Forgiveness (Pt. 2)

In my last post, I explored forgiveness as an act of desperation–an unburdening.

But is this the only way to choose forgiveness? My recent trip to NYC has offered me an another option, one that is kinder (and perhaps more fulfilling) than forgiving from a place of emptiness. Can I instead forgive from a place of fulfillment? Is this a stronger act of grace? How do I work through moments that require forgiveness even as I come down off of the cloud of joy that brought me to this decision?

Prior to this period in my life, I have only struggled with forgiveness once. Someone hurt me deeply and profoundly, and that pain was an active, destructive force in my life for months. But they apologized, and I said, “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!” to forgiving them. It came from a place of need, but not need for myself. I needed that person in my life. But, in addition, I also felt a deep relief hearing an explanation and knowing that I could offer absolution and thus erase the last few months.

Unfortunately, it seems the act of forgiveness couldn’t erase those months. And it was nearly half a year before I realized that I was not dispensing that forgiveness which I had prescribed so freely. In fact, I was holding the sins of that person against them–I couldn’t trust them not to hurt me again. As time went on and the fact that I was struggling to repair that relationship became more apparent, I had to wonder if I had ever forgiven in the first place.

Our relationship progressed thus for a time, and I can’t say now when exactly I forgave. We had to rebuild the friendship from that day of apology. There was no atonement, no restitution. But there was a moment (one I couldn’t name) when I realized that we were not only close again, but that our friendship was so much more healthy, satisfying, and rich than it had been before. It took over a year, and I’ve no idea now how it happened; but I can look back and say with confidence that once the affection replaced the pain, I had truly forgiven.

So what does this have to do with my New York trip? You, dear reader, can’t begin to understand what that weekend meant to me. I was truly smothered, not only by love, but by an understanding that I’m not sure I even knew my friends had. I mean, I’ve always known that my friends understand me, but I don’t think I could’ve expected that it ran this deep. Everything we did, every activity they planned, was exactly tailored to my interests and passions. Every consideration had been taken for my enjoyment and my happiness, and they got it right each time. My friends demonstrated that they understand me as well as I understand myself.

I would like at this point to reiterate that my need to forgive does not stem from an unusual number of trespasses done me, but rather from an inability to let it go when people fail to meet my (too-high) expectations. That said, one of the things that needs to be forgiven is that someone in my life can’t seem to understand me. I feel like I have told this person who and what I am countless times, but she still doesn’t seem to get it. Every time I am miscalculated or judged by her, I feel it deeply as a failure to comprehend my character–even as a failure to know me at all. How could someone not understand me? I am wildly transparent, impossibly candid, prone to oversharing, and fastidious about analyzing myself. So I feel slighted by such failure because I see it as a failure to listen, to hear, to notice, to comprehend, or to take me seriously.

But here’s the thing: why do I need this one person to know me, see me, understand me (and, by the way, I know that this person loves me a lot)? There are no fewer than six people in my life who know me, understand me, care for me, and love me in spite of all of it. And three of those people spent an entire weekend proving that to me. Any which way you slice the pie, six is more than one. And so what is it that I need here, if I have the love and acceptance of those people? It’s possible that I need nothing, that I can be satisfied with that love and acceptance. It’s possible that I can forgive from a full place as well as from an empty one.

Once again, I can only meet each test as it comes. So far, it’s been easy enough, in a moment of vexation, to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and think of my perfect birthday celebration. But I have not been truly tested yet, in an incident that goes beyond vexation, when my blood is boiling and my emotions take over. And I’m still working at it. Already my life has improved so much with these two forgiveness-es. In one instance I can close my eyes and choose not to carry pain. In another, I can close my eyes and push out the pain with love.

So today I resolve again to forgive–from a place of joy and fullness. Because the darkness cannot overcome the light. So I will not let my memory of the light fade. As long as I carry it with me, the darkness cannot come in.

{Note: If you are wondering if one of these persons is you, it is not.  Anyone referenced here knows who they are.  This is not Passive Aggressive Notes.  This is a record of events that have already been addressed with the relevant parties.  Regards, &c.}

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