To err is human; to forgive, divine.
I recently came across Whittier’s “Forgiveness,” which made me think of personal “forgiveness experiences.” We all have them: things we’ve forgiven, things we can’t forgive, hurts that haunt us, people who refuse to forgive us
Forgiveness by John Greenleaf Whittier
My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!
How often in our lives have we been hurt and carried that hurt with us, unable or unwilling to let it go? Holding onto anger and resentment can cause us extreme emotional stress, and often, we suffer more than the people who have hurt us. Such feelings can damage us emotionally and spiritually, but getting past them, releasing anger, resentment, and bitterness—forgiving—can lead us to inner peace. We all need to “forgive and forget” (though forgetting is sometimes harder than forgiving); and we all need to move forward, to let the past go. This can happen when we forgive. That said, I know how challenging true forgiveness can be, but forgiving (when we’re able to manage it) can be very freeing. Writing, too, can be freeing. This week, let’s use poetry to work toward resolving some forgiveness issues.
Write a poem about someone you’ve forgiven or someone you haven’t been able to forgive.
Write a poem about something for which you need to be forgiven.
Write a poem about something for which you’ve forgiven or not forgiven yourself.
Write a poem about something you’ve forgiven but can’t forget.
Write a poem about a time in which you “let go” of something (or someone) through forgiveness.
Write a poem about someone who refuses to forgive you.
1. This prompt lends itself to a narrative poem (a poem in which you tell a story).
2. Be careful not to over-tell; don’t include too many details; watch out for overuse of adjectives; and be especially wary of overstating sentiment and emotion. Focus on the elements of your story that readers will relate to (the details may be different, but the response you want to evoke is, “Yes, I know that feeling”).
3. Remember that your poem should contain no unnecessary words, no superfluous phrases, and no explanations. Center on strong images.
4. Use sounds (alliteration, assonance, internal rhymes) to help tell your story.
5. Try writing your narrative poem in the third person and, when you’ve completed it, change to the first person. Which version is better?