Friday, August 26, 2011

Mary Karr on Forgiveness

I just finished reading Lit by Mary Karr. To say that the book has moved me is an understatement. To say that I have laughed, cried, gasped and raged my way through the pages is truth. For the second time in my life I have considered writing an author to thank her. This is how much the book has meant to me.

In it, Karr writes about not only her mother's alcoholism, but also her own. She writes about both of their paths to recovery. She starts the book by speaking of her son and of what she put him through. She speaks of her own mother and what she put Mary Karr, her daughter, through. She writes that her wish for everyone, for everything, is "blamelessness."

I cocked my head at that.

I read her story and it was a journey of forgiveness. To forgive her mother, yes, to forgive her ex-husband, but most of all, to forgive herself. To put a cope of blamelessness over her whole life and everyone in it. At first that thought might be maddening if you have unresolved issues, yes. But if you've tasted forgiveness or hungered for it yourself, you can see its appeal.

The book is not for everyone. There were days when it threatened to sink me into depression. There were times I had to shut the pages and walk away from it. My husband would catch me sitting at the table, closed book in front of me, staring out the window.

I shook myself out of it. Just as I shook myself out of my own childhood and my own issues through ten years of therapy and twenty of Buddhism. I've done my work. I've let go of a lot. I'm a happy person today. Are there ghosts in my attic? Yes. Do they rattle their chains? Infrequently. But do they? Yes.

I finished the book and was left with a feeling of wonder at her forgiveness. Such a universal and encompassing forgiveness — a forgiveness that was given without being asked. Grace is like that. A gift given though undeserved. Light cast upon a darkness. A blessing for a sinner. Yes, please, God. Do that for me.

I desire forgiveness. I desire to forgive. I desire both to be given and received as unselfishly and as free from expectation as Mary Karr writes.

But I'm not sure how to do that.


  1. All I can think about these days is getting over the pain and missing of losing my sweet pup, but if I think back on the people that are / were in my life and that I knowingly, deliberately closed the door on, shut out and erased from my present life, I see no urge for forgiveness, only wishing that I had done it sooner.
    I might be a vengeful person, actually, I know I am but I also learned that with some people, all the forgiveness and understanding in the world will not help them or you, it is better to have a life without them present.
    I did it and it has worked very well.
    What is not there , can't hurt you , disappoint you or anger you .. it is not there .

    I guess I have a long way to go to be a better person :)
    Besos to you ...

  2. Oh how I wish I knew the answer to that. One day I hope to know how to forgive and not to have do do so much work on one self to do that. There is definitely freedom in forgiveness.

  3. sounds interesting.... forgiveness is huge and should be easier to come by but then would it mean so much? I'm on my way to reconciling some stuff in my life and forgiveness is part of it.. a hard part but it's gradually becoming easier.. just not quite complete yet. i sometimes feel a strong urge to write a book in the hope it will help but i'm afraid of judgement... after all this time! urgh!

  4. I just want to give you a hug, Mandy.

    That's why they call grace amazing, I think.

    It defies reason.

    It makes everything new.

    The book sounds powerful.

    I pray the richest of blessings on you in your journey! In fact, I pray you find exactly what you are looking for!!!

  5. You're the second person to recommend this book in the last month. I want to read it, just not sure I'm in the right state of mind just yet.

  6. How did I miss this post?

    This book, this book was written by someone who exists somewhere else.

    What mary karr says, how her words, she knows come from God, and how does she know? Because she'd never think of them...that line chilled me, to the point where I couldn't turn the page.

    There were parts in there, that I couldn't forgive: the child molestation that occurred while her mother left her with male bar patrons.

    Upsetting, where I had to close the book for a few days.

    But how she could forgive?
    I dont' know.

    I feel, that to forgive, with what happened to me in my childhood, would be to invalidate my suffering.

    I can't do that to myself.

    And that is my baggage, my issue, I know.

  7. Start with you, forgive yourself for believing another person could do something he or she couldn't. Understand that other's failures have little, if nothing to do with you. We've all failed someone, even when we try not to, and we don't blame the other person for not being in the right frame of mind to accept our shortcomings. So, why shouldn't you forgive yourself for not recognizing someone else's shortcomings? Ugh. My son is running around like a nut and I've lost my train of thought. Hopefully I've left enough of it here to grasp a piece of it. :/

  8. I am kind of with Empress on this one- I am not ready to forgive a lot because I am still needing to be validated. Again and again. Validate me!!!! But, seriously? You had me at whatever was in the last post you wrote about this book. Dialin' it up right now.

  9. I think we are all dealing with the issue of forgiveness. A childhood friend drugged out and stole a bunch of my belongings in High School and disappeared completely only to facebook friend request me after 20 years. I have fought whether to forgive him, but there is always that one little string I can not let go of, no matter how hard I try.
    Good Luck it isn't easier to gain back what was lost

  10. I remember my mom telling me once when I was young that just because you forgive someone, doesn't mean you have to trust them again. This has helped me so many times in my life and I find forgiving to be much easier with this in mind.

  11. Oh Dear- I think you just found my next book for me. I actually think I might be ready to read it... I think...

  12. Oh Dear- I think you just found my next book for me. I might finally be ready to read something this... I think...