February 24, 2017


“Living well is the best revenge.”

George Herbert

“I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.”

Carl Sandburg


I once did an ongoing therapy group for men who had been abused and were abusive when I worked on the inpatient unit of a private psychiatric hospital in Michigan. The men were ranged in age from 19 to the grandfather in the group who was in his early 70’s. All were scared, showed anger and hostility, were exceedingly suspicious and wary of group therapy, and none wanted to be there.

We often focused on the incredible abuse they received as children. It was relentless. I taught them to be scared instead of angry. The anger protected them as a child from realizing just how terribly scared they were and was definitely appropriate. However, their anger now was only getting in the way of having the connection and intimacy that they really wanted now they were grown up. From scared they could go to sad and from sad they might try to let themselves be held and comforted.

One of the most powerful lessons these men claimed to have learned at the end of the group was that staying stuck in their past meant the enemy won and to live a full, rich, wholesome life was the best way to get revenge. What was then is past, what is now is the only thing that matters, what will be depends on how now is handled.

Bury the past. Walk away from, let go of, move beyond…..all great images. None easy to do. It takes courage and mindfulness to see a bucket of ashes and ignore what those ashes represent. Past abuse lives in our body and our soul and is not easy to live with nor is it going to go away easily.

It is profoundly moving to witness a 70 year old man weeping, rocking, moaning, sobbing, wailing, crying, helplessly grieving, for the beaten and abused child he was and for the children he had raised cruelly, angrily, thoughtlessly, without heart.

My word for today is Forgive. Forgive yourself so you can win.

Forgiveness walks carefully and cautiously. Forgiveness breathes freely and has a soft sweet smile; gentle light brown, almost golden eyes; and a voice that soothes. Forgiveness is very wise, has hair that stands straight up, big magnifying glasses, and a mustache. Forgiveness knows he is not always welcome and understands that. He doesn’t expect to always be around or to always be available. He is patient and careful and willing to connect whenever he is wanted.

I believe that it is often unnecessary or even unwise to forgive others. I think we tend to feel that forgiving means it was okay what you did to me, and that is not true. It is never okay to hurt another or cause harm or distress. Rather than forgive, I suggest let go and walk away. It is important to not let the past hold us down or stop us from thriving. It is important to learn from the past and live a full, whole, joyous life filled with adventure and satisfaction.

Sprinkle the ashes of the past in the lake, the garden, the woods, somewhere far away. Choose to close the door on the past and walk proudly into the future free of the burden of resentment or the need for revenge. Live life to the fullest and let that be your revenge.

And always remember to forgive yourself. You have done the best you knew to do at the moment. Now is a good time to change. Now is a great time to get revenge.


  • I am grateful for my good life
  • I am grateful for how busy I am and that I have the energy to do it all.
  • I am grateful for help with Aimee
  • I am grateful for friends and support
  • I am grateful for a grandson who is trying to phone me and keeps trying even though we are having a difficult time finding each other.

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