The Shoulder Shrug of Forgiveness
This post is my monthly contribution to Bloggers for Peace.
The assignment for the month of February has been to write a post in regards to forgiveness. Like any homework that I have ever been assigned in my life, I’m writing it at the very last minute. Update: Kozo at everyday gurus, let me know I was mistaken and that the Forgiveness assignment was for March. I started the day being late and now I’m early!
Forgiveness is a tough topic for me to write about for a whole myriad of reasons. Mostly because I don’t know what it really means and have never given it a name in my life. When I read stories about families of victims forgiving the murderer, I appreciate the vast gulf those families must have traversed to get to that point. I think that it must have required time, diligence, patience and a bigger view than I could possibly ever have.
In writing about growing up with domestic violence, a commenter once praised me for my ability to forgive. I wanted to respond that they were mistaken. I hadn’t consciously forgiven anyone. I just stopped being angry all the time, stopped seeking to blame and began to see the players in the drama for the small, weak people that they were. On occasion I feel compassion for them. In rare instances, when a memory has been triggered, I hate them all over again. How do you find forgiveness in all that?
For me, therein lies the crux of the problem. Forgiveness sounds like this all-encompassing, perpetual emotion that continues on ad infinitum. We’re complicated. I’m complicated. I don’t feel the same way for more than a few days, a few hours, even a few moments at a time. Things are always shifting. My brain is a kaleidoscope – a changing perspective each and every day.
In my daily life, I don’t stay angry for very long. It takes far too much energy to maintain and I am quick to realize the futility of it. It’s one of those emotions, like guilt, that should drive a person towards change or action, but not be held onto. It is corrosive. But the absence of anger is not really forgiveness, is it?
People always talk about the power of forgiveness, piously saying “I forgave him or her for this or that”. Unfortunately, statements like that always put me on alert. Sometimes the naming or announcing of a thing immediately gets tagged in my skeptical head as suspect. Telling someone you forgive them seems weird, too. Has someone ever told you that you’re forgiven? It’s like being given reprieve from execution by the person who ordered it in the first place. You feel grateful, but you’d like to punch them for having that kind of power over you. Maybe that’s just me.
If I’ve started doing things that require a grandiose announcement that I’m forgiven, something has already gone very wrong in the relationship. I apologize when I’ve realized I’ve done something wrong or hurtful and the person I’ve hurt says something to lessen the intensity and vice versa. We shrug it off and move on. Forgiveness is then not holding a grudge and being willing to accept an apology. It is part of the connective tissue of our relationship. A condition upon which we have tacitly agreed.
Of all the types of forgiveness, I find self-forgiveness the most challenging. My catalog of misdeeds and small cruelties is fully collated and recorded and dredged up on occasion when I start feeling a might too good about myself. I will easily shrug off the actions or words of someone else while castigating myself for doing or saying the exact same thing. As I get older, I realize the importance of giving myself a mental flick in the ear to say “That was a dumb thing to do, move on, don’t do it again.” My version of forgiveness is less about the warm fuzzies and more pragmatic. Get on with things, don’t wallow.
Often, when I’ve finished writing about a subject, I have a reasonable perspective, I’ve learned something or I’ve reaffirmed something I already knew. I don’t know anything more except to say forgiveness is a concept of which I do not have a good grasp. Perhaps I cannot name that which can only be felt deep in the bones, sincerely and utterly. Perhaps it is a mental obstacle that erodes only slightly, moment by moment, until one day you can clearly see an uncluttered landscape of compassion.
More Bloggers for Peace:
A Gift from a Telephone Solicitor from Authentic Talk
Friends and Enemies: The Malleable Keys to Peace at everyday gurus
The Inertia of Our Forever War at Peace Garret
Kozo & Cheri asks that you…at Bloggers for Peace
Administrative Note: The Green Study “Worst Job I’ve Ever Had” Contest is coming to life with some very funny/ horrific entries! You have until Sunday, March 3rd 2013, 12:00 pm (US Standard Central Time) to get your entry submitted.