As we get older, we tend to grow more reflective. We know we cannot stop the aging process, yet we do as much as we can to slow it down by exercising, eating healthy, etc…
I’m of the belief that nothing ages us more than anger, resentment, guilt, and regret — as well as holding on to negative thoughts that cause us not to forgive others and, most importantly, ourselves.
42 years ago, I arrived in Dallas at age 15 under very stressful circumstances. I was starting a new high school in Richardson, TX, and I had an unlikely nemesis at school: The head football coach, Coach Wheeler, made my life a living hell. He was a bully who went way over the top in his tactics.
Fast forward 12 years. I’m doing a live radio show at a super market in Grapevine, Texas. I started the program— “Hey, everyone, it’s the weekend workout with Larry North. Give me a call and let’s get the show going!”
And who do you think I saw out of the corner of my eye? Coach Wheeler. What was he doing, here? I jumped into a commercial break, but, in the back of my mind, I wanted to jump on him and get revenge for the way he had treated me.
When I was back on-air, Coach Wheeler was holding the mic to ask a question.
“I made your life a little miserable, didn’t I?” he said.
“Yes, you did,” I said.
He continued: “Do you know why I’m here, today?”
I had to admit I had no clue.
“Well,” Coach Wheeler said, “several years back I was diagnosed with cancer. I had chemo and radiation therapy, and finally my doctor said there’s not much more he could do for me.
He was a fan of your show and suggested I listen to it. I now listen every week. When I miss it, I tape it. I’m not saying you cured my cancer, but they say I’m in remission.”
His voice was starting to crack, but he continued.
“I’m not here asking for your forgiveness for the way I mistreated you,” he said. “I’m here, today, in front of these people and in front of God, begging for your forgiveness for the way I mistreated you.”
At that moment, it felt as if the ghost of Coach Wheeler, the specter that had been haunting me for all those years, came right out of my body. In truth we all have a Coach Wheeler from our past, be it a parent, sibling, or neighborhood bully. We can go years, decades, or even a lifetime harboring anger and regret toward people whom we feel have done us harm.
“Coach,” I said, “I forgive you, but I believe you didn’t just come here today seeking my forgiveness. It’s time you look in the mirror and forgive yourself.”
He walked away without saying a word. I found out he died a short time after.
It takes true courage to forgive others. It is my belief that adopting behaviors such as forgiveness and self-forgiveness leads to an optimal life.
my word. Give it a try and see for yourself.