Thursday, January 9, 2014

Misgivings on Forgivings

"If you don't forgive someone who's wronged you, you become just like them."

Ever heard this argument? I always thought there must have been some merit to the statement, but I couldn't wrap my head around it.  Shoeless Joe Schmoe broke into your house and jacked your sneakers, and if you don't forgive him, you're going to become a mangy, sneaker-stealing thief, too. That's kind of a tough argument to make. Plus, if he broke into your whole house and only stole your sneakers, he's an idiot. Also, who says sneakers.

So I like to avoid learning things the hard way. That doesn't mean that I always manage to avoid it. I just like the idea. As in, I wanted to learn how to forgive as a magnanimous gesture, not a defensive one that I used to stave off the rigor mortis in my soul. However, I had my "eureka!" moment on forgiveness when I found myself withholding true forgiveness from someone and becoming a pretty vengeful little witch. This person had hurt me and been cavalier about my feelings, and I found myself stung inconsolably by the injustice of it all. I was treated unfairly, and they didn't seem to care. My solution was to toughen up; and somewhere along the line, I subconsciously decided that if they were allowed to not care, then I shouldn't have to care, either. If my feelings were mishandled, and remorselessly so, then I was justified in exacting justice as I saw fit by returning wrong for wrong. That would make me powerful! I may not have had the chance to retaliate in their direction, but by God I could make sure to steady myself for the next one. My wound justified my wounding of another.

Boom. Just like that, I became my trespasser. All because I loved the illusion of power more than anything else that laid claim to my affections.

Forgiveness, like actual love, is otherworldly. (That's how my mom describes it.) It really is. Nothing about the human economy of relational interaction takes forgiveness into account. Think of the priest in Les Miserables. That's the embodiment of forgiveness. It feels like tying your hands behind your back and asking your assailant to use you for target practice. But it isn't. It makes you more powerful- because you're strengthened against hatred and bitterness. That's the crazy secret. And because it's otherworldly, if I rely entirely upon myself to make this transaction possible, I'm destined for earthbound failure.

I kept thinking that forgiveness meant I say it, then like medicine, saying the words "I forgive you" would mean that I feel it. If not immediately, then within the next 24 hours. I've been reminded that forgiveness is a muscle, like it's otherworldly counterpart, love. You don't just start running a marathon without training. You train regularly, daily. And it becomes easier. You don't just say "I forgive you" and be done with it. You choose it every day. At least, that's my opinion. I hate saying this because now everyone knows that I hold lofty opinions about forgiveness. But that's just my fear talking, and fear is soooo 2013...

1 comment:

The Skipper said...

Hilz - Something I've wrestled with over the past 5 or so years but I think it's true:
I've learned that sometimes, learning things the "hard way" in the beginning or early on - is really the easy/shorter way in the end.

I've seen people repeat big mistakes later on because they really didn't "learn" it the first time. If I have a choice - I'd rather have the hard knocks all at once & up front if it means the level & depth of character / maturity / wisdom would keep me from a lot of heartache later...... That's just my cheese and crackers on the topic....