I stood holding his life story in my hand, but I held in my heart the story of how he had changed me.
Lenny Worthington was 21 when he died in 1987, but I believe his spirit spoke to me last month when I was asked to help find his obituary.
I believe I heard his voice from the grave, telling me to forgive the bullies in my life.
There were many.
In fact, I believe I had sent out an unconscious signal to all those who were mean-spirited for a very long time. I had painted them a target.
I could see that my target had come from a similar place as their bad behavior.
They were mistreated.
I am the daughter of a mentally ill man. I don’t blame him for that, but I am sure now that his behavior affected me.
The private lives of those who responded to my target, I’m sure, were at least as difficult as my own. But I never bothered to find out.
I left them behind.
At the beginning of my eighth-grade year, I accepted a fresh start in a new school, away from all the bullies in my old junior high.
I didn’t look back.
But now the good people of that old school are having a reunion, and they asked me to help find a fallen classmate who was difficult to locate.
Their dates were off.
But maybe that was Lenny’s plan all along. He had a message for me personally, and he was going to hide until the Roy High Class of 1983 reunion committee was desperate enough to ask their reporter friend for assistance.
I didn’t actually help.
But in my small effort to check into Lenny’s whereabouts, I learned a lesson of forgiveness. I remembered a quote from my friend, Pastor Jackie Ostler, of the Crossroads Christian Fellowship church in Uintah: “It’s always the right thing to do the right thing.”
Letting go was right.
“The beautiful journey of today can only begin when we learn to let go of yesterday.” This is a quote, from author/speaker Steve Maraboli, that a friend sent my way.
Maraboli is author of “Life, the Truth, and Being Free,” (14.95 paperback, Better Today Publishing). It’s a best-selling 168-page self-help book that embodies Maraboli’s popular radio show and empowerment program messages of the virtues needed for success. They reach audiences in around 50 countries.
I was ready for today.
In a discussion with the Rev. Vanessa Cato, of Ogden’s Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, she said people’s lives can become cramped by bad experiences. She suggested visualizing oneself saying to those who instigated those experiences: “I’m a much better person than you want me to be.”
She said she has a friend who tries to put her down for being a woman.
“I can stand up to him now, because I am confident in who I am,” she said. “Now I can say, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t agree with you.’ ”
Cato said core values are at the heart of forgiveness.
“Primarily, we are looking at the God who says love me, love each other,” she said.
She was right.
There are a host of Scriptures on this subject. None of them say that holding on is the right thing to do.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” reads Matthew 6:14 in the English Standard version of the Bible.
“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” reads Matthew 5:44 in the King James Bible.
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” reads the following verse.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong,” wrote Mahatma Gandhi.
Modern writers say this, too.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you,” writes Lewis B. Smedes, in his book “Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve” (HarperCollins, paperback, $8.99).
Smedes has sold 400,000 copies of his text, originally published in 1984 and republished in 1996.
In the forward of his latest edition, Smedes writes about those who have been healed by his words.
“They discover that forgiving is an opportunity for injured people to heal their own souls,” he writes. “If we wait to forgive people until they say they are sorry, we make ourselves hostage to the very person who wronged us.”
Time for freedom.
“The person who does the forgiving gets the first benefit of doing it,” Smedes writes.
That’s all I want.
How about you?