Friday, May 21, 2010


What is forgiveness? Is it an active action, can it be passive, does it imply that the "offender" wasn't wrong? I find myself contemplating forgiveness quite a bit lately, and finding myself perplexed by it's presence in my life.

My childhood wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. Some kids had it much worse, some had it much better, but without hesitation I can say that I had it pretty rough. My parents each came with their troubles and shortcomings and all that had a varying effect on my growing up.

Thankfully, along with the difficulty, I was given amazing amounts of grace. It is that grace that I count when I look back on my life and see where I have ended up. A unique mix of my grandmother, my village, and the friends (and their parents) allowed me to "get above my raisin'" and in a good way.

But, back to forgiveness.....

I have plenty of reason to be very angry at my parents. My mother was a messed up and fractured human being. She had such deep-seated troubles, and was constantly taking it out on those around her. Her way to deal with her disappointments, her fears, and her own mixed up life was to try to destroy those around her. My father, he lived a life that told him not to be weak, don't trust, and don't allow those around you to rely on you. Survival of the fittest was his way of surviving.

I was able to find forgiveness for my mother in trying to understand what motivated her own rage. By examining her life, asking questions of those who knew her growing up, and looking at our relationship as mother and daughter, I was able to find peace in my heart. I was able to see her for the frail human that she was, and to let the anger go in the face of my sorrow for her. It didn't change the wrong she did, did not excuse the inexcusable, but allowed me to have peace and forgiveness for her.

My father was a little more complicated. The wrong he did me seemed much more deliberate, more calculated to hurt. He put himself first, when I felt he had the capacity for doing other. I raged against the wrongs he did, the rights he left undone, and the emotional inability for him to connect the way I wanted. For year we didn't speak and I was content to have it that way.

Then, through a weird alignment of events, I found myself with my father in my home. I saw him for the frail human he is (that we all are). Suddenly, all that anger coupled with the new understanding I had of his life through my genealogy research and I found myself less angry. Over the last several years we have healed our relationship and now hardly a day goes by that we don't talk, and several times a week we see each other. Our relationship has found forgiveness.

So, here is my question... By forgiving someone are you saying that they weren't wrong in your relationship? Are you saying that whatever event that led you to need forgiveness is now null and void? Is it possible to continue to acknowledge the wrong done to you, but allow it to live in the past? Can you look at an individual and see their actions (or lack thereof) in the context of their greater life and allow the peace of today to speak in the place of the pain of yesterday- without saying that yesterday wasn't painful?

I find myself in the curious position of feeling that while my parents did me wrong, I can find peace in my relationship of today. It doesn't change the past, doesn't change the moments that I am that injured young woman who has been profoundly hurt by her parents. For today, I think I have found a place where the love I feel for a man who has been hugely important to me has supplanted the pain I felt when he betrayed me. My sorrow for the little boy he was- betrayed by those he relied on- has given me a peace and understanding I will hold on to, because it is better than anger.

Forgiveness is a far more complex thing than I ever thought possible. It is possible to say "I forgive" without saying, "It's ok what you did." Who knew.....

1 comment:

  1. I think that emotionally mature people (of which you are most definitely one!) say "I forgive" as much for themselves as the other person-and maybe more.

    I love the following quote - "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."

    It's a hard thing to do, and many people are not able. What a blessing that you've been able to work through this and come out on the other side with some peace.