On Forgiveness

That last post got a little intense on me, but I’m seeing where I need to go, now.

There is a popular notion that if you really and truly forgive a person, that you should not have to do it again. True forgiveness means that you let it go and then move on and then it’s done. Ideally, that might be so. But for us petty mortal humans, that really is not the reality of being who we are. We are petty. We hold grudges forever and even though we make efforts at forgiveness, we have a very hard time letting things go. Forgiveness is more of a process and I don’t think that just because we don’t get it right the first time we should give up on it. It is a worthwhile exercise.

The problem with forgiveness is that it involves a sort of surrender of the mind. And the mind is not very keen on giving up anything. The mind is a treacherous beast that betrays its owner at seemingly every opportunity. Thoughts come and thoughts go like the wind. There’s no stopping them, they just blow and swirl around us. It seems as the most negative, irrational and messiest thoughts are the ones that stick to us. Then the mind goes to work, processing them, feeding them, nurturing them, protecting them until we are totally overun with negativity.

Bringing the mind back under control involves doing regular maintainence on it and regularly monitoring what it is doing. I’m at my best when I can clear my mind and let what’s going on in there simply blow through the other side. Letting things swirl and circulate right on out. Then seeing what pops up.

Forgiveness is more than giving up some negative thoughts and feelings. It is clearing some things out but also turning things around. If I feel betrayed by someone, I can grab that and turn it around. Have I been just as treacherous towards that person? Has that person truly betrayed me? Or have I betrayed myself? Examining all of these questions allows me to evaluate and compare the truth of each. As it happens most often, I find that what I’ve done to myself, through my own thoughts, is worse that anything any single person has done to me.

I some some extremely special and wonderful memories of Ellen. She introduced me to a whole new world. While I tend to emphasize a lot of the negative things that hang with me from those days, there are many more positive things. First off, my entire career track changed after my experience with her. I went back to school the next year and the year after that, moved to Georgia. Having something in common with the broken hearted allowed me to feel empathy for people that I never would have been able to do otherwise. In fact, empathy was really one of the biggest lessons to come out of that. I’m pretty selfish, now. Imagine what sort of monster I would be if I had never experienced that sort of thing! No, I can honestly say I gained some very crucial qualities from my short but intense experience. In some ways, I wish I would have experienced these things ealier in life simply because I believe that being younger might have made me more resiliant.

But I can’t know if that is true at all. By experiencing the things I did as an adult, I was able to act on them in a way I could not have as a teenager. I made my own choices. Some of those choices were better than others.

And that’s where forgiveness really needs to take a hard turn. It’s not about forgiving Ellen, it’s about forgiving myself for allowing myself to do the things I did and for feeling the things I did. I allowed the hurt to come in, and that was just as intense as the love that I had felt earlier. In fact, the pain was a comfort of a sort, because after losing the other side of love, I needed that intensity to fill that void. I needed and nurtured that pain along like it was a precious baby. My baby. I gave birth to it, I fed and clothed it, I helped it grow. Maybe it was more like a pet that I brought home with me to replace the one that ran away or died. In anycase, it was my responsibility to care for it.

If that pain wants to go, it is free to do so. It is also free to stay. Afterall, it has been precious to me and has helped shape me and who I am for good or ill.

And here’s another thought; is it important at all to forgive other people? do we really have to do that, or is that just a smoke creen that keeps us from examining ourselves? Maybe the real betrayal is the one where we injure ourselves. Maybe forgiving ourselves is really where it is at.

Such a complicated subject. And it seems important to me to be able to understand it.

This is the reason why this blog came into being. I need a place to noodle through this stuff. I thank those of you who contribute and are just here for the ride.

Forgiveness seems to be a very crucial component for my own redemption. But I still need to work through where exactly it intersects with reality. Maybe the concept of redemption is incompatible with reality. Being the sort I am, that juxtoposition of two incompatible concepts would hold a lot of appeal.

But I wanted this blog to take a more positive turn than the other one. Instead of bitching about how awful my relationship was or how nonexistent my sexlife was or whatever other little complaint I might self-righteously nurture along, I wanted to see if there was a way out of it. Getting out from under the heaviness and weight of all the crap that I’ve built up.

Maybe it’s a good thing I lost all that other old material from the past year. Obviously it was meant to be. With the demise of my old blog, my computer (both the one at home and the one at work) and my flash drive all within the space of 2 weeks, it does seem that God is making my business His business.

Often we pray that God do something with us or to us. And then when He does, we want to complain about it, because He didn’t do it exactly the way we thought it should be done. One thing I am learning about the nature of God, is that He wastes nothing. His ways are not our ways, and that is not a bad thing. We think we know best, when we clearly don’t have the slightest clue what is in our best interest, especially for the long run. We muck it up every single time. But in some ways, God is okay with that. He means for us to make mistakes, because that seems to be the most efficient way we can learn things. We learn nothing when things go along swimmingly well and we can just drift happily along on a slow, peaceful current. If it weren’t for the storms and rapids, we would have no appreciation for what peace and calm were. We’d begin to complain about how things were dull and boring. As humans, we actually go out and invent and create things that frighten us out of our wits. Look at the horror movie genre, or even amusement park rides. 200 years ago, they didn’t need such things, because most people had enough things to be scared of, trying just to survive. “Survivor” was all what life was about and now we make it a sort of serial gameshow!

Okay, I’m veering off. I’ll think more and write more later. Or not think anything and just write whatever pops in, which is what I’ve done here.


3 Responses to On Forgiveness

  1. Square1 says:

    Forgiveness is a tricky thing. I know in my experience with forgiveness I have often thought that I’ve forgiven and moved on… then it comes back later. Really every time though it’s a new level, a new aspect… an aspect that I was too imature to address the fist several times but am ready to face now. It’s not about holding onto a grudge, it’s about dealing with a hurt that I wasn’t aware was there. Forgiveness has been a terribly huge issue for me my whole life… it is a beast I have come to know well while at the same time mystifying me. It is an admission. It is an admission of hurt. It is an admission that we are experiencing something we can not control. It is an admission that the person… the living, breathing person is far more important than our injured feelings. It is a surrender… giving up our pain, our anger, our embarassment, our indignation… things that we are inclined to cling to, but don’t need in our lives.
    I’ve come to accept that I have forgiven people in my life. I’ve come to accept that tomorrow I may feel my anger rekindled, but often though it seems it is over the same offense that I claimed to have let go, upon further examination… there was something there that I failed to address.
    That has been my experience.

  2. Digger Jones says:

    I’m glad to read your treatment of this. Reading what I have of you, you probably have had to wrestle with a few more of the deeper things.

    In some ways, our grief, our pain, our struggle and anger can become our religion of a sort. We have to pay it tribute, sacrifice so much for it and it always demands more of us no matter how much we give.

    That must be why Jesus said that we should forgive as well as seek forgiveness. In fact the former seems to dictate how successful we will be in the latter. Either way, our resentment basically means we are serving another master that is a lot more cruel that a Heavenly One.

  3. Square1 says:

    I watch the show “Six Feet Under” and where it’s not always the best show morally speaking it is true to life. Something one character said just recently really got to me… it’s the ghost of the father that died at the very beginning of the show, and he pops up every once in a while. He was saying o his son, “You hold onto your hurt like it means something to you, you’re alive you lucky bastard! You can do anything!” We do have a tendency to hang on when we really need to release it in order to heal. But there is the other extreme of denying that the pain is there, and that can be just as damaging.

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