the resilience of trees. . .and forgiveness

This article was in the NYTimes yesterday.

It’s an essay about a year spent in a New York city apartment, the resident still mourning the death of his life partner two years earlier, and what he learned about persistence and resilience by watching trees outside his window weather the seasons and their accompanying hardships (wind, ice, thunderstorm).

Parts which spoke to me particularly strongly:

The trees, clearly overmatched by the combination of winds, rain and lightning, were not fighting this storm but yielding to it.

How is it that snowflakes, tinier than tears, can carry such weight?


The sermon this morning was about forgiveness. That forgiving someone, or not, has very little to do with the forgivee but everything to do with the forgiver. That choosing to carry your grudges around (like overburdened slavesrather than letting them go probably does no harm to the transgressor, but can do a lot of harm to you.

How much stronger is the tree, (like buildings and bridges), that gives in the wind, that carries on from one season to another, weathering every storm, bearing the accumulated weights of thousands of tiny little hurts (tinier than tears) but able to shed them at the soonest possibility and bloom again, broken branches and peeling bark and no less beautiful in its imperfections?


Resilience is hard, and forgiveness is hard — sometimes forgiving oneself for one’s shortcomings, both real and imagined, the hardest of all. And yes, you might be letting someone off the hook. But how much less weight is that to bear than that which most of us carry?




2 thoughts on “the resilience of trees. . .and forgiveness

  1. I find forgiveness very problematic. I think you’re right in saying that failure to forgive can do you a lot of harm, and yes, more harm than it does to the person who is not forgiven. I suppose holding stuff inside, in general, is rather destructive.

    On your implicit recommendation, I’ve just finished reading J.S. Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I reckon this book is very much a story about forgiveness. Part of that story is about the problem of not feeling the forgiveness of others, isn’t it? In the book Oskar needs to feel the forgiveness of his father, who is not around any more to offer it. And forgiving yourself in the absence of a forgiveness offered by someone else is pretty hard to do – for me, anyway. When I think of the things that trouble me most, it’s the wrongs I’ve done to other people that have not been resolved that are the most disturbing.

    On the other side of the forgiveness coin, is the problem of how do I forgive someone for what they’ve done to me without having them take advantage of me? What if they let me down and I forgive them, and then they let me down in the same way again? . . . and again? . . . and again?

  2. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to let them do it to you again.

    Just let it go. Life has enough heavy burdens to bear without choosing to carry those you don’t need any more.

    And meanwhile, let yourself off the hook, too.

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