Thursday, October 7, 2010

Forgiveness and Reality

Forgiveness is a tricky thing.

I have been trying to get somebody to forgive me even though I'm not sorry for anything I've done.  I am sorry that he was hurt by my actions, but I maintain that under the circumstances my actions were understandable.  In fact, I think he wouldn't have respected me if I had behaved any other way.

It's easy enough to say that I haven't been forgiven because that man is limited by his own perceptions.  That, like many, many people, he is trapped inside a mind that manufactures isolation in order to preserve a sense of being a unique, distinct individual in the universe.  An individual defined by his thoughts and wounds.  You can't get judgmental about that shit, though, because the reason it's so easy to recognize those qualities in others is because you have those very same qualities your own self.

Plenty of people say that you're never going to heal unless you learn to forgive.  Plenty of people say that some things are unforgivable.   As someone who experienced a damaging, incestuous episode at the hands of my uncle - who is now my aunt and running for city council in a large Texas town - I can get behind the idea that some things are unforgivable.  When you hear some Authority on Healing say that you have to forgive a certain person to get back your spirit, it's like being told you will never have inner peace until you take Darth Vader out to lunch.

I'm finally beginning to understand that when you're content with the way things are in your life Now, it's because you recognize that the events in your past made you the wonderful person you are today.  Ergo: things might have sucked at the time, but as part of the process of human growth, they were necessary to you.

I'm not so sure I understand how being abused was necessary to my development.  Sunshine, oxygen and water are necessary to my development.  And Chocolate. Given that most shrinks say that everyone can make a case for coming from an abusive, dysfunctional family - I suppose that abuse and humiliation are part of life, and getting over it is essential to your own development.  And truly, with regard to my uncle - or my Ankle since he was my uncle and is now my aunt - I have to wonder if his whole life would have gone differently if he'd only been allowed to Twirl a baton instead of being forced to play Pee Wee Football.  That didn't give him the right to be a child molester, but in the scheme of things, I am the one who decides whether to be irrevocably damaged or not.

This man who won't forgive me is not a perp.   He's just a guy.  An Every Man struggling to get by in a cold, cruel world.   It's been almost two years since he said he forgave me for causing a shit storm in his life - and maybe he has forgiven me.  At the time, though, it sure sounded to me like he was playing the forgiveness card in order to make himself feel morally superior.  As it happened, another man was forgiving me at the time.  That guy actually said I had sinned against him which is why I handed my Drama Queen crown straight over to him.  The point is that some people forgive those who trespass against them without having a bit of compassion, empathy or understanding.  It's all about being holier than thou.

Whether or not he really forgave me back then is currently irrelevant because I caused a worse shit storm this past February.  I maintain that I was provoked to the point where I had to retaliate, but it's likely that we simply played the cards we were dealt and the shit storm was the inevitable result.  All confirmed Bokonists know that things happen as they are supposed to happen.  That doesn't mean there is a divine plan behind every drama - that means that in the pool hall of Life, once you hit the cue ball, the trajectory is determined by cause and effect.

While I appreciate that these things take time, it seems to me that if this guy and I are talking again after all this hurtful bullshit, we might as well get back in bed together.  If  Make Up Sex with this guy is as energizing as I know it's going to be, we might as well make the most of the few months I have left in town. Some people might think it was foolish to instigate a long distance relationship, but to me, the distance is perfect.  If we were kids and wanted to breed, I could see that being 1,500 miles apart would be an issue, but we're both in the AARP zone.  We both need a lot of space and independence to follow our own paths, and I am not looking to get into his bank account because I have a little money of my own.  I personally can't see the problem, and time is running out.

But it doesn't matter if I can't see the problem.  There's something in the way and there's nothing I can say or do to change that. 

Any time I've listened to somebody talking about healing and forgiveness, everything boils down to accepting and loving your own self.  We're all in charge of our own inner peace.  I can meditate, and sometimes I feel so connected to the life source that I'm flooded with the warmth of Grace.  As grateful as I am to be at that point, and as wonderful as that feeling of ultimate acceptance is - it's also wonderful when two people melt into each others warmth.   It might be sexual, but the point is the warmth and understanding, and you can feel that with your parents, or your children or your very best friends.

They say that atonement is all about being At One.  Right now, with me and this fellow, that oneness is barely beyond our reach.  Just barely.  It's a challenge to finally grab that elusive brass ring, and all it would take is one clear, purposeful stretch.   When you're on a carousel, though, timing is always a factor.  You have to be patient and aware so that when the opportunity presents itself, you can go for it with all your might.

So I'm trying to be patient and to trust that as long as we're living, there will be other opportunities.  Meanwhile, I'm wondering if I have really forgiven him.  I may have totally accepted and forgiven his role in the shit storms, but I'm having trouble understanding, accepting and forgiving him for keeping his distance.  Even though the big picture makes perfect sense, a couple of moment remain frozen into into vignettes that pierced the soul.  We could regret them for a lifetime, or we could melt into an embrace that says all is forgiven.


Vancouver Voyeur said...

I caused a shit storm in a guy's life too, okay, maybe a couple of guys. I tried to apologize and make amends with the one guy early on. It did no good. The second guy, I waited and when I finally did get around to thinking about apologizing, he was at the end stages of a terminal disease and there was no way for me to apologize. Sometimes I think, we have to carry the burden of the pain we caused, with no forgiveness, to remind ourselves not to toy with people's emotions in the future. I behaved better these days.

Beach Bum said...

It's easy enough to say that I haven't been forgiven because that man is limited by his own perceptions.

Speaking as a guy who has been on the receiving end of many female inspired shit storms I feel compelled to speak up for us knuckle dragging neanderthals. The act of forgiveness by itself is usually not the issue, the fly in the ointment is the possibility of being betrayed again. While most of us guys carry the trademark of being tough and aloof ready to fire both barrels of double-ought buckshot at the worst the world can send our way we are really nothing but scared little boys.

Now what I said is a grossly generative description because we are all individuals each with our own unique combination of traits, both good and bad. But I still think my thesis hold at least some water from my observations of my buddies in the army, the troops I had under my command, and from watching my son deal with each new aspect of life as he grows up.

I suppose that abuse and humiliation are part of life, and getting over it is essential to your own development.

Damn straight, someone said something similar that we are the sum total of our emotional scars and that our intelligence determines how well we deal with them.

Great post!

Gail said...


Wow, such a deep and feeling piece of writing. Forgiveness? Not sure what it means really. But you know that I know all about embracing whatever was and making it work and lovable now or else life is a total shit-storm forever. I think forgiveness is about acceptance of whatever and taking it with you.
great post.

love you Texas

Lisa said...

I just wanted to tell you that I'm here. I read and I think I understand. Even complicated things don't have to be complicated all the time. Sometimes the connection is enough and analyzing things is better suspended.

I'm working on my own forgiveness-like situation and sometimes I just want the other person to stop compounding the issues by being so mercurial in his approach to me. Hot/cold, hot/cold.

I do think that his burden of guilt is what drives him to be so skittish about our relationship. And I hate that because my anger and his guilt don't change a thing that's happened.

tnlib said...

Forgiveness comes slowly, if at all, to victims of abuse. Why in eff should we?

Anonymous said...

Hi Penolan. This was very interesting to me. Forgiveness - I struggle with that one. Sometimes think I have forgiven someone, then other times think, have only stored away, old hurt feelings. Waiting.... For what who knows. Have had the hardest time forgiving God, for taking my child. However, as I said son had ADHD, and was very aggressive, had prayed to God to make the nonsense stop. And it did..
But he knows taking him home was not what I meant. It has been 10 years now. Still cannot quite forgive God for that. There were others that warrant forgiveness. However, I look for them to say I am sorry for the shit in your life I caused. And that did not happen. So..
My daughter told me recently that holding grudges, is not good. Unsure as why she thinks that about me. Better said how she noticed that about me.
Enjoy reading your thoughts you are very expressive. Personally do not have that gift.
Pat from NY

Susan Tiner said...

I think if a "couple of moments froze into vignettes that pierced the soul" it may have gone past the point of return. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation and even if you reconcile it doesn't necessarily mean the bond is restored or ever could be. Once bonds are broken it's like you have to start over from scratch, assuming you're both willing.

PENolan said...

Lisa, that's exactly it. If we could just stop talking and dive into each other, we'd remember everything that worked so very well.

Beach - I hear you and am sure you're right about the fear factor. Actually, I'm scared too, but for me it's a simple matter of risk/reward.

Gail, I know you know.
tnlib, I used to consider myself a victim, but then I became a victor. Part of that victory came about through interacting with this fellow who won't see me, but I'm pretty sure that 15 years of therapy had something to do with it. Notably, neither my therapist nor my psychiatrist thought there was a single reason to forgive anything at all.

V.V. I always remember Rhet Butler laughing at Scarlett for being like a child who thought saying she was sorry would fix everything. But really, it takes a lot of effort to be as badly behaved as Scarlet O'Hara.

Pat, in your shoes, I'd feel the same way. I think you write about your feelings quite well, as a matter of fact, and am glad you found a place to share them.
Blessed Be

PENolan said...

Susan - if the bond had ever actually been broken I would not even entertain the idea of reconciliation. Those moments had more to do with each of us going through our own divorces - a process that started before we met. If we had been in more normal circumstances, they might have passed easily, but they hit triple hard because of the deep rejection involved with the divorces as well as the accumulated hurts of a lifetime.

This fellow and I have been involved with each other for four years now. The first two we were together. We absolutely needed to separate to deal with our own BS, and the break up itself caused three to six months of spectacular commotion. Since then we've had ongoing conflict at a distance that amounts to maintaining a connection through anger. Maybe it's not the most enlightened way to stay connected, but anger can be a strong bond.

Through it all, I have maintained that people who have this kind of impact on each other need to be making love not war. But I only found the courage to spell it out to him directly on Tuesday.

I'm willing to bet he and I have one of those Sacred Contracts Carolyn Myss talks about. Those kind of relationships have a road of their own, and it's always rocky.

Jennifer said...

A man I know (who, funny enough, is keeping his distance) called this a "strange dance."

I'm 49 years old and have yet to learn the steps. I'm with Lisa - the complications can't be necessary - and yet...

mac said...

You're braver than me.
I won't go into it on a public forum, But I do have knowledge of this topic.
Fuck your Ancle.
Whatever happened to her could, in no way, justify hurting a child.

I will neither forgive nor forget shit like that.

Susan Tiner said...

I'm so out of it -- thought you were referring to Buzz Kill not a different man.

Off to check out Carolyn Myss...

PENolan said...

Oh Lordy - I have no desire to reconcile with Buzz Kill. That may be a sexual decision too ;)

Jenn - I hope your dance works out. Life is too short . . .

mac - all that stuff with my Ankle is old, old news. I'm not a bit brave.

Jaliya said...

Once again, you've written something that could have poured from my own pen ... and I'm sending you another long-distance embrace. Isn't it amazing how we can feel so resonant with someone we've never met face-to-face.

Shit-storms ... forgiveness ... grace ... responsibility ... gazes and moments that pierce the soul. Holy shit -- you've said so much in so few words.

I'm so scattered right now that most of my energy's going into the basics like food, water, air and warmth ... but when I've got my writerly mojo back, I will muse at length. It looks like my home will be *mine* by the end of this month ... and I'll be writing in gushes after that ... !

One thing I've learned in my bones about forgiveness: it has its own pace, timing and tone ... The road to forgiveness (to tweak a cliche) *is* paved with very specific intention ... the gift flowers from the intention ... and there comes a moment when you realize that the work's been done and you're *clear*. It happened for me at my mother's deathbed ... and it'll happen again as it needs to with other people, as long as my intention and choice to release and relinquish my own shit-storming is made and held to ...

Huge love and thanks for your presence xoxoxoxox

(I haven't even begun to read the comments yet ... bad brain-fog ...)

Jaliya said...

Beach Bum ... What you write about us humans re: our intelligence in dealing with our scars ... I'm reminded of a quotation (Albert Einstein?) that goes something like this: "Great souls will always encounter violent opposition from mediocre minds."

Lisa ... Amen re: "Sometimes connection is enough." It was E.M. Forster who said, "Only connect." My two cats are my surest thing in the bonding department these days ... Nothing like smushing my face gently into one of my furballs' bellies and soaking up the purrs ...

Mercurial behaviour is maddening, isn't it? (I speak as one who can be as mercurial as they come ...)

Over and out for tonight ...

PENolan said...

Jaliya - big hug back at 'cha. Glad you've got your cats,

dissed said...

Forgiveness is tricky as all hell because it means different things to different people. My Evil Ex has always thought forgiveness means It Doesn't Matter, Let's Just Forget It because It's In The Past. Uh, no. It ALWAYS matters. Everything matters. Always. Forgiveness can be as simple as letting something go and not letting it destroy your life all over again -- that doesn't necessarily mean you allow this person back into your life, and you should never put yourself into a position where you can be slapped down again. I may let things go, but I'm pretty sure I've never forgotten much of anything.

That doesn't mean I haven't forgiven people. Older, hopefully wiser, more likely to pay attention, and much more willing to cut and run.

Jaliya said...

After nearly 52 years on this good earth, I've become much more compassionate towards my fellow humans (and myself!) and much less tolerant of certain behaviours. As I recently said to someone who did me wrong in a huge way, "I forgive you for your inevitable humanity ... and it'll be a long time before I forgive what you've done."

PENolan said...

dissed, you and Jaliya have hit the essential point - it depends on the magnitude of the trespass.

You each have your own life situations that illustrate. Some things cross the line over into Unforgivable like my Ankle. Then there are levels of betrayal that hit so deeply they can be forgiven but will always color future interactions - like with Buzz Kill.

Then there is Extreme Bullshit that just makes sense - like with me and HCW. You have both followed the play by play of what I "did" to HCW. I know he hated the Ass-Whole post and the Bluestar blog. Before I wrote those, however, I gave him fair warning and every opportunity to deal with me privately so while the Public Humiliation cannot be minimized - to me it falls into the category of Appropriate Consequences. Now that we've had a couple of substantive conversations (as a result of me drunk dialing him a few weeks ago), I deleted Bluestar and edited Ass-Wholes so that he can no longer be identified and so that it no longer shows up in Google results when anyone searches for his last name and the title of his latest book. Again, not to minimize the magnitude of what I continue to see as the Time Out Chair, I don't think I crossed THE line because I could make everything go away in the blink of an eye once we had that conversation.

To me, this whole situation looks like Extreme Humanity between two passionate individuals and right now Passion is key. I'm hoping that with enough time and a light touch (hence the Cum Slut Campaign), he'll open his heart to me again.

But the fear factor cannot be ignored, as Beach rightly points out. Guys are guys - that's why we love them and they love us.

dissed said...

See, I don't think YOU crossed the line. I think HE did, and he earned The Fury. He's SO lucky that you forgave him.

I've been unforgiven. It doesn't feel good. That "burden of pain that we caused, with no forgiveness" -- hopefully that can make us better people. Thing is, most don't even notice the burden.

PENolan said...

A long time ago, when I was just starting therapy, I was feeling v-e-r-y bad about something I'd done in college. My shrink said that my feeling guilty showed I was a moral person. So, dissed and VV, that burden shows you care.

I'm just trying to be patient and remember these things take time. It's good to know I have friends right now, albeit invisible ones ;)

Jaliya said...

"Extreme humanity" ... "earning the Fury" ... "drunk dialling" ... Yow! We all go insane in our way when we've been ravaged by another person. Until we regain some sanity, we go on to ravage the other for how we've been ravaged, or we ravage ourselves ... Betrayal just ruins us, doesn't it ... To my eye it's a form of rape.

... and in my neck o' the woods today is Thanksgiving ... I'm saying "Thank you" to the powers that keep the sun aloft in the sky, a roof over my head, and me alive. When you've been cut open to the core, gutted like a carcass, you find that you have to forgive Life for keeping you intact, 'cause it'd be so much easier (in a way, or so we think) to lie down in the middle of nowhere and give yourself over to the Big Sleep. I won't, btw ... I've given my word to several good souls that I will stay alive ... and here I am giving my word to the whole damn world via the web.

Yes, Tricia, you have friends. Count me as one xoxo

Makropoulos said...

Very nice writing, and boy I agree with your sentiments! Please check out the blog entry I did on abuse, called "The Sins of the Father" I think we may be in similar places:

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