Forgiveness is a Clutterbuster!

March 5, 2011

Harboring anger and resentment can be consuming.  I didn’t realize how much until one day I just got tired of doing it. 

My Forgiveness Story

My neighbor and I share a small garden between our two stoops.  One year we were going to plant a garden together, but somewhere between the digging and the planting, something went wrong.  Either she didn’t like what I was doing or I didn’t want to take her directives.  From that time forward hostility colored our every exchange.  I made a concerted effort to avoid crossing her path.  Sometimes that meant waiting until she drove off or until she shut her door after arriving home.

The mature person would have put the issue on the table and asked the other what had caused this strife, but neither one of us could make that concession.  I guess we felt more comfortable holding onto the dastardly images we painted of each other so we could justify our anger. 

My First Attempt—A Feng Shui Cure

A couple years into our acrimonious standoff, I tried to change the dynamic between us.  Using a Feng Shui cure, I planted two rocks in the garden—one on her side and the other on my side—connected with a red string.  Each rock had the word “Harmony” painted on it.  I had hoped this ancient cure would ease the tension between us.  More importantly, I knew it signaled my first step in getting off an angry merry-go-round. 

I am not sure the Feng Shui cure worked.  Nothing seemed to change except that a day of reckoning did finally come.  I was leaving my home one morning months after I had set the cure in motion.  As usual, when I lock my door, I usually end up facing her stoop.  That particular morning I got a good look at her stoop.  The thought came rushing in, “This mental anguish between you and her must stop!”  How?  I wasn’t sure.  I still felt angry.  I wasn’t about to sit down and talk to my neighbor.  Not yet.

My Second Attempt—Getting Biblical

During this time, a Bible passage came to my attention. 

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”  –Matthew 18: 21-22:

I started thinking, “What if I write a statement of forgiveness 490 times?”  I could do 70 statements a day for seven days and see what happens.  I wanted to resolve this issue once and for all.  I wasn’t ready to do it face-to-face, addressing it spiritually had potential.  I devised the statement:  “I forgive my neighbor and myself for past hurts.”  I thought I should include myself as well since I was one of the two players in this scenario.  

I began writing on Sunday.  By Wednesday things started happening in my condominium apartment. 

A Punctured Pipe Serves as Catalyst      

My bathroom is right above hers.  Since our units are more than 60 years old, the aging pipes often get clogged.  On Wednesday, the fourth day of writing my forgiveness statements, a member of the condominium staff snaked my clogged bathroom sink.  The next morning I took a shower.  What happened next changed everything.

I got an angry call from my neighbor.  The snake-job the day before had punctured my shower’s drain pipe, causing major leakage onto my neighbor’s bathroom ceiling.  By Friday afternoon the condominium management notified me that I could not take a shower or bath until after the weekend.  Since Monday was Veterans’ Day that meant Tuesday was the earliest I would be able to shower in my own home.

The Turning Point

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Faced with no access to bathing facilities, I got a knock on my door from my neighbor.  Since the first signs of leakage, we had had several conversations during which I expressed my concern and apology for this terrible inconvenience and damage.  She stopped by to inform me she was going out of town for the holiday weekend.  Knowing my predicament, she offered me the keys to her condo and gave me an open invitation to take showers or baths while she was away. 

This was mind-blowing!  After years of hostility, the logjam had been broken.  The keys were a peace offering, and I accepted them.  Although I still had feelings to deal with that kept me from showering in her condo, I knew progress had been made.  I completed the final set of sentences on Saturday.  I had been freed.  I could now move beyond the anger and resentment to a place of acceptance. 

Timeline Summary                       

Days 1-3     Began writing forgiveness statements each day

Day 4         Condominium maintenance man snaked sink pipe

Day 5         Shower leaked into neighbor’s bathroom

Day 6         Forbidden to shower; Received keys

Day 7         Completed writing forgiveness statements

Why Call Forgiveness a Clutterbuster?

So much of the clutter we carry around is intangible.  It’s mental, emotional and spiritual.  The resentment aimed at my neighbor occupied my thinking every time I left or entered my condo.  I would get annoyed when I heard loud voices or hammering from her unit, when she hosted parties, and even when she had a patio put in her backyard.  Whatever resentment conceived during our “garden altercation” mushroomed into a resentment that permeated everything I witnessed her doing.  It felt like a fungus I couldn’t control—until I realized I could control it.  I could expurgate it!

Anger and resentment are like deceptive lovers.  They cling to us and, in an odd way, comfort and protect us, much like material clutter.  We become co-dependent.  By holding onto them, we shield ourselves from the truth that we are the ones in charge of our own feelings.  Debilitating feelings left untended color our vision and deafen our hearing.  In the end we can’t see beyond the situation or hear our inner guidance.  We get stuck.

These days my relationship with my neighbor is peaceful and harmonious.  Recently she chided me for not telling her I had been ill for a week.  She said she would have made me soup and checked in on me had I let her know.  Thanks to forgiveness, our relationship has been healed.  I can now focus on something more positive than anger when I leave or enter my condo.  I can greet her with a light heart.  It feels wonderful.

2 Responses to “Forgiveness is a Clutterbuster!”


  1. Bev, a great story of forgiveness. We all should release the clutter of bad feeling towards others. Like you, the reminder of those negative feelings don’t do any good. I am glad you and your neighbor have moved on to a better, more positive relationship.

  2. Maggie Says:

    Bev, I so enjoyed reading this and it is most pertinent for me. Teachers always come when you need them and I am grateful for you! Blessings forever, Maggie


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