second chances

Second chances.

I have been thinking about them a lot lately after a recent conversation with someone close to me.

I could generalize that statement and say we are all deserving of second chances. However much I believe that to be true, I don't want to generalize that phrase at all. Second chances are not a generality but a personal decision and a personal grace.

We all screw up. All of the time. I would use stronger language because that statement warrants it, but I know my publisher hates profanity so I will refrain. We all make huge, giant, gargantuan whoppers of mistakes. We all hurt people and disappoint people and do damage in some way. So how do we choose who should get a second chance or a third or a hundredth?

I have been called naïve, stupid and blind in my lifetime simply because I am a firm believer that people can change, that someone can be sorry. I have had people tell me, "You are setting yourself up for heartache." Or "How can you believe that so and so won't just toss you to the wolves again?" And I guess my answer to that question is just easy. I'll take my second chances.

There are a lot of people who do not know how to forgive. There are a lot of people who refuse to put themselves out there on a limb and believe in someone else. And there are people like me, who feel as if they are hanging by the skin of their teeth to continue to have faith in the people who have disappointed them. I am ashamed to admit that it is for selfish reasons I offer dibs on second chances. I do so simply because I want to be forgiven when I am the disappointer, the damager or the one who causes unbearable pain.

I have thought much about why I choose to allow second chances and why I have difficulty holding an old country grudge. It requires way too much energy and thought to hold offenses against people and I don't feel like wasting my time on it. And I realize too, that I am choosy who I give my second chances to. There is almost a secret formula to it. I ask myself a few questions.

Does this person mean something to me? Are they important to my life? Do I love them? If I cut them out of my life, am I really better off? And if they hurt me again can I survive it?

They are sometimes hard questions to answer.

The love question is the easy one. I have never found it to be a question to be wondered over. You love or you don't-you don't need to ponder that question. And if we love, how do we so casually throw that away and never look back? How do we live with the thought that this person was part of our heart but we allowed them to disappear because we were too afraid? Facing that question the rest of my life seems harder than taking second chances.

Does that mean that I will just be walked over if I open myself up to them again? Maybe. That is the chance taken in forgiving someone and allowing them back into your life. There is the chance for destruction in forgiveness.

Often we give a restaurant who offered poor service or food more thought into a second chance than the people in our life who really mean something to us. We are too quick to toss people out as if they were disposable to our lives. We are fast to lose hope in the people we put the most trust in. It is easier to just say, "F*** you!" than to say, "I'll give you another chance."

Is this person important to me? Another easy one in a sense. If I care enough to even wonder if I should allow a second chance, then this person has been important enough to me to give one to.

Is life better without them? This is the part where imagination runs wild and we picture them completely out of our lives. We imagine their funerals and see their tombstones. We see empty chairs or empty rows or empty something-we see the emptiness of our lives and we see the grief. We see what they add to us, warts and all. Or we can see that the person left no lasting impression, no physical or emotional mark upon our lives. So again, the choice is easy-yes or no.

The last question is the hardest-the one I can't figure out. The last question is the blind one, the one that has to be a pure desperate leap of faith. Will I survive another heartache? No one can answer that with any confidence. No one knows their strength until they are faced with the hardest decisions or occurrences of their lives.

I just think we have to jump the chasm of forgiveness with our eyes shut tight, praying that there is a net beneath us. We need to hope for the best and also prepare for the best. If we don't, we stop right in the moment and there is no second chance of going on. We just stop.