Monday, May 21, 2007


G recently posted about forgiveness (or the lack thereof) and I was prompted to the following response. But before I muse a bit, I leave you with his beautiful quote:

"my anger excludes all visitors except machismo."

as always, I appreciate your candor and openness in sharing, and you were right, I did appreciate this piece. as you seemed to expect, I am most drawn to commenting on forgiveness. Forgiveness is such an interesting issue, and loaded with complexities to boot. I think one of the most helpful things for me to learn (which came in large part from working with survivors and dealing with people in my own life who weren't quite right in how they acted or fully sincere in their apologies) was that forgiveness isn't primarily (or even necessarily) about the other person and their apology. It is about you and the feelings (most often, as you've noted, anger and resentment--which stem from hurt or fear) that you harbor. So the true act of forgiveness means letting go of the feelings so they don't eat at you. Whether or not the offending party actually apologizes is almost completely irrelevant--which is important b/c we are not guaranteed an apology, or, if we do receive one, it clearly may not be what we want--so as long as we are tied to that person's action (i.e., the apology) we can't be truly liberated from the event. Another way of saying all of that is that forgiveness is a type of emotional cleansing or liberation from the resulting feelings of being hurt/angered/offended.
And, the adage "forgive and forget" (in my opinion) is a bunch of bull, at least if we are referring to actual mental memory. Why? Because if I simply forget the past, I am prone to repeat it. If I hold no records of what has been done to me, I can be hurt, abused, affected over and over again. But, if we refer the memory of grudge or resentment, then forgiveness is exactly that--forgetting--letting go of the weight of those emotions so that we are no longer burdened by them (b/c God knows the other person is not carrying that burden...)

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