From suburban Southern California, my family made the trip to Northern Indiana during a handful of summers when I was a little girl to visit my mother’s parents who were aging but not yet old. My grandfather did many things: he was a college professor, he mentored teenagers, he was a property manager and he ran a working farm. All at the same time.
As girls, we didn’t need a playground because my sister and I had nearly free reign of the property. After visiting the horses, running through the rows of prickly cucumbers and passing the chicken coop, we’d run up to the hay barn. All we needed was a barn full of bales upon bales open on one side to the Indiana summer.
We climbed and ran and jumped and fell and scraped little arms on the scratchy bales. And we caught the tiny frogs that lived in and near the hay. My sister and I competed to see who could catch the most.
The only way to hold a little frog, if you are a little girl, is in your little summer hand.
The frogs were so small that even our little hands held several at a time. We’d catch and hold, and catch another and hold and stuff them into one hand while we used the other to climb and catch more frogs.
With one hand full of amphibians, we ran full speed back to the house, fully intending on showing our “crop” with our mother. We expected the frogs to jump wildly out of our hands as we opened them in front of her summer skirt.
I called for her as I climbed the back porch steps and when she came to meet us, I unclenched my fingers.
Six little frogs. All dead.
I’d been squeezing them so hard during my flight around the barn and on my trip back that I’d killed every last one of them.
I shook the frogs from my hand, disgusted with them now as they flew into the dirt by the back door. I remember thinking that I had been the killer of something alive. That I’d murdered something that was jumping and full of life minutes ago and my stomach sunk when I thought about them jumping back in the barn.
Holding frogs is like holding grudges.
When we are in relationship with another person, we hold a living thing in our hands. Our spouses, our children, our mothers, our sisters. Or even the people that don’t matter as much: The other mother at your son’s school or the cousin you don’t talk with much any more.
We carry in our palms the most important resources on the planet: people.
When we don’t forgive one another their mistakes, their humanness, or the ways they’ve hurt us, we clench our hands around their hearts. And we begin to squeeze.
When we try so hard to carry the hurt further and farther along our journey without forgiveness, we don’t know that we are doing it, but we murder them. We hold grudges in our grimy little hands, maybe even with good hearts, but hearts full of hurt. We might even know that the hurts will wound us beyond repair, yet we carry them still.
Not only do we kill the relationship and any chance of healing but in some small way we murder a part of ourselves too when we don’t forgive.
The day I killed the frogs a little piece of my girlhood died. It might seem minor, but to a little girl who would honestly never hurt a fly, killing is a big deal. I left a small bit of my heart in that barn on simply trying to carry something that did not want to be carried.
Grudges, hurt and forgiveness should not be carried. We ruin ourselves and we ruin those around us when we do.
Can we let it go today? Can we open our hands, unclench our fists before we kill what we do not intend to kill? Can we let go of our grudges?
by Sarah Markley, who tries very hard every day to keep her heart free and to tries to let go what should not be carried.