Shocked and appalled was how I found myself this time last year. Today, I stand in the shadow of my former self re-reflecting on a culmination of events that was perpetrated against me; and one word comes to mind: forgiveness.
For reasons I suspect, but will likely not ever fully know or understand, I was deeply hurt. Without going into detail, circumstances were blown out of proportion; I was made a scape goat; certain avenues were not honored; and when I made my claim, the rug was pulled from underneath me. Wolves haunted me while crows heckled at me, and despite my best efforts to hold my own (believe me, when I say I did), I was powerless to stop it – any of it.
In the midst of the cascading events, truly I was beside myself. Events that stemmed months prior to the culmination replayed over and over in my mind like a broken record - as I wracked it - trying to figure out where I went wrong, or what I could have done differently. Clearly some miraculous epiphany was what I was searching for in my memory to know how I could have changed the outcome. True to many stages of grieving, I blamed myself.
Days, weeks and even months after the climaxtic ending waking up in the aftermath, I was at the mercy of the emotions that followed. Some days it was all I could do to cry – earphones in and lying in the grass - as I thought of what was taken from me. Other days it was all I could do to yell and scream in rage as I slammed doors at the injustice, manipulation, and abuse of power that was committed against me. Truth be told, these escalating events even haunted me in my sleep as I’d wake up suddenly reliving scenes from spiraling events. Never before have I felt so deeply hurt before – honestly and truthfully.
From where I sat in the midst of these heated and hurt emotions, it wasn't until three distinct friends of mine on three separate occasions suggested to me to forgive persons I was holding resentment towards. It was an enormous idea and dare I say task – this idea of forgiveness.
“How could I?”
“They don’t deserve it!”
“They haven’t earned my forgiveness.”
“I want them to feel the hurt I feel!”
“I’m not ready to forgive!”
Fortunately for myself these friends reminded me of something. The remorse I was aching for from these persons wasn't going to come. In other words, some kind of resolve or apology wasn't going to happen. I was waiting for a healing word to come from these people, an apology in a bottle; maybe a flare that says, "I'm sorry," and the hurting left me numb. And as days went by, and the sun settled on my anger, so did the darkness laugh, as the wound destroyed, thus turning my prayers to noise. The bitterness I was hiding would eat me alive; it would seep into my soul (without me even being suspect of it) and steal my joy. A joy that many know me for would indeed be robed from me, till all I might now is bitterness. Thus, I needed to let it go, and not be held down by a hurtful past. Knowing I can’t change the past, as much as I’d like to. In a word: acceptance.
Something to be grasped, as I walked this road, I realized something: forgiveness isn't something to be earned, rather it is given, without an expectation of any resolve in return. Most people associate forgiveness with letting the perpetrators off the hook, an out of jail free card if you will, an attitude of “it’s okay” (when it’s really not). Rather, forgiveness, as I've come to learn again, is more of a reconciling within of actions that caused so much hurt, and then and there reconciling those feelings. Then in turn, to forgive the inexcusable in the other; not forgetting, rather understanding the human in them. In essence, it’s not sweeping it under the rug, its water under the bridge; where one image pretends it’s not there, the other accepts that it has passed. Letting it go, and moving on.
That is not to say that the essence of this word didn't come without much struggle; in fact it came with ample struggle. After all, in the words of Alexander Pope, “to err is human, to forgive, divine.” To say that there isn't the struggle; would suggest that there wasn't an offence made; hurt done; thus nothing to forgive. But no matter it something as petty as a lie; or something as hurtful as betrayal, it still boils down to forgiveness. Forgiveness surely doesn't happen overnight; without a doubt forgiving takes time – as it did for me.
Will I forget what happened? No. But I have learned a lot about myself in the process. I've learned what I’m capable of facing head on. I've learned that I gave it my best effort – and put up quite a fight. I didn't go quietly if you will – and for that I’m proud. As cliché as it sounds, it has made me stronger.
And so it goes, the age old question: can you forgive if you can’t forget? Sure. Forgiveness doesn't imply amnesia. Rather forgiveness implies an interior strength greater than the hurt; greater than the emotions that drive us away from peace within. And in time, time does heal all wounds – and I’d add: if you allow it to.
“The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning them again
I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I know it's about forgiveness.”