Forgiveness is a lifestyle: Many mixed metaphors describing a simple to understand but often difficult to execute state of mind

Our bestie Nick came over for dinner last week and brought with him a surprise: a copy of Bob Goff's Love Does. Bob had come to speak at Wake Forest (free admission!) and we couldn't make it, but Nick went and brought us a souvenir.

Aside: Gosh, I love reading. I love picking books that can suit my mood or season of life or even make selections because I know they will change my mood, or make me feel a certain way.

Love Does has been making me think about forgiveness. (Although that's not specifically what the book is about; it's a collection of memoir stories by possibly the most whimsical human with the best attitude alive.) Goff is the kind of guy who makes you think you should cut yourself, and everyone else, a little slack. And have a lot more good-natured fun.


I also have a book called Mommy Guilt, because questioning your parenting is my generation's favorite pastime, with watching trashy reality TV as a close second.

As I sit here, four munchkins are playing with 8.6 million Legos, and I'm not stressing out about it. Maybe because there's already $600 worth of random Lego parts congregating in every nook and cranny of my house. Anyway, I'm watching them, having just handed out graham crackers and solicited the requisite pleases and thank yous, and the thought came to me, "I'm a pretty good mom."

Which is kind of obvious. I mean, I feed my kids; I clothe them; I provide a safe, warm home; I love them; I worry about their education and fuss over their "dangerous" behaviors, like jumping on the bed and treating our sectional like a half pipe.

But then I thought, "My mom is a pretty good mom." Which is also obvious. But when you're like me (an overly analytic Thinky McThinkerson), it's easy to get caught up in the analysis. My parents did this, which I think is good. Or, my parents handled this like that, which I would do differently. And then I lose the big picture: my parents were great, they provided a happy home, and they love us.


Goff reminded me, in a chapter about how he and a group of guys sailed from L.A. to Hawaii without any real navigational knowledge, of the width and depth of God's love and forgiveness.

It's easy to take something like the Bible and treat it like a book of equations for successful living, or a rule book for successful judging, etc. The overarching story, though, is that God loves us and wants us to choose him and he'll give us the chance to choose him at every turn. He's always willing to forgive, and he always loves.

Goff said Jesus is one of his fixed points in life to get his bearings, the other a group of trusted friends and family members. When you start to feel overwhelmed, just stop and take your bearings. If you're headed toward Jesus, not religion but Jesus, who opened his life to anyone, you're going the right direction. The rest is just details.


"Don't sweat the details." Trite, but often true. (Unless you're an architect or a doctor. In which case, sweat the details all day long. As Gretchen Rubin says, the opposite of a profound truth is also true.)

Forgiveness as a frame of mind is different from forgiveness as an act. In fact, I don't think true forgiveness is typically an isolated event or moment at all. Forgiveness as an event requires a list of wrongs to be accounted then crossed off, with a self-satisfied smirk that says *look how good I am at forgiving.* It's very detail oriented. Annoyingly, stridently so.

The thought that forgiveness is an event leads to phrases like "forgive and forget," or "I forgive you, but I won't forget." Those phrases imply, I'll forgive you for this but not for that. Or I'll forgive you but I reserve the right to bring this up again in the future when it serves my purposes.

A lot of us, particularly religious people and highly educated people, become entrenched in the details, as though the paint color or the faucet fixtures are as important as the foundation in the building of our lives. Parenting is the same in that sense.

Lately I'm trying to enjoy the details for what they are: embellishments to an already wonderful life. I'll save the bulk of my energy for righting the ship rather than fretting over which varnish to use on the deck.