It’s Not The Kitten’s Fault

“The great challenge of faith is to be surprised by joy.  I remember sitting at a dinner table with friends discussing the economic depression of the country.  We kept throwing out statistics that made us increasingly convinced that things could only get worse.  Then, suddenly, the four-year-old son of one of my friends opened the door, ran to his father, and said, ‘Look, Daddy!  I found a little kitten in the yard…Isn’t she cute?’  While showing the kitten to his father, the little boy stroked the kitten with his hands and held it against his face.  All at once everything changed.  The little boy and his kitten became the center of attention.  There were smiles, strokes, and many tender words.  We were surprised by joy!

God became a little child in the midst of a violent world.  Are we surprised by joy or do we keep saying:  ‘How nice and sweet, but the reality is different.’  What if the child reveals to us what is really real?”  –Henri Nouwen, Christ Our Hope

Tonight I begin a sermon series on Forgiveness.  It is something I’ve been studying for about 5 years.  One resource I am using is a book by Dr. Fred Luskin entitled Forgive For Good.  Dr. Luskin is director and cofounder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project which teaches individuals the process of reconciliation and forgiveness.

Dr. Luskin begins by saying that all those who need to engage in forgiveness have created for themselves a Grievance Story.  That is, a story about how they have been wronged, or how they have wronged another person.  While the grievance story may well be based in fact, over time it takes on a life of its own so that the person who tells it finds a way to link their Grievance Story to every possible situation.  You say, it’s Leap Day!  They reply, Yep.  I can never ignore Leap Day.  That was the day when so-and-so did thus-and-such.  Sigh.

According to Luskin, we get so attached to our Grievance Stories we don’t realize that by holding them so close we are remaining chained to our past instead of embracing our future.  Since I read this, it seems I am noticing Grievance Stories everywhere.  It reminds me of a Facebook post:  “You can’t start the next chapter of your life, if you keep re-reading the last one.”

It makes me wonder how many kittens we are missing while we talk on and on about stories that never should have been written.




  1. Great post, I actually gave up my grievance stories for Lent. We could use a national/global Yom Kippur. Forgiveness goes well with ritual.


  2. Thank you for this. If I learn nothing else from your writings, I hope this is the one that moves me. I actually have more than one grievance story. I have retired some of them and am working on retiring all of them for good.

    It is good to talk about it with those involved, lest it fester forever.


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