Perhaps you could tell the same story in different words and circumstances. Perhaps you know the pain. Perhaps you have caused it for someone else.
These words have described the state of a portion of my life for many, many months.
It is something I have been working intently on for quite some time now, nearly 16 months. Something happened that changed my life. I’d rather not go in to specific detail about who, what, where and how, so suffice it to say the wounds were in my heart and psyche and not my physical body or that of anyone else. But my story and that story I had imagined for my future were forever changed and I am still working, praying, struggling, stepping out, hoping, wishing and trying to figure out what the new future story will be.
BUT. But the future story is slow in coming because of the past story that weighs heavy on my soul and drags me down, pushing me up the hill and then kicks me again. I have been working seeking the ability to absolutely and completely forgive what happened to me and have made progress in bits and pieces/peaces.
It hasn’t been easy. And not all of the aid I have sought has been helpful. I have tried sharing my story with friends, in an effort to spread out the burden so that it wouldn’t be so heavy. That didn’t work. I gained sympathy, but no one else can carry my load (excepting of course God). Telling the story ceased to be cathartic and instead fueled the fire so that the white-hot embers would continue to smolder while the obvious flames died down. Raging or trying to release anger and frustration didn’t help; I’m not much for creating violence with my body and the pain is too personal to scream it out.
I don’t want to be nasty and bitter, but I also don’t want to be anxious and depressed. So.
So I did what I do best. I sought out the wisdom of others: spiritual guides, books, websites, others with similar experience. In the process I began to uncover a natural pathway that was later described by some of the authors whose works I read. And I have prayed and prayed about it, continuously, through everything.
I determined that in order to begin to forgive I must find a way to view my “enemy” that would empower me in the path to forgiveness. Mind you, now, this did not mean that I had to find myself superior to my enemy. That way does not lead to forgiveness. I had to come to a place where I could stand eye to eye with the humanness of my enemy. I had to see and acknowledge the brokenness of my enemy.
Up until that time, I had worked to get past the anger and rage that come from being wronged/hurt/betrayed. And while I did not wish my enemy harm, neither did I wish blessings or even goodness for my enemy. I had become indifferent and apathetic towards my enemy. There is no opening for forgiveness in that state. If you have no care or concern for the other, there is no reason to consider forgiveness other than making myself feel better; but that is trying to make me superior again and forgiveness is not truth in that case.
Forgiveness takes humbleness and humility.
Since I earnestly desire to come to the place of forgiveness, and indeed believe my life and witness depend on it, I had to allow myself to let my enemy be human with needs, wishes and desires just like me. And knowing my enemy as I do, it took just moments to piece together a patchwork of my enemy’s broken places. That’s when I could allow myself to believe what I remember from experience and observation: broken people have a tendency to operate from their brokenness, often unconsciously, which means that broken people do things that cause other people to become broken.
Broken people, even broken people who have hurt me, deserve grace.
Sometimes only God can give the grace. Sometimes I have grace to give, too.
In the PBS documentary on forgiveness (Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate), Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete says, “We are made for relationships. Forgiveness emerges as the need to re-establish a broken relationship, without which we cannot live. The search for forgiveness is the search for a healing of an ache of the human heart.
It is the memory of lost possibilities. It is the enormous presence of absence. It is an ache for what could have been … and is no more.” *1
It is grief resolved.
Dick Staub (Huffington Post) says, “The Aramaic word to forgive means to “untie.” Jesus knew that the fastest way to free himself from his enemies was to untie himself from their negativity through forgiving them.”*2
I want to “untie” myself from my enemy. I don’t necessarily have a need to restore relationship and I’m not certain that would even be possible. Nor do I think it would be possible to get an apology or show of remorse; and honestly, at this point, I think I can be okay with that. What I want from this giving of forgiveness is the ability to live freely in relationship with the community of my choosing.
Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete gives a good description, “In fact, the religious notion of Hell — what is it? Hell is absolute loneliness. It is the break of all relationships. It means the incapacity to establish a relationship, or to have anyone establish a relationship with you. It is what death is. It’s nothingness. So the thirst for forgiveness is that fundamental. It is an expression of the fear of nothingness. The religions attempt to deal with it, but this ache — this primordial ache, precedes all religion’s expressions of it and ways of dealing with it.”*1
Don’t let me sound overly dramatic, I do have friends, but I lack a community of proximity and that is dependent of many factors; most factors are not dependent on forgiving my enemy, but are dependent on the state of my spirit as a result of being able to grant forgiveness and begin to reclaim the spirit and determination I have surrendered as a result of my brokenness.
This Lenten journey began before this calendar’s marking, and will continue long after the celebration of resurrection. And thankfully, I have my faith to guide me. I do not walk alone. And there is grace enough for us all.
(Sources for this post come from:
*1. Paul Brandeis Rauschenbush at HuffPost Religion 4/16/11 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-raushenbush/forgiveness-a-time-for-love-pbs-documentary_b_849637.html)
*2. Dick Staub at Huffington Post/RNS 3/31/11 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/31/as-we-forgive-those-who-t_n_843262.html)