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July 13, 2009


The Desiderata of Forgiveness

by Andrea O'Connell

I have come to realize that there are some people so angry with life that the idea of embracing even the concept of forgiveness would be akin to a two year old learning to speak Latin.  In fact, “Desiderata” is Latin and means “desired things” ….  Max Ehrmann wrote this as his ode, his “desiderata for achieving happiness”  in the mid 1920’s; it will speak to us perennially, or so it should.   

The “Desiderata of Happiness” makes a perfect case for forgiveness, for kindness, honesty, and certainly for acceptance.  It says so much about the need for dreams, aspirations, and a peaceful heart….   This excerpt, these few lines,  have special meaning in this discussion:

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.  As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.  Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story….. if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself…Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.  Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.  And, whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.  With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.  Be cheerful.  Strive to be happy.”

I secretly hope that you, reader of this blog who may be so stuck in your ways, immoveable or unwilling to accept an apology from someone who has broken your heart –  I hope that you will read this and at least remember that we are all only human, after all.  We are all we have – we only have one another; we only have forgiveness, or so it seems to me. 

I spoke honestly to a friend recently and was shunned, dropped and stepped on.  My “friend”  of course, was never really a friend, I know that now, but she wore the cloak of kindness for a time.  In reality, I was being used and the  friendship was merely a mirage on top of a façade, to be conjured up when convenient, dismissed conveniently, too.

After begging for forgiveness, though I had nothing to apologize for, and being rebuked over and over, I finally began to see, finally, clearly, with the left side of my brain, that though I was placing the blame on myself out of desperation to win back a friendship (which was really never a friendship to begin with), it was nothing I did or said.  And then, I looked at myself and saw something I didn’t much like….I began to see my desperation for acceptance.  Almost a fervent yearning to continue to believe in a friendship that never was.

It is just a terrible way to feel… It feels demeaning to beg for forgiveness simply because I didn’t quite know what else to do or say.    

I was not being honest with myself, that became finally clear. 

I am grateful for this experience now because it has shown me that I need a little retuning in the self esteem / self worth arena… a realignment!   Gravitating toward positive and loving people is much more fun, anyway! People that know how to shower kindness just because they embody it.  Now, that’s good for the soul.

 I will let this teacher – this experience – move out from under that corner of dread in my waking hours now.  (Thank you, my dear friend Michelle, for always reminding me of this: “when the student learns his lesson, the teacher disappears” ….)

 Michelle also tells me at every turn that we must choose gratitude and happiness.  She says: “Nature never reveals its secrets, it just responds to methods of questioning.”

 Nature did not automatically reveal its secrets to me…. But, I am now questioning and the answers are moving into focus, thanks to wise friends like Michelle.

For a full read of Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata” just Google the title, or click here:

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. MichelleLeehe
    Jul 14 2009


    Thanks for creating this beautiful Blog! I am enjoying your posts as if we were chatting on the telephone.

    I’ve actually had trouble blogging because I’ve been unsure about what to say. I used to have journal entries on MySpace; however, when I read them again weeks or months later, I no longer felt the same way about what I wrote. Then, I found myself re-editing or erasing too much. Maybe its because I’m changing faster than I’m blogging? Either way, reading your blog inspires me write again. 🙂

    Thanks for your divine words about me. You are a special person and wonderful friend. You wrote something I find to be true:

    “People know how to shower kindness because they embody it.”

    I think this sentence says a great deal, and factors into our perceived expectations of others. People only do or say what they know (good or bad), and it may be best to quietly forgive/ignore them because as the biblical phrase said, “they know not what they do.”



    “There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.”

    “Well-being abounds!”

  2. Andrea
    Jul 14 2009

    Michelle, I know exactly what you mean about changing – and that’s a positive thing, certainly!

    Ha! And, I know, too ’bout that redo and rewrite need… Surely that’s a writer’s curse type of obsession – wanting to edit and re-edit ad nauseam – especially when trying to find just the perfect word, or phrase to describe feelings/emotions/aspirations. It is not uncommon for some people to spend hours on creating the one “perfect” sentence (if there is such a thing!) 🙂

    The line “they know not what they do” (I think) was used by Jesus when he was forgiving those who were crucifying him on the cross. So, yes….forgiveness is a powerful thing….

    Thank you my dear friend,

  3. Mandy
    Jul 14 2009

    Your writing is very inspiring. Don’t ever feel bad about giving the best part of yourself to someone, even if that someone does not respond in kind. They sit in the losing seat. I truly believe that in every situation there is something good, something to learn. Wake up every morning and smile, have a grateful heart, and give to those in need and you will always find joy and love.

    Hugs – Mandy

  4. Andrea
    Jul 14 2009

    Thank you, Mandy. You are right… I am seeing now the good lessons from this. The wound is now a scar and is fading ~ nearly gone ….. just a lingering memory tinged with a brush stroke of left-over sadness now….

    Love and kisses,


  5. Starfish
    Jul 18 2009

    Right on Andrea,
    You see that the deceptive friendships in the world are some of the most painfull.
    Like a boy pretending to like a girl and laughing with his buddies behind her back.
    A best friend who suddenly becomes friends with a new girl and does not include you and walks away leaving you standing in the school hallways.

    A spouse having an affair with the partners so called friend.

    Nothing more devistating.

    Somone who pretends to be something they are not and yet turning on you and making you feel like there is something wrong with you or that you did something wrong……pure evil.

    Walk the high road and know that there are nice people out here waiting to share true friendships, but there will always be the fakers and thats ok we can handle it….just tell em to F off! 🙂 Works for me! 🙂

    • Andrea
      Jul 18 2009

      Thank you for your comments, Star – I agree with you. And, yes, I am learning to trust myself and give myself more time to make careful and loving assessments about others, not to judge harshly, rather to look at behavior and actions as it relates to how friends treat others. Despite how dearly I have loved a friend in the past – if their deeds, words or responses to others are in a critical or negative vein versus being on the side of acceptance or reaching out with a positive, gentle, non-discriminatory and compassionate way, then I must step back and ask myself what is the purpose of that game? What is the result of crucifying other people for sport? What does it do for us in the end – what do we learn by endlessly criticizing others? We learn to be angry critics and that is not a profession I aim to serve! I am looking for a path that is gentle, loving, accepting, and that will somehow promote ways in which, as human beings, we can learn, grow, improve by serving others, loving self, and spreading kindness. In my little corner of the world, I am practicing that…gently rehearsing! Thanks so much for your insight, Star! Andrea


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