Archives for posts with tag: the nature of forgiveness

Well. That was a night of something other than rest. lol Nightmares woke me around 2 am. It was almost three before sleep caught up with me again. My dreams, thankfully, shifted gears, but… the content was strange (very) and fantastical… something about a church service breaking out into a raucous, violent, drunken party in the basement of a building in which corporate performance reviews were about to be given out under (for some reason) strict secrecy. There were Leprechauns in attendance (whether they were party-goers or work colleagues wasn’t at all clear), and for some reason, the professional folks were all wearing pajamas, and big screen tvs were showing Saturday morning cartoons. Very odd. Let’s never discuss it again. LOL

…Being awake, sipping a hot cup of coffee, seems a relief, and a clear return to normalcy. 🙂 It’s enough. I yawn through these first sips of coffee, tired after the 3rd (4th?) consecutive night of fairly bad sleep. These things often go in cycles, so I refrain from taking it at all personally, and figure, more than likely, the rough sleep is due to the injured shoulder; it is a pain that is disrupting my sleep. I feel it every time I try to turn over, every time I lay on my right side, and my sleep ends up interrupted, restless, and not very deep. Lots of opportunity for dreams, and yes, nightmares. I remind myself that I already have a doctor’s appointment scheduled, and look at my calendar. It’s not on my calendar, so I look it up online, and add it – and invite “my work self”, so it’ll be on my calendar in the office also. 🙂

Nothing to see here – all routine human stuff, the business of living life. 🙂 I’m okay with “average”, “routine”, and “normal”, and drama is not welcome here…so… yeah. I get back to sipping coffee, and feeling this shoulder ache. lol

My thoughts careen through memories and random stream-of-consciousness weirdness for a time.

I breathe, exhale, relax, and sit present with the pain in my shoulder, and the tinnitus in my ears. It’s some time before I realize some of what I’m hearing is traffic beyond the window, and some of it is the fan on my computer. Another sip of coffee, contemplating the day ahead, gently (work has been intense, lately). The cup returns to the stone coaster on the desk with an unexpectedly loud clunk, and I shoot a suspicious look at cup, coaster, and fingers still wrapped through and around the white porcelain handle, motionless – as though freezing for a brief instant somehow mitigates the loud noise in the quiet room. LOL

…I wonder, for the first time, why the hell I am using a stone coaster with a porcelain coffee mug, early in the mornings, in a very quiet environment, when I am specifically cultivating the quiet? This seems an inexplicably counter-productive choice. Shouldn’t I be using a soft, silent, coaster, perhaps of cork… or… fake fur…with googly eyes? I quake silently with mirth at the mental image of a fake fur coaster. (Omg, I need more sleep. lol)

Something about the mirthful moment is a reminder of recent inspiration; my Traveling Partner shared something artistic (a painting technique), and I found it inspiring, fascinating, and potentially very suited to my artistic approach. I’m excited about the weekend to come; maybe I will spend some of it in the studio? The idea becomes a smile, another sip of coffee, and a moment – it almost becomes a plan. My eye roams the room… paint… glitter… glow in the dark… canvases… Yeah, I’m overdue to get some creative work done. I think I screwed myself attempted to exorcise the toxic demon that is an X of mine by way of paint on canvas; an individual so utterly vile, so irredeemably poisonous, that even finishing the representation was hard to approach, and the likeness sits unfinished on my easel, holding me back. Maybe I should “finish” it with some quick machete work, instead? The idea amuses me, maybe enough to finish it properly, let go, and really, finally, completely move on.

…It’s the forgiveness that’s hard, isn’t it? Once we have been wounded badly enough, deeply enough, damaged thoroughly enough, the forgiveness becomes… difficult. It’s hard to stay with the awareness that the forgiveness isn’t about the person who hurt us, not really, it’s about us, ourselves, letting go. Forgiveness doesn’t absolve someone of the wrongs they have done. It’s not an excuse, and does not condone bad behavior. From my perspective, the forgiveness simply allows us to move on, to admit to our pain, to refuse someone who has injured us any further opportunity to command our attention through their hurtful acts; we can walk on, and leave them to deal with their own pain, their own chaos and damage. Not my circus, not my monkeys. It’s a letting go that mitigates some of the damage, releases us from the powerful hold someone who has hurt us can maintain, and lets us get on with our own lives. There is no lasting requirement to see the forgiven one again, ever, or interact with them, or pretend we were not hurt, or to allow any further damage. I think what makes forgiveness hard is that it is clearly more kind, and more compassionate, than vengeance or punishment – but even though either of those (or both) may be entirely deserved, they do a lot of damage to the person needing to deliver them. It’s a bother, and a weird puzzle.

I can’t have vengeance, and I can’t punish that X, ever, enough to “make things right” – there is no amount of punishment available that could do that work. It is what it is. (Maybe we’re all someone’s villain?) Forgiveness tastes bitter in my mouth, like unripe fruit; I haven’t been ready. That portrait has mocked me, now, for months. That X does not “deserve” forgiveness… then I remember; my X may not “deserve” the relief that forgiveness may bring… but I do. 🙂 Forgiveness is for the one forgiving. Forgiveness allows us to walk on. I guess it’s time. After all, what are they to me, now? Nothing and no one; it’s time to let them go in a proper and final way. I’ll feel so much better – and I’ll finish that damned painting. LOL

I glance into my empty coffee mug. Obviously. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

Eventually, there comes a time when “forgiveness” comes up in many discussions of past pain or trauma (even very recent pain and trauma, honestly). Sometimes it comes in the form of someone seeking forgiveness, other times it comes in the form of someone wondering if providing forgiveness is overdue… or possible at all.

Forgiving someone for something they have done to hurt us isn’t about the person who hurt us, at all. That’s an important detail we sometimes forget (as do seekers of forgiveness). So… there’s that.

Forgiving someone for hurting me has been a peculiarly tender and personal thing to learn to do. It took me a while to figure it out; so often the conversation around forgiveness has seemed to center on the actions being forgiven, or the person, and it’s actually not at all about any of that. Forgiveness is letting go our attachment to pain – that deep down personal aggrieved attachment to feeling wounded, and carrying the anger associated with that hurt. Forgiving is the process of letting that go, and moving on, ourselves.

You know what forgiving someone is not? It’s not permission to repeat that hurtful behavior. It’s also not any sort of agreement to continue inviting that person into our life to continue a shared journey as though there had never been any hurt. In fact – forgiving someone has nothing at all to do with the nuts and bolts and practical details of whether they are a part of our life ever again at all. Forgiving someone else is a way of allowing ourselves to move forward from a painful moment.

I’ve long ago forgiven my first husband for the injuries and scars that still sometimes hold me back, or at least affect my day-to-day experience of health. I’ve forgiven my second long-term partner, now also an ex, for the prolonged slide into learned helplessness and chronic frustration that come from being gas-lighted and manipulated for years. I’ve forgiven childhood enemies for their transgressions, and adults more recently who’ve mistreated me in one way or another, over time. Learning to forgive became almost easy once I understood that to do so did not require me to also invite people back into my life to repeat those behaviors – there is no expectation or requirement to do so at all. I can forgive, and move on with my life, allowing them to move on with theirs.

Forgiveness is powerful. I highly recommend it as a practice. I also, and without conflict or contradiction, highly recommend maintaining – and enforcing – healthy boundaries. Respect your own boundaries, respect the boundaries of others, and yes, even when you’ve forgiven someone. Non-negotiable relationship deal-breakers remain non-negotiable, and also deal-breaking, even in the face of “forgiveness”. That’s totally correct and appropriate. That’s proper. Having forgiven my first husband for his violence in no way suggests or requires that I allow him back into my life. 🙂 Forgiving him is for me, not for him.

When people seek forgiveness from us, the intention often seems to be to re-ingratiate themselves in our favor, as though “all is forgiven” also means “do over” and “no harm done”. That seeking suggests that the forgiveness is somehow about the person who has transgressed – but it isn’t, at all. I understand wanting to be forgiven; it sucks to ache with the pain of having hurt someone we care for. Too bad. It’s actually supposed to hurt if we hurt someone or treat them poorly; to remind us to do better, and to nudge us into making it right. Being forgiven doesn’t get someone off the hook for having to make amends, or somehow right our wrongs, and we’re mistaken if we assume that it does.

Being forgiven does not wind back the clock as though what was forgiven never happened. Relationships end on the backs of some pretty heinous deal-breaking words and actions – they should. Forgiving someone for those words or actions in no way suggests continuing the shitty relationship is going to be a thing, or that somehow the pain of what went down will just stop existing. We are each accountable for our actions. We face consequences – real consequences – for our choices, for our words, for our behavior, and whether or not we are forgiven by someone we’ve hurt, this is true.

I spent some time reflecting on forgiveness this weekend, having overheard a remark to the effect that “he’s not going to forgive me this time…” from a woman aware she chronically and repeatedly abuses her mate. I was astonished at the phrasing, which suggested she did not at all understand that the forgiving of her shitty behavior is not in any way related to whether or not the relationship itself would, or should, continue. It got me wondering about forgiveness, generally, and boundaries, and I found myself looking over past moments, myself, that I had forgiven. I felt pretty relieved that forgiveness has been so hard to learn, for me; the result has been that it did not become the kind of leverage that could be used to get me to “stay with a sinking ship” or “run back into a burning building”.

Here’s a thing that rankles me about that overheard remark; it also suggests that the speaker does not understand accepting forgiveness. Understanding that one has been forgiven requires a change in behavior – because accepting forgiveness implicitly acknowledges the wrongdoing. Once we know we have wronged someone, there is an obligation to change the behavior. No change? Well…um… why the fuck would a reasonable person expect that relationship to continue?? Furthermore, continued poor behavior, once forgiven, and having been acknowledged as poor (and undesirable) behavior – is willful. Yep. I said it and I mean it; if you know it’s unwelcome behavior, you’ve previously expressed regret for it, previously been forgiven for it, and you continue that behavior? You are deliberately, willfully, and yes on purpose, doing this hurtful thing. Seeking further forgiveness for the same shit is fairly sick, very manipulative, and in the face of chronic behavior, just a way of holding back that person you are hurting from seeking healthier relationships, and keeping them mired in bullshit with you. Particularly since the forgiveness isn’t about you. lol

For those faced with forgiving someone yet again for the same old same old, maybe also consider getting off that fucking hamster wheel at some point. Forgive, yes, but damn – respect your own boundaries, and be prepared to follow through on your non-negotiable deal-breakers. It’s okay to do that – and more to the point, it’s healthier to be free of abusive relationships than it is to attempt to “fix” them in the face of chronic mistreatment. Forgiveness is not tantamount to permission, or an agreement to ignore the damage done. 😉

It’s a whole new day. It’s a grand one to forgive old pain! It’s also an excellent day to stand strong on your resolve to treat yourself well, and to respect your own boundaries. It’s a lovely day to begin again. 🙂

…Or, well, don’t. I can’t really help much on the topic of forgiveness. I’m not an expert on it – hell, I barely understand the concept, and I am pretty sure I suck at ‘forgiveness’. (I hear the recollection of 20-something me, in the distance past, snarling at an associate “there are things even your god does not forgive!” in a moment of unreserved hurt and rage.) I am having to come to terms with some things about the idea of forgiveness, though. Firstly, that ‘forgiveness’ is not a religious tenet; it’s a concept available to anyone for their own benefit, at any time. Secondly, forgiveness says nothing at all about the person being forgiven – and says a lot about the person forgiving. The last thing I am coming to terms with is that to grow beyond ancient pain, and ancient rage, sooner or later forgiveness comes up as a topic; I can’t move on, or let go, without the power of ‘forgiveness’… Which means sooner or later, understanding the concept would be useful.

I resent the hell out of being faced with any expectation or demand that I forgive some heinous transgression. I’m very human. When I hurt I want it ‘made right’ with me by the person who hurt me, and no substitute will do. There is no room for ‘apology by proxy’ in my heart. These feelings give the anger a foothold to become bitterness over time, and the hurt to become a festering wound that changes who I am. That’s powerful – and not in a positive way. When I find myself unable to let go of a hurt over time, it has the power to slowly see me evolve to become that thing that hurt me so, or something worse. Hell of a puzzle there; failing to forgive someone who hurt me gives them the power to continue to influence my heart and mind!

"Broken"  16" x 20" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic & glow 2012 Once the damage is done...then what?

“Broken” 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic & glow 2012
Once the damage is done…then what?

Not knowing how to forgive, and not being permitted vengeance or retribution, I have sometimes found myself trapped, holding on to pain, frustration, impotent rage – slowly poisoning myself from within. This is not a condition in life I would wish on myself, and recognizing that one key to the puzzle of ancient pain may be this ‘forgiveness’ thing I hear so much about, perhaps it is time to consider it further?

I have some experience with forgiveness. Childhood experiences mostly, in some cases rather scripted – the parental ‘say you’re sorry to your sister’ example comes to mind, where following the steps end with just letting it go, and returning to play. Compassion may be a natural quality of human beings, but I am pretty sure ‘forgiving’ has to be taught to us. Forgiveness was not emphasized in my upbringing. Is it a process, more than an emotion? I’m pretty handy when I have the steps of a process written down in front of me for practice…maybe that’s what I need to do here? Figure out the steps to forgiveness, write them down, and…oh yeah, you know what comes next right? Practice.

Why am I on about this, this morning? I read a quote on the internet recently that got my attention, and resonated with me in the moment, and lingered:

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning their behavior. It doesn’t mean forgetting how they hurt you or giving that person room to hurt you again. Forgiving someone means making peace with what happened. It means acknowledging your wound, giving yourself permission to feel the pain, and recognizing why that pain no longer serves you. It means letting go of the hurt and resentment so that you can heal and move on. ~Daniell Koepke

It is from a larger article, that I didn’t have time to read and bookmarked for later. The quote has stuck with me for days. I’d never understood forgiveness in those terms. This matters, at least to me; I have long struggled with the idea that forgiveness gave that other ‘a pass’ – they ‘get away with it’ – they ‘win’ – and at my expense! It seems so incredibly unfair. When I read this quote it opened my heart to understand that forgiveness isn’t ever about that person who hurt us, and it isn’t something we do for them – is it the ‘missing puzzle piece’ that allows me to move on, to heal, to ‘let it go’ on my own terms, and in my own time? That’s a pretty big deal. Definitely worth further consideration.

Life finds its own path, sometimes the 'obvious' choices are not the only choices.

Life finds its own path, sometimes the ‘obvious’ choices are not the only choices. (A rose seedling growing in the crook of a tree.)

Life’s curriculum continues to put the most challenging coursework I can manage in front of me for my continuing education. 🙂 I’ve come a long way to be ready to study forgiveness; it seems like ‘advanced studies’ to me. It dovetails with a recent discussion with my therapist about anger, and another that followed on that topic with my traveling partner. Anger is another very big deal, and difficult for me to discuss without rousing the beast within; is forgiveness also a path to cooling the heat and ferocity of ancient rage so that I can at last actually just talk about it? I feel a bit as if I opened a chapter in the text-book that opens with a promising paragraph that ‘connects the dots’ in a much bigger puzzle, but does so using new vocabulary that I don’t really understand. I am eager to continue.

Taking the obstacles one at a time, and taking the journey slowly; there's a lot to learn along the way.

Taking the obstacles one at a time, and taking the journey slowly; there’s a lot to learn along the way.

Today is a good day to study, and a good day to embrace new knowledge. Today is a good day to grow, and to become more that woman I most want to be. Today is a good day to take a different look at the world I live within; it is of my own creation, and perhaps it is time to change the emotional landscape?