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02 March 2011 @ 04:42 pm

This is for rafaela:

I'm a lot like you; stubborn, sensitive, and I hold a grudge until the end of eternity.  Forgiving is not easy for me, and it's not something I take lightly.

But I do consider forgiveness a thing of great value and utility to me, and not in the sense that I was trained to think of it.  And while I did see slipjig's entry and pretty much scan right past it -- Thanks, but you're not telling me anything that I don't already devote half my life to, but perhaps someone else needed to see it, so okay -- your entry stopped me.

Because forgiveness has nothing to do with ceasing to protect yourself.  To me, forgiveness is a part of my armor, not a chink in it.  If, in the act of forgiving, I gave people an Open Season sign on taking advantage of me, it would be a pretty stupid thing to do.

In my religion, even Christ was not absolutely permissive toward those who wanted to harm him.  And the wounds he finally suffered had a purpose.

I heard a quote that said once that forgiveness meant "giving up all hope of a better past".  It means that you accept what happened to you, and move on.  And "moving on" doesn't mean forgetting it.  It means to take it into the story of your life, to love who you are, to realize that you are who you are because of the things that have happened to you, and refuse to try to edit your own past to make a new self.  It means accepting horrific things on that basis alone:  because you accept your life.

When I refuse to forgive someone who has badly hurt me, what my mind is actually saying is, How could you be the person who did this?  I want them to go back and erase what happened.  Atonement and amends are a part of that.  And it's a fortunate thing when they are offered, because that means the person in question agrees that they really weren't as bad as that moment in which they hurt me; they are trying to be better, they want to be trustworthy.

But if they really were capable of no better treatment of me than what they offered me, then all I can do is forgive.  In that case, for me, forgiveness means to accept and even love them for who they are:  an untrustworthy person who is liable to hurt me.  And I behave toward them accordingly.  True forgiveness is a horribly final act.

A lot of people would say that's not forgiveness, that it's really judgment.  I don't think it is.  It's no act of love for me to let somebody hurt me repeatedly; I'm not helping me, I'm not helping them either, and I'm draining myself of the ability to live.  And blind denial of someone's repeated hurtfulness is not true acceptance and love.

There's a difference between being guarded and being vengeful.  I choose the former.  It doesn't mean I never give second chances, or that every breach of trust is Game Over for me; it just means that the concept of forgiveness as a blank check also acknowledges the moral poverty of those who need one -- even if only temporarily -- as well as the limitations on my emotional bank balance.

I forgive because, after the initial hurt, I refuse to let someone continue to hurt me by my holding that hurt in my heart for years.  I do everything I can to see that person as having done the best that they could, I do my best to not take it personally, I do my best to get on with my life and accept that bad things will always happen because humans err.  I don't do these things because I like getting hurt.  I do them because I HATE getting hurt... so I weed out every mental habit that compounds what others do to me.  Not because I'm strong, but because I know how easily hurt I am.  I can't carry my grudges and their mistakes.  I crumple.  So I give up the weight that's mine to release.

You are powerless to keep others from hurting you, as long as you love and trust and have relationships.  Forgiveness means that you accept that cost of your own free will, rather than having it beaten out of you.

Forgiveness means knowing that humans will be human, but knowing that you are strong enough to survive it.

All that said?

I do it when I can.

It's STILL not always possible.  I know.  Some of us have lives that break us, and are harmed past the ability to love the results from the things that have happened.  Some things are past the ability for you to let go, past the ability to recognize that justice is impossible and revenge never works; some things defy acceptance.  You can only rage.

Forgiveness is an act of great strength, and it can also increase your strength, but it can also be like asking someone who has had their arms chopped off to start lifting weights in order to build them back up.  Sometimes?  You just can't.

I know things have been hard for you, especially recently, and I hope many better things for you.  Forgiveness among them, if it's possible.  But if it's not, then I would wish acknowledgment and amends from those who have helped to make it such a burden.  And healing.  And peace.  And some days that don't suck.

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