Friday, May 24, 2013

Forgiveness, Part II

      I believe deeply in forgiveness. I believe almost beyond any other belief that we are so deeply connected, so mysteriously "one" even in our uniqueness, separateness, and diversity that it is true that when I hurt you I am hurting me. I believe that forgiveness, therefore, rather than revenge, is not just for the other person, and not just for oneself, but for the world. The more we can let go of anger, the more we can choose love instead of hate, peace instead of violence and hope instead of desperate struggle, the more we contribute to the healing of the world. I believe all of this with every fiber of my being. None the less - none the less, there have been a couple times when, despite all my beliefs and intentions, forgiveness did not come easily for me, when I have struggled to remember that we are all one, when a sense of self-preservation became stronger than the ability to see our connections and a feeling of self-righteousness overpowered my ability to have compassion for actions I didn't, in the moment, understand.
     When a person apologizes, when a person "repents" of their behavior by changing it, when a person expresses genuine regret, remorse, sorrow over their actions and the consequences of their actions, forgiving is easier. When I understand a decision, when I am told what was behind the hurtful action, when I see the depth of a person - even if it contains a problem, a flaw, a significant shortcoming - when I understand it, forgiveness comes, accompanied by compassion and empathy. However, sometimes it is harder to forgive.  And this can be for a number of reasons.  For example, when a person does not or cannot take responsibility or own their part in a problem, when a person does not express regret or remorse for the pain they have caused, when a person fails to explain what went into their hurtful decisions and actions, when a person does not "repent" in the sense of trying to do something different that it not so hurtful, forgiveness does not always come so easily for me.  I recognize that because we are all one, it is just as important for me to forgive in these cases as it is to forgive any other time.  Forgiveness is necessary - if not for the one forgiven, then certainly for the person forgiving and, I believe, for the peace of the world.  I recognize that this is a growing edge for me, an area in which I strive to do better. This is an area that calls for my constant attention and in which, even with that constant attention, I am not always successful.
     There have been a couple times in my life when I admit that it took more time to forgive than I would have wanted.  In each case, I also had trouble forgiving myself in these scenarios.  I ended up claiming a bigger piece than may have been mine as I struggled to find ways in which I could have avoided the painful situation.  I wrestled with pain, anger, guilt and frustrated attempts to fix what was, in each case, an unresolvable problem.  But in addition to the original trauma, both times, despite all my current words about forgiveness and peace I was so hurt, so broken by the situation that I chose to speak out in ways that I later desperately wished I could take back.  The words I used caused more pain, not only for the other, but for myself as well.  As a result of my own failure to forgive with expedience I ended up carrying additional guilt and shame for how I responded.  And no matter how much apologizing I did, or asking for forgiveness, it simply wasn't enough to remove or repair the damage I had done.
I believe in the God of resurrection, so I looked, even in this, for the good. The good that I found was that each time it was a reminder, and a motivator, for me to continue to work on my goal of being more forgiving. I was hurt by my lack of forgiveness. I hurt others through my lack of forgiveness.  I did not contribute to the peace and wholeness of the world when I chose anger rather than compassion.  So daily, my prayers began by asking for the strength and grace to forgive, to let go, to walk forward with love rather than anger or hate, with peace rather than violent words, and with hope rather than desperate struggle. That continues to be my prayer. For myself. For those I encounter. For the world.