” with those negative voices led me to examine things closer.  Forgiveness is for transgressions; release, for shortcomings, deficiencies, flaws, and the potpourri of things we wish could be other.

No more need for whips, just a need to empty the heavy bag of burdens and unrealistic expectations which are serving no useful purpose in order to experience the grace of being with what is.


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