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Forgiving a grudge

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  • Hermana Confianza
    In mid-October, I woke up in the middle of the night with a disturbing realization: there was something from a couple of years ago for which I had not
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 28, 2009
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      In mid-October, I woke up in the middle of the night with a disturbing realization: there was something from a couple of years ago for which I had not forgiven Sister Alegría. I don't think of myself as one who holds grudges, so this was serious - especially because it was something relatively minor, and old!
      That week, we were having our first annual monastery retreat, with teachings and readings from Little Sister Magdeleine of Jesus. She founded the Little Sisters of Jesus (Hermanitas de Jesús), the Roman Catholic Order that is the most similar to us. They live as poor among the poor throughout the world, contemplatives who seek to see Jesus in their neighbor and share God's love through their presence. One of the topics for our retreat that day was fraternal love between the Sisters: it was the perfect opportunity to share with Sr. Alegría my situation. I'd spent all morning trying to make sense of the old grudge and figure out how to move on. This is the story:
      When Sister Alegría and I moved to Honduras in 2006, one of the things we brought with us was peppercorns, so we had fresh ground pepper in our food for many months. I really like pepper, so when we ran out, I wanted to buy more. However, we couldn't find peppercorns anywhere. Even ground pepper was hard to get: it was only in the bigger cities and when we found it, it had already been sitting on the shelf for a long time. For Sr. Alegría, that decided it; the ground pepper lost its flavor too fast to be worth it. But I really wanted pepper (in the US, I was more likely to use it than salt on my food), and I thought to myself, Well, don't all the other ground spices we have at home lose their flavor as well? And we still keep them on hand.


      Around that time, we were working on issues related to how we witnessed to our call to live in voluntary poverty, that is, our choice to live as poorly as the poor around us do. (It is not involuntary poverty, where one tries to live at the highest standard possible with the little one has.) For example, I had brought down a simple, sturdy toiletry kit. We were doing a lot of traveling in Honduras at the time and Sr. Alegría was uncomfortable with using it. It was too fancy and our poor neighbors don't have such a thing; it bespoke a higher lifestyle than we were wanting to live. Since we already had it, I didn't see why we couldn't find a use for it, but eventually I agreed we could get rid of it, even though I didn't fully understand her view. (We only realized much later that it was all that traveling that belied a life of poverty.)


      One thing I began to wonder about was our collection of spices. We had all kinds of them, most of which had been brought down or were gifts from the US. They were certainly part of a more upscale lifestyle. There are a limited number of spices available in Honduras, and people buy them in tiny amounts. I thought we should move toward having fewer spices, and certainly only ones we could get here. When I suggested we use up the spices we had, get rid of the yet unopened bottles, and stop buying so many, Sr. Alegría said, "No, I don't think that's necessary." Apparently, it didn't bother her. But didn't she see how much it bothered me? And I'd just given in on an issue that had bothered her (the toiletry kit). And anyway, if it was OK to have spices, why not pepper??

      That was all two and a half years ago. We never bought more pepper nor got rid of the other spices, though we have been slowly using them up. I have obviously done just fine without pepper and we've both enjoyed the flavorful food. (I hadn't realized at the time how much the spices were helping her to learn to adjust to eating the food here.) So what a shock it was to realize I had never forgiven Sr. Alegría about the pepper. As I thought about it, I saw that I'd never spoken frankly to her about it either. I kept all those thoughts in my head, and that grudge in my heart. How could she understand how much I liked pepper or the challenge it was to learn to live without it if I never faced it myself or told her? And how could we come to a shared solution on the spices if we never spoke about it openly? Instead of seeking God's will in the situation together, I did a lot of self-justifying and making excuses to try to get what I wanted. I couldn't even see that, if having fewer spices were the solution (as I thought), Sr. Alegría was making progress in that direction by not buying more pepper! I had reason for celebration and instead was resentful.
      It is all quite laughable today. Sr. Alegría asked me later if I have now forgiven her. I think I have. What I need to do is forgive myself for being so selfish and holding it against her. It is a lesson to me about openness: Being open and aware of my own feelings and motivations, open in communication, and open to God's will in every situation.
      Hermana Confianza
      (Prairie Naoma Cutting)
      Amigas del Señor
      Limón, Colón


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