Real forgiveness as a gift of healing and freedom

I recently ran into a pre-med student I know at Santa Monica College (SMC). She was obviously distressed and like most of us these days, had a lot on her mind. As an SMC student, she witnessed the campus shooting incident last year. Since then, she has been overwhelmed with all the negativity in the world from crime and the struggling economy, to poverty and political unrest. She had taken the weight of the world on her shoulders and asked, “Dr. Sadeghi, is this as good as it gets? Really? This is it? This is life?”

I listened with my heart and said nothing, as the most profound anxiety and resignation poured out of her. Two and a half hours later (No, that’s not a misprint), I asked her this question.

“What’s your favorite fruit?”

She looked at me like I was insane. Then she became irritated, thinking I hadn’t been listening at all, and said, “Watermelon.”

“But why,” I asked. “Watermelon is so risky.” I explained that whenever you buy one, you never know what you’re going to get. It has a thick leathery shell. First you have to find a tool to cut it open and then you’ve got all the work of carving it ahead of you. Once that’s done, it could either be luscious and sweet or have absolutely no taste at all. All your work could be wasted. Even if it is sweet, you’ve got all those seeds to contend with. You have to maneuver them around in your mouth and let’s face it; there is no discreet or attractive way to spit them out. I asked her again, “Considering all this, why do you still eat watermelon?”

Every experience is its own watermelon, and with it comes its own seeds. Learning to love the whole is mature love.

She remained silent. I answered for her. “Because you have a choice.” We could forgo all those nasty seeds by buying a seedless watermelon. Although we’d eliminate half the work, we’re still not guaranteed any benefit. A seedless watermelon is easier to eat, but has lost its life-giving ability, the seeds. Without its life force, will it have any to give to us, or be good for our health at all? We could also choose to stop eating watermelon altogether.

We also have a third choice that isn’t as obvious. We could accept that watermelon is watermelon and love it as it exists. Forest Gump might think life is a box of chocolates, but to me, it’s a watermelon. I think we can all agree on the fact that you never know what you’re going to get! Even if you buy a box of chocolates instead of a watermelon and it doesn’t have the caramels you love, it will still have a maple cream or chocolate covered cherry that you like, too.

Even with its challenges, life is never either/or, take it or leave it and yet, we treat it that way. We love the sweetness of our relationships when things are going well but when we hit the seeds of work, patience and learning, we get angry, shutdown, lie and want to throw the whole thing away. We love our bodies when they’re in the sweetness of health, youth and energy but as we age or become sick, we look at it with disgust and frustration.

When will we learn to love the watermelon that is life? Every experience is its own watermelon, and with it comes its own seeds. Learning to love the whole is mature love. It means recognizing that as sweet or sour as the experience may be, it’s good to know that in either situation, the seeds always bring the chance for a new life.

Both Sides Now

Taking the positive with the negative and seeing it as complete is a bittersweet experience. The important idea to remember is that to get to the sweetness, we have to endure the bitterness first. Knowing that the sweetness always kicks in at some point gives us the ability to appreciate the less tasty parts of life. No experience could be more bittersweet than forgiveness. As challenging as it is at the outset, there is hardly a bigger and sweeter gift we could give ourselves, than a gift of healing and freedom. It’s learning to find the seeds in hurtful experiences and allowing them to give us new life.

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