What is a forgivable act? What is not? Why do people show up in court to forgive someone who has just murdered a member of their family, while someone in the next courtroom tears into the defendant wishing them nothing but the worst for the time left they have on this Earth. It amazes me the things that someone will do to someone else, only to be forgiven afterward. Was I just stubborn and prickly for thinking I could not forgive people as I moved through my life? Were these people that forgave so quickly suckers who believed that by forgiving this person they no longer had to live with the pain that person had caused? Pain is Pain, why do we forgive some and not others. Why do some forgive and others don’t?
The thought of forgiveness to me means that you recognize that someone or something has caused you harm. You are acknowledging this hurt and telling the person, while this isn’t okay, I am not going to allow this to stand in the way of my life or way of living. This is all well and good but what acts are in need of forgiveness? Are we becoming a society now that every other day the world feels that you owe them an apology? Have we found away around it with the classic “I am sorry if you were offended” seemingly turning the blame back onto the person that was offended without recognizing their own place in this grievance? Where is the line for an act to need to be forgiven or the line where something is deemed unforgivable? I know it is different for everyone; I know we each have our own tolerances, and our own beliefs but still shouldn’t there be a fundamental line?
This has been on my mind lately for one specific moment in my life. I once told the woman that I loved, the woman I loved more than anything in the world, that something she did was deemed “unforgiveable” in my mind. I cringe even writing that to be out there forever. No, it wasn’t when she left, that I have forgiven the pain she has caused me for leaving, fairly quickly too. Why was forgiving her for her leaving me so quickly forgiven (maybe more in words than in truth at first) but not this act this, in the grand scheme of things, minor act, why was this the thing that I was so hung up on at that moment that I had to say something so profoundly stupid. Did I want her to just feel the hurt that I felt based upon her act? Maybe, but if that was the case I would have said this to her shortly after the act right? I said it almost 3 years later. Everyone has moments in their lives where they wish they could go back in time and slap the shit out of themselves for being asinine. This is my moment, well one of them. Maybe she was right in leaving. I am not sure why this jumped into my head recently but it did and it has just been ringing through my mind as if I was standing beneath the church bells on a Sunday AT NOON. I wish I could tell you the thoughts that were going through my head at that moment but knowing who I was and hoping to not be anymore, probably not much. I am a thoughtful person, I am aware, but there are moments where self-awareness has blindly escaped me, this was one of those. This may have been the moment where she started looking outside of the marriage for happiness and you know what, maybe deservedly so.
The working through of the forgiveness process is one that I now find myself on the other side of for the reasons I have just explained above. After a few days of just not being able to stand myself anymore I had to write her an email. An email asking forgiveness. Asking her forgiveness when I said to her that I couldn’t afford her the same respect. This had me thinking about all of the people that I have or have not forgiven and for what acts did the idea of forgiveness even come into play. Then I started thinking about forgiving myself and whether I was ready to do that yet. Looking back on your life and the decisions you have made and the relationships lost is a very hard thing to do. It strikes at the exact core of who you are as a person which leaves you to then contemplate what type of person you were/ are/ or going to be. The rabbit whole of a thought process as this is, I took my chances and chased the white rabbit (no LSD involved) (well, this time).
Why do I forgive?
This is a pretty simple answer for me, because I want to. That is it. I want to forgive. Who I want to forgive, that is a completely different question. I take into account a variety of aspects when I am looking at the forgiveness process such as,
- Who you are in my life?
- The act,
- Do I value our relationship?
- The odds that the exact situation will arise repeatedly in the future,
- Did you affect my wife or my kids?
I am sure there are more but that is the gist of it. I have had relationships that I have chosen not to continue with because of an act that was probably forgivable but they then compounded the situation by doing something immediately afterward that aggravated the situation further. This lends an air of stupidity that I have very little tolerance for especially when the situation could have been avoided. Add an accelerant of something like fucking with my wife or my kids then we are done and I am comfortable walking away without the thought of forgiveness. This may be a hard stance to hear or seem very cold but the relationships that I value and hold the closest to my heart are those of a very few friends, my wife (at the time), and my kids. I simply cannot forgive someone messing with my ex-wife or my kids, I may tolerate you, MAY, but for the most part I will be weary of you at every turn. I am not someone who likes to live with drama in their lives so to continue that lifestyle I have to be very steadfast with the belief that if I have chosen to forgive you it is with my whole heart but if I haven’t then it is with my whole being. I recognize that this may be no way to keep people in my life, I recognize that people may be turned off by this and such I may not have relationships with some people that may be very interesting to me but this is so deeply engrained into my core that it is who I am at this point and not an area that may change.
I do think I am a forgiving person. I want to believe that someone would not have meant to cause another harm. I want to believe in the good of people, that they are trust worthy, that they make mistakes, and that I can tolerate a lot so why not just one more chance. For many I have done just this. Chance after chance after chance, she being one of them, recently, because I value her as a person and want to maintain knowing her. She was even curious about my forgiveness process. She would ask me why I kept certain people in my life, as she would say, “they could stab you and I think you would forgive him” and that was very true. For me when you have been through so much stuff with a particular person a single act (like getting stabbed) doesn’t really define the overall relationship. She knew the type of person I was with other people and seemed so perplexed by this notion that someone could treat me a certain way and I would forgive it immediately while other people could do something that may be deemed minor, I would just walk away from. It is simple to me at least, those people were not people that I ever brought in close to me, they were at an arms length and that simple act took enough trust where I was done trying to maintain a relationship. It is ironic that others ask me the same about her now. Why do I/ or did I forgive her, and so quickly? I wonder if she thinks about this? She has probably hurt me worse than anyone in my life, but I forgive her.
This is the harder subject; especially as I sit and think back on the person I was or maybe still am to a lesser extent. How do I forgive myself for things that have happened, for saying something so stupid to her, for yelling at my kids when maybe it was just that I had a bad day, for so many things over the course of a twenty year relationship that I could have and should have done better. I am harder on myself than anyone else will ever be. If you are disappointed with me then I hate myself, it is just how it works in my mind. How do I forgive myself for failing at the only thing I really cared about (my marriage and being a family)? I know I deserve some of the blame, a relationship is 50/50 after all. I am not part of a generation that just brushes things off. I think, as I have seen with many around my age, we beat ourselves up far too much. I can recognize it and offer support for others but when it comes to myself, I have no such patience. Did I make her leave? I never thought so until recent doubts crept into my overactive brain. Did I guide her into the arms of another man? Again I don’t think so, but how could I say something like that? And what else have I said that just hasn’t resurfaced in my memory yet? I know and can point out and remember her saying stupid or upsetting things to me, it happened several times. You aren’t with someone for that long without having those moments, it is just how you get through them and work on healthier solutions that builds your strength as a couple. I however did this just months if not weeks prior to her finding him. I do not know how to get to that point where the forgiveness can be turned inward. I can analyze it, make sure it never happens again, but the indiscretion is done and I am guilty. The answer is fairly obvious as I reread this post; I need to use the same tools I use to forgive others on myself. I am just not overly sure I find myself that important yet to use them. I don’t know that I yet value myself enough to put forth the effort of forgiving. Yet being the key word. I think I just have to know that I would never do something like that again before I can start that process.
The demons within we must fight harder than the demons without.