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Forgiveness: The other “F” word

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I own a six-piece vintage art deco china tea set that I greatly admire. It has an iridescent off-white finish with an elegant black and silver design from the period. I’ve been meaning to have it appraised because I think it is worth a lot of money. Now, however, after what happened, its monetary value may have gone down but the value of the lesson I got this week was priceless. Below is the reason I say this.

We had a house guest all week that had trouble sleeping. During one of the nights she was staying with us, she went down to the kitchen to get something to eat during her insomnia. While passing through the living room in the dark, she knocked into the table with the art deco tea set on it.

Since we live in San Francisco, I had secured the set with museum wax so it would not tip over during an earthquake. When the house guest accidentally hit the table the earthquake wax did its job and nothing from the tea set fell over. But the tall vase next to it did and broke the art deco tray.

When I discovered the breakage the next day, I was furious. Lots of thoughts ran through my head…the house cleaner did it and never told us—we must fire her immediately. Our guest did it and was trying to hide what happened—she would never be invited back again. More thoughts ran through my head, all of them irrational and all unfounded.

What I did discover later on was that our house guest did do it but didn’t tell us because nothing looked broken. I had to admit to myself, that is what I thought too until I moved the tray forward.

As my initial rage subsided, I realized that this was a test of forgiveness. I have been reading and writing about people who forgave others for such horrendous acts as the murder of their child or their rapist. If those people could forgive someone like that then I could forgive someone who did something so minor as breaking a vintage tray.

Forgiving my house guest wasn’t easy but I kept at it. I realized that in the big picture this was only a very minor thing. I also realized that the art deco set had given me pleasure for many years and that with a little glue it could still continue to provide pleasure. And because of the accident, perhaps the most important thing I realized was that we are the caretakers of the treasures in our life for only a certain period of time, even of our home, our health, and our loved ones.

During the day of the incident, my original rage slowly turned into being thankful for all of the wonderful unbroken things I still had in my life. And by the end of the day, I was even grateful to the house guest for giving me the opportunity to practice deeper forgiveness.

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