Sometimes, Even The Best Relationships Give Back an Empty Casserole Dish

I want to forgive you, but I can’t right now. 

I love you.  But I haven’t reached the next level in my self-improvement.  That stronger, higher vibration I need in order to find peace with what happened between us.  I can’t forgive you until I can forgive myself.  I try and fail but I promise I will try again.  I won’t give up but I hope you will be there when I reach my forgiveness destination.


You remain a part of me.  You have a room in my heart but the room has a shut door.  Just as my mother closed the door to my teenage bedroom because she didn’t want to look at the mess, I haven’t been willing to go into your room and clean up the brokenness. My Heart-Housekeeping quit because there was an incident between us.  The room, the safe space we built; now has damaged furniture, broken light fixtures and torn wallpaper.  It’s trashed.  I don’t know when I will open your door but I promise you are safe in my happy memories until I can face the painful ones.

I want to forgive you, but I can’t right now.

I’m not ready.  You didn’t commit a crime and you’re not a horrible human being.  It would be so much easier if you were, then I could write you off and be done with our relationship.  But you are good person - even if you’re not to me. I don’t think you and I are a good match for each other.  My selfish, self-preservation separated me from you.  It was for my own protection.  It’s too hard to admit my weaknesses.  The stumble and fall of my sacrifices unnoticed by you.  I wanted you to notice me.  It’s embarrassing to admit that I believed in your goodness, when I wanted so much for you to remind me of the goodness in myself.  My feelings don’t feel safe around you.  My heart can’t handle your rejection and what’s worse is that you probably aren’t aware that you’ve discarded me. Honestly, my reality is facing that you no longer need my support.

                       Maya Angelou wrote - *People will never forget how you made them feel.*

I hope I made you feel good.  I hope that I encouraged you to believe in yourself and that belief flourished and made you feel confident.  I hope I made you feel loved - because you were.  Even now you are loved, but it hurts me more to admit it. 

I feel like you cheated me - and yourself - out of the other side of our relationship.  You took the giving, but didn’t grant my chance for receiving.  Maybe you disagree and feel like you gave a lot but it seemed your kindness was given in careful ways.  You were guarded and limited with your offering. Why?  Who would hold it against you? At the time, your needs seemed more important than mine and I believed it was noble to do without the return. As a parent provides for a child - the child is not expected to give back.  But what happens when the child matures and the parent ages?  Don’t most children grow into adults who give back?

My heart wants to write freely, but my logic concludes there’s a sliver of chance that you will see yourself in this work.  You’ll see through my writing effort as an attempt to explain why you hurt me.  And here’s a bit of raw honesty - it would hurt more if you weren’t aware that you did.  If you hadn’t even considered the distance between us.  If we reconcile, please tell me that you knew all along but you didn’t know how to find your way back.  The road to recovery was treacherous and full of barricades and detours.  Admit that you had no way of finding your way back to our messy room behind the forgotten closed door.

Maybe the labor of writing will help someone else who reads it.  They will find themselves on one side or the other.  It’s easy for the giver.  If you’re the giver, you feel good about yourself.  You think that you’ve done the right thing by offering support.  Believing in the dreams of another human being without concerns of your own.

The hard part is admitting you’re on the other side.  It takes strength to admit you’re the receiver. It takes courage to admit that you’ve taken from someone until they ran out and had nothing else to offer. It takes courage to recognize that you cheated yourself out of the giving.

I grew up in North Carolina but I was nearly 40 years old before I had a friend teach me about a giving and receiving tradition.   I thought it was a southern thing but over time I’ve learned that it’s universal in the world of human decency.

I cooked dinner for my friend and her family.  She had minor, out-patient surgery but would remain on bed rest for several days.  I offered to prepare a simple meal - one dish - for her family as she recuperated.   It wasn’t fancy, I can’t even remember what it was, but it was one dinner that my friend didn’t have to plan, order or prepare.  Several weeks later, she stopped by my house so she could return my casserole dish.  Underneath the clear glass lid, sitting on the clean, white ceramic was a box of store bought cookies. My eyes went from the casserole dish to her face several times before she understood my confusion. 

“Never return a dish to a friend, without something in it.”  She beamed her gorgeous, light up the day smile and said, “I didn’t have time to bake, but wanted to give something back for caring for my family.”

Well then.  Never in all the years of my southern life had I ever heard this expression but it makes so much sense AND not only with bakeware.  You can’t always take without giving something back because you cheat yourself out of the other side of the blessing.  When you take and don’t give back in the same language (or way) the person gave it, then you are denying yourself (and them) the beautiful circle of giving and receiving.  Giving has no balance if it’s only going in one direction.


In the beginning you returned my dishes empty, then not at all.

I want to forgive you, but I can’t right now.


The saying goes that a lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of a sheep. Maybe to you I am a sheep, but you forget that I once was the mouse.  The mouse who removed the thorn from your paw when life was cruel and circumstances beat you down.  I was there when few others were.  I am a coward for not telling you how I feel.  But believe me, my passivity holds no aggression.  I pulled away from you long ago because your brightness illuminated my insecurities.  You left me, but I also stepped back.  I distanced myself from the pain of being left behind.  If I walk away, then it doesn’t feel so much like being left.  I’ve been where you are and from experience I know it is easier to leave than to be left behind.  But I take some of the blame in our separation because I made the decision to stop chasing you.  You didn’t notice when I was behind you from the beginning and you probably aren’t aware that I’m not there now.

I love you.  I do.  So much.  But I have farther to go to forgive myself for the time I spent on you and learning that the time I spent was not wasted.  It reveals who you and I are AND who we were together.  And until I forgive myself, I can’t forgive you.

This story was not a cure all.  I don’t feel any differently than I did before I wrote it.  But what I have is a conversation with my spirit allowing me to explore what’s bothering me.  The wound opening fresh feels cathartic.  It reveals a safe space to experience the pain again so I can feel it, then let it go.  Maybe even crack open the door and start looking at the broken pieces.  If I open the room, will you and I find each other again?  Will we be able to clean it together?

When we give a part of ourselves, sometimes it take awhile to get it back.  Or maybe we don’t at all.