Loose the Noose: The Power of Forgiveness

by Alice Faye Duncan

I am my father’s child. The evidence goes beyond my odd shaped head, slant eyes, small lips and nasal voice. The evidence is a heart thing. My father suffered from heart disease for most of his life. His mother died of a heart attack. Doctors say that I might die from the same condition. But to avoid an early grave, I exercise regularly and I don’t smoke or eat fried foods.

In his lifetime, my father suffered from another type of heart trouble that was not detected by monitors and machines. He wore bitterness like a badge and harbored certain grudges for untold decades. Mostly, his unforgiving heart showed up in conversations about his parents, who raised seven children in the stifling confines of a Memphis Federal Housing Project.

My grandfather drove a produce truck. On the weekends he drank. According to my father, Granddaddy and whiskey was a bad cocktail. Sometimes he raged through the tiny rooms and whipped his children for no apparent reason.

The story that I most remember about my grandmother happened when my father was eight years old. He and some friends were to be baptized at a neighborhood church. My father begged his mother to attend the ceremony. But she was overwhelmed by a house full of children, and sent him to the baptism without any family support. Whenever my father was moved to share his life stories, there was pain in his eyes and palpable anger in his booming voice.

My grandmother died before I turned six. As for my grandfather, he lived until my sophomore year in college. So I was an eyewitness to his contentious relationship with my father. The two men spoke to each other in a series of barks and grunts. At the end of his life when Granddaddy suffered a stroke and was confined to a wheel chair, my father did not use tender words. The barking continued and he would clean the old man and cook his meals like a disgruntled worker tending to a nagging patient.

From their relationship, I learned that life follows a cyclical path. Like the seasons, it goes around and back again. Twenty years after Granddaddy died, my father took ill. He was helpless and tethered to an oxygen tank.

One night his wife called to say, “You need to visit soon. Your daddy is dying.”

Whatever. There was no urgency for me to visit. I was still mad about my childhood when he abandoned my mother and me and left us with no financial support.

Before hanging up the phone his wife said, “If you don’t say goodbye the proper way, you won’t ever forgive yourself.”

I reasoned in my soul how it was right to let my father pass without a benediction from me. But by morning my heart was changed. And on the night before he died, I drove to his house. We ate ice cream and watched the evening news together. I didn’t cry. He didn’t apologize. Nobody mentioned love. But he was in a cordial mood, and I was glad to sit with him.

To harbor a grudge toward anyone is like draping a noose around your own neck. While you permit yourself to be twisted in a knot of bitterness, that person who is the object of your anger is free and does not share in your suffering.

American author, Alice Walker, wrote a poem called, “Goodnight, Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning.” It is about her mother’s demonstration of release at her father’s funeral service.

During the funeral, Mrs. Minnie Walker pardons her husband for every offense and misunderstanding that was shared between them. Then over his dead body with a heart full of love she wishes him, “goodnight.” In the penultimate verse of the poem, Walker writes, “The healing of all our wounds is forgiveness.”

Can you handle this truth? In every life, offenses will come. Our feelings will be hurt. Yes, all of us will be wounded, mistreated or abandoned somewhere on the journey. The only way to be free from strangling venom is to forgive the guilty culprits who have caused us pain. You know what they did. (Most times) They know what they did.

Overcome the bitterness through prayer and meditation. Ask God to help you, “Let it go.” Ask for spiritual strength and courage to move beyond the pain of the past.

Sometimes the people who hurt us are not our biggest problems. Often we live with a gloom that comes from our inability to forgive ourselves for bad choices and misfortunes that we created. Yes, by our own volition we have been irresponsible, immature, inconsiderate, mean, and slothful at various benchmarks on the journey. The consequences have been grim. However, we can be free from these regrets when we ask God to “loose the noose,” and help us to forgive ourselves. Don’t carry this weight another day. By prayer and meditation, retrieve your peace and release yourself.

I remember my Sunday school teacher’s favorite Bible verse, Psalm 103. In it, King David contemplates the comforting love of God. David says that God does not hold us hostage for our mistakes and misadventures. God forgives. Grace and mercy surrounds us, liberally. God’s love renews, revitalizes and reconstitutes the soul so that we can move past bitterness, hatred and anger.

But, be warned. If we are stingy and determined to hold on to grudges, we will not receive ceaseless and abounding mercy from others. Life is like a bank. We can only withdraw from our deposits. So as we release others from their errors and mistakes, we release ourselves from tightening ropes. We can breathe, live in the sun and experience the joy of life. I am the one who is grateful. It is with grace and honor that I serve you, my fellow textured haired women of color. I offer to you fantastic products that won’t burn, hurt, maim, or dry your hair. I will do everything in my power to dismantle harmful remnants of colorism and texture favoritism. I will value your presence, and honor your journey. To all of my sisters out there, Hair To There is officially open for business.

Photo Credit: emprise

 Alice Faye Duncan is a Memphis librarian and author. This excerpt, "Loose the Noose--The Power of Forgiveness" comes from her latest adult book, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1502421119/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1502421119&linkCode=as2&tag=forhar-20&linkId=4G32HIP7HOZBH52V. Using comical anecdotes from her 20 year journey as a professional writer, she celebrates the power of gratitude, silence, benevolence, forgiveness and tenacity. HELLO SUNSHINE is available now

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