Inspirational author, Erin Healy, asks the question: Is there anyone in your life you’ll never be able to forgive?
My novel Never Let You Go grew out of this question. I’d been thinking a lot about forgiveness, or more specifically, unforgiveness, after pondering a strange encounter.
A close friend of mine, I’ll call her June, has a habit of holding grudges. She is pleasant and kind, a good person, but she has the tendency to get hung up on offenses. She slips now and then into a dismal kind of nostalgia, recounting her interpersonal woes aloud again and again, unable to let them go. At risk of sounding like a shrink, which I’m not, I’ll go out on a pretty sturdy limb and suggest that her stuckness has prevented her from fully enjoying her journey through life.
I understand this. Chances are you do too. Pain is real. Betrayal stinks. Unfairness stings for a long, long time. For all of us. So how is it that some people escape the bitterness quicksand while others stew in it for life?
There are a lot of reasons, probably, but right now I’m going to ponder just one of them. The day I met June’s parents, I gained some insight. In a short time, as if it were the norm, the conversation turned to stories about wrongs that had been done to them, in some cases years ago. They sounded just like their child on a bad day, twenty-some years riper. Like they’d all been drinking the Kool-Aid from the same contaminated pitcher every night around the dinner table.
Really, how many of us think about bitterness that way? I hadn’t. In my experience, few people believe that resentment is harmful to anyone. (Sometimes we equate it with justice.) Some of us agree that it can be hurtful — to ourselves. As some wise soul once observed, swallowing bitterness is like taking poison and then waiting for another person to die.
But what if it’s more like force-feeding the poison to someone we love?
This is the disturbing picture I saw the day I met June’s folks. And then, because I’m strangely captivated by abstract ideas that have potential to take tangible form in the real world, I wrote Never Let You Go.
In my novel, single-mom Lexi loves no one more than her daughter Molly. Lexi has been wronged: her husband abandoned her. Her sister was murdered by a friend, who’s up for parole after only seven years. And a slippery drug dealer is holding Lexi responsible for her estranged husband’s debts. If anyone has reason to be bitter, Lexi does.
Lexi’s only goal in life is to keep her daughter safe from the harm these men seem hell-bent on causing when they converge on her life after seven years of absence. The last thing in the world she’s expecting is to find out that her very justifiable resentment is at the root of everything that’s going wrong and might cost Molly her life.
Irony bites in fiction, but the same bite cuts more deeply reality. Which is why I’d rather sort out this kind of stuff in a story. I greatly increase my chances of survival that way.
Erin Healy is an award-winning fiction editor who has worked with novelists such as Ted Dekker, James Scott Bell, and Brandilyn Collins. She has been a freelancer for eight years. Her latest book is the supernatural thriller Never Let You Go. You can follow her around the Web through her links at her website.