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Painting by Sofiya Inger (2006)

(UPDATED : Just wanted to add that I wrote this because I honestly find it hard to know what forgiveness really means and whether or  not it's something people feel obliged to do, rather than because they actually feel any real connection to the concept of forgiveness - is it more that we are told we will feel better if we do?  I think some people thought I was asking "should we forgive?" and I'm not, I'm asking what it looks like to forgive, what form it takes and how we know if we've done it or not! I have often felt very guilty and somehow less of a person as I seem unable to achieve this "forgiveness" thing, in fact, I can't even really work out what it is!)

Forgiveness is a concept that really fascinates me.  Possibly because I seem so unable to do it!  Well, that's not entirely true, I can forgive the small, insignificant things.  I'll forgive you if you say or do something hurtful without meaning to, I'll forgive you if you forget my birthday (!), I'll forgive you if you do all sorts of things but, when it comes to the really big things, the things that truly matter, I seem to stumble.

I've been ruminating on what "forgiveness" actually means for quite literally years.  In fact, ever since a very close friend of mine was murdered back in 1980.  If you'd have asked me in the years following his death, I think I'd have said one of those non-committal things like "who am I to forgive anything?" or "what does my forgiveness matter?" but, deep down, I think I'd have avoided directly answering the question because I don't much like the truthful answer.

In all honesty, have I forgiven the perpetrator?  I'm not at all sure I have.

I was motivated to write a blog piece about forgiveness after the dreadful events in Aurora, Colorado as I had already seen and heard some of the relatives talking about forgiveness.   I remember in the aftermath of the Amish school shootings, the one thing that really struck me, was their immediate ability to forgive the perpetrator and their actions following that fateful day.  They sent a delegation to attend his funeral, they genuinely seemed to harbor no ill will towards him and I was at that time, and still remain, somewhat envious of that position.

And yet, even the Amish community seemed to concede that they struggled to find a way of coping with their grief.  Maybe that admission allowed me to somehow feel that I wasn't the only person who was quite so incapable of "moving on" from what happened to me.

I won't copy over here my entire blog post as I'm sure those of  you who wish to, can read it on the blog linked to above, but I'd like to take a few excerpts from it and post them here as I'm genuinely interested in how other people come to their own versions of forgiveness and, indeed, interested to know if they ever do!

The point which has always had me stumbling, is that I can't seem to separate my emotions about what happened, from the actuality which was that the perpetrator was very seriously mentally ill (both sides agreed on this at sentencing although the Judge, for reasons best known to himself, decided he was fit to plead guilty, despite him declaring that "God had directed him plead that way" against his own lawyer's advice.)

I've seen the guy represented on various documentaries about the murder subsequently, even heard his words as he has spoken to people from prison about the event, but still, I cannot really either understand what he did, or find anyway of truly forgiving him.  I mean, I want to forgive him, but I just don't know that I do.   I can't blame him, perhaps instead I blame a society that allowed him to fall through the proverbial cracks and not receive the treatment he so obviously needed.  I'm anti the death penalty and have campaigned long and hard against it for decades.  The murder of my friend did not alter my feelings about that one little bit, I would not have supported it for the perpetrator of his murder any more than I would ever support it for any other perpetrator.

Does anyone really forgive?  I know people say they do and I don't doubt their sincerity, but I suppose I just wonder what that looks like for them.  What does it translate into?  What does it actually mean?

As I wrote in the blog :

The murder affected many of those around me in different ways - some seemed able to move on, others did not.  I can think of at least one person who rarely left his house afterwards, installed a plethora of security devices and became nervous and uncomfortable whenever he was around large groups of people. I was very angry about that for years, angry that one mad act had changed someone else that I loved dearly, changed their life and made their life so much more difficult and, for a long time, so very unhappy.  And not just those around me, it also changed the way I lived my life, changed the entire course of my life in many ways and, even more than that, it left an indelible stain on me, something which I've never been able to shake off, about the absolute absurdity of existence coupled with the enormity of realizing that terrible things happen all the time to really good people.  Not that anyone deserves to be gunned down and murdered of course, but just that it took away my innocence for ever - that one single-second act, changed my view of the world permanently.
I grieved for the loss of my friend in my own way, but for many years I couldn't cry about it and I've never understood that either.  A couple of years ago I did an interview about his death for a British archive and, only when doing that, did I realize just how emotional I still was about it.  Towards the end of the piece, I had to ask them  to stop recording as I was incapable of coherent speech, something which I didn't feel ready to share with the world at that point.  Even writing about it is something which is truly very difficult for me as, yet again, it brings up emotions and feelings which seem to lie deep within me that I'm not particularly proud of and always hope might dull or disappear given enough time.

I wish I could work out what it means to forgive someone because I can't help feeling it would somehow be an important thing for me to learn and/or know.  Wouldn't society be so much better if we could all forgive?  If we were all able to rationalize terrible events or actions, or if we could all somehow draw on faith or something deep within us to assist us with processing such things?   I have a feeling it would.

I finished my blog by talking about the future ...

And, in case you're wondering, the perpetrator of the murder of my friend, was charged with second degree murder.  He initially entered a plea of  "not guilty by reason of insanity" (something I don't disagree with), but he subsequently changed this to a "guilty" plea, against his lawyer's advice, claiming that "God had ordered him to enter a guilty plea" and was declared competent to plead guilty (something which I DON'T necessarily agree with).   The judge finally ordered that he should receive psychiatric treatment in prison and sentenced him to 20 years to life imprisonment.  He has subsequently taken part in various documentaries about his conviction, speaking mostly by telephone from the penitentiary.  He has lobbied for release on parole a number of times but, thus far, has never been released.  I suspect he WILL one day be released and, much as I support the idea of rehabilitation and the concept of everyone deserving a second chance, I really can't begin to imagine (if I'm honest) how I would cope with his release, if it ever happened...
But, being someone who has never been able to offer platitudes or say things that I don't truly mean, I'm still stuck with not being at all sure if I'm ready, willing or prepared to forgive and I'm completely confused about whether it matters or not?  And, again being entirely honest, my desire to be able to work out how people forgive is not motivated purely by altruism, I also feel like less of a person not being able to do it, almost as though society condemns those of us who cannot quite get there.

I'll say again, I genuinely don't doubt the sincerity of those people who say they forgive, but  I suppose I'm always left wondering if deep down, they really do?

I wouldn't go so far as to say I don't forgive, but just that I don't know if I do or not as I'm not at all sure what it means, if that makes any sense?

What do others think and what does forgiveness mean, as a concept, to you?

Originally posted to Maia Newley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 02:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by House of LIGHTS, Courtesy Kos, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You forgive because you have to. (9+ / 0-)

    You don't forget because you can't.

    "bin Laden's dead, and GM is alive" ~ Biden

    by dkmich on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:31:32 AM PDT

    •  I don't think you do have to... (7+ / 0-)

      I think many DO, but I don't think I can!  I think society makes us THINK we should, or we HAVE to, but I just don't subscribe to that.  I'd LIKE to, but that's not the same as actually doing it.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:32:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Seems to me you have, though. You accept (17+ / 0-)

        that he was mentally ill; you even disagree with the judge's decision to accept his guilty plea.  That indicates an absence of the kind of hatred that results from an inability to forgive.

        Without forgiveness, you'd hate him, you'd want him either dead or suffering intensely.  

        Forgiveness is not forgetting.  It's not the absence of anger.  It doesn't eliminate or even reduce the pain of the loss.  

        It's perhaps different for each person, but I believe it simply means seeing the perpetrator as an individual, being able to accept that the perpetrator is not some kind of monster and not having an intense desire that the perpetrator suffer indescribable horrors as punishment.  Without forgiveness, I believe a person focuses on the perpetrator, and the hatred and anger felt towards the perpetrator to the point that the loved one lost becomes nearly a byproduct.  

        I don't believe you have to feel all warm and fuzzy towards the perpetrator to have experienced forgiveness.  You just have to get past hating him with a passion that makes you want him to suffer.

        "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

        by gustynpip on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:06:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I often wonder if (13+ / 0-)

          acceptance and forgiveness are inter-related. I certainly don't hate him and, in honesty, I'm not sure I ever did.  It became clear very quickly how unwell he was, but it still didn't allow me to understand it in the way I'd like to have done.

          But maybe you're right, perhaps forgiveness is more about what you don't feel, than what you do!

          Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

          by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:08:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I strongly believe your last statement hit the (7+ / 0-)

            nail on the head exactly.  It is indeed more about what you don't feel than what you do.

            "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

            by gustynpip on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 09:12:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree, forgiveness is self-defense (9+ / 0-)

              When I forgive a child for doing some childish thing, or my dog for having an accident in the house, that forgiveness comes from a expansive love I feel for the child or dog or friend and how the beauty of their beingness far outshines their mistakes.

              However forgiving someone who is guilty of something horrendous, and for whom I have no love connection is entirely different. Anger, hatred, strong emotions put real grooves in the brain and heart, and if they are allowed to carve deep enough, can effect mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

              To allow the perp to not only harm me by their original offense, but to then allow them to continue to chisel away at my mental, emotional, and physical well-being, to infect my energy and live in my psyche like a destructive cancer . . . to give them that power. Well, it's just unthinkable to give them that power, that triumph over my spirit.

              So I forgive. For me, it's not so much not feeling anything, because having feelings is important. But it's being able to observe myself having those feelings without reacting to them . . . which means without letting my blood pressure cook, or my mind sink into negative chatter, or not letting myself curl into fetal on the couch, or burn the dinner, or accidentally cut myself while chopping veggies. Just observing, breathing deeply until my observation of the thought or feeling is without a reaction that surges anxious, bitter, or depressive energy throughout my body.

              Forgiveness is self-defense against letting the perp achieve repeating the infliction of the injury over and over and over and over.

              •  dear MillieNeon, this is a beautiful comment (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                boudi08, Larsstephens, MillieNeon

                conceptually, and you have a beautiful way of wording your ideas.

                Thank you.

              •  Well put. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MillieNeon, LSophia

                If you don't find forgiveness, it will eat you up inside. Anger and hate serve a purpose, but they should not be anyones defining emotion.

                I'm glad so many of the above posts also remind us not to forget. You can never hide from yourself.

                Forgive, and move on, but never forget.

                You may not always be able to control what happens to you, but you can (or should be able to) control how you react to it.
                Some of the best advice I have ever received.
          •  The role of Atonement... (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TiaRachel, JBL55, 2thanks, roseeriter

            I somewhat disagree with those who define forgiveness as something you do for yourself.  It can be something you do for yourself, but it can also be the natural consequence of witnessing sincere acts of atonement.

            Strictly speaking, forgiveness is something you feel for someone who has wronged you after they have carried out acts of atonement that have convinced you of their sorrow/regrets and their desire for forgiveness.

            The way Forgiveness actually occurs on a 'natural' level begins with the victimizer's regrets and a felt-desire to earn the forgiveness of those he/she victimized.

            The wrong-doer who seeks forgiveness realizes that he/she did something that justifies the anger of the victim(s).

            He/she decides that he/she would like to earn positive appraisals from the victims and bystanders instead of their ongoing enmity.

            So if their feelings of regret are genuine, they will try to carry out some 'giving actions' that seek to make the victims feel consoled/compensated for their losses.

            This, by the way, is the only way a regretful victimizer can ever truly feel forgiven, if he/she has done something, endured some punishment, made a significant personal sacrifice, offered gifts, etc., for the benefit of the victims.

            If a victimizer invests herself in some convincing acts of atonement and asks for forgiveness, the wronged party is going to lose some of the fear of the victimizer and feelings of true forgiveness are then possible.

            Without the atonement, any expressions of forgiveness have to be interpreted as something else.

            To say that you forgive someone who has neither asked for your forgiveness nor atoned in any way is more a personal statement of magnanimity than it is a statement re: any kind of change of innermost feelings.

            And it may also arise from a bit of wishful thinking re: how it will be received by the one forgiven.  The victimizer may interpret this 'atonement-free forgiveness' in a way that makes the victimizer feel sorry about her deeds, or she might just think the 'forgiver' is a sap.

            Why Are People So Cruel?

            •  Strongly disagree. (4+ / 0-)
              Strictly speaking, forgiveness is something you feel for someone who has wronged you after they have carried out acts of atonement that have convinced you of their sorrow/regrets and their desire for forgiveness.
              I would call that 'forgiveness-lite.' FWIW, this describes me and probably most of us here.

              But I think the ideal has a much higher bar. Pure forgiveness, which IMO requires no additional effort on the part of the perpetrator.

              No, I can't actually do that. But I'm working on it.

              'Betting against Facebook since 2012'

              by VictorLaszlo on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:36:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think this is an 'ideal' which is pretty much (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                James Kroeger, 2thanks

                impossible for most people -- and it sounds very christian to me, in the sense of comparing (and inevitably judging) ordinary, real people to a (possibly imaginary) divine ideal. Which I think is built-in inevitable failure, which tends to lead to the sort of egotistical 'I am a Forgiving Christ-like Person' thing that was mentioned elsewhere (which of course contains the possibility, even probability, of self-denial/intellectual dishonesty and a deeply ingrained sense of personal failure).

                Plus, I don't think it's a perspective which leads to a healthy society. I suppose you could argue that it would make that one individual (if they succeed) more content -- but if you have a community, a society where all the work of forgiveness is placed on those injured instead of acknowledging that those who perpetrated the injury have some sort of continuing responsibility for the consequences of their actions... well, then I guess you'd have mainstream America. Which is IMO a somewhat less than healthy society.

              •  Not sure we're disagreeing... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                roseeriter

                When I said, "The way Forgiveness actually occurs on a 'natural' level..." I was indeed referring to the natural circumstances that will cause the typical human being to experience authentic 'feelings of forgiveness' for another person.

                The ideal you are referring to is closely associated with the ideal of 'unconditional love', which is another concept that doesn't make much sense under examination.

                'Unconditional love' is, essentially,  love of little value.  By this I mean that the object of such a love has no natural reason to value it, but only to 'take it for granted.'

                Again, on a natural level, humans typically come to value a dependable source of love only after they've realized that it is something they could lose if they are not careful, if they fail to continue to act in ways that make them deserving of love.

                If we absolutely knew that we can count on the untainted love of a Mother, of God, of any human being even if we were guilty of great cruelty and evil, then...why not be cruel and evil?

                (Note: denial of approval is still disapproval.)

                See the problem?  This doesn't mean that forgiveness isn't possible and it doesn't mean that God needs an eternal torture chamber to persuade humans to love Him.

                Nor does it mean that verbalizing forgiveness for someone who has committed great wrongs isn't sometimes a good idea.

                I just think it is a big mistake in logic to suggest that unconditional love/forgiveness represents some kind of Ideal Virtue.

                There is nothing wrong with love/approval being conditional on behavior that is deserving of approval.  That is the way we were designed.  And it makes sense if you think about it.

                We are actually born with a fundamental emotional need that we can only get satisfied in the ideal if we are all acting in ways that will earn us each other's love/approval.

                The sooner a child/teenager realizes this, the sooner he/she will be able to start focusing their time/efforts on earning the approval of others with good behavior.

                Why Are People So Cruel?

                •  Then the big question becomes: (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  2thanks, VictorLaszlo, Maianewley

                  "What behavior is deserving of approval?"  Different people have wildly different answers to that question.

                  The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

                  by Panurge on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 09:06:16 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  My answer... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    roseeriter
                    What behavior is deserving of approval?
                    Generally speaking, behavior that is moral is approvable behavior.  How to determine if a particular action [or failure to act] is Moral?  We simply need to ask,

                    Would everyone be better off if everyone were to act [or not act] in the same way?

                    If everyone would be better off, then the action or decision to not act is moral.  If we would all be worse off, then the action or failure to act is immoral.  If we would be neither better off nor worse off, then the action or failure to act is neither moral or immoral.

                    Killing a person who angers you is immoral because we would not all be better off if we were all to kill the people who anger us.  Stealing is also immoral in most situations for the same reason.  

                    Lying is immoral in some circumstances because we would not all be better off if everyone also lied when facing the same circumstances.  But lying would be moral in other circumstances because everyone would be better off if everyone were to lie for the same reasons.  

                    Gratuitous expressions of disapproval that do not seek to help the one being criticized are immoral because we would not all be better off if everyone were to act in the same way.

                    Behavior that is immoral is obviously not deserving of approval.  Behavior that is neither moral more immoral may not be deserving of approval, but neither is it deserving of disapproval.  It just is.

                •  I disagree (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BusyinCA, bigjacbigjacbigjac

                  I see forgiveness as a goal. In Buddhism, the thought is that you forgive because not to forgive works harm to yourself. You are urged to be kind to sentient beings, and one of those beings is yourself.

                  Harboring thoughts of anger will raise your blood pressure and other wise harm you.

                  Notice that Buddhist forgiveness does not include forgetting what the person did. It does  include taking appropriate, rational action to avoid future harm to others.
                  For example, letting a person who has mood swings and gets violent out of jail is not a rational act- there is a strong likelihood of future harm.

                  the point is that you should cease from anger towards the person because anger is one of the three poisons, not because the person is deserving of forgiveness or has atoned.

                  •  You didn't make it very clear... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    bigjacbigjacbigjac

                    ...what you are disagreeing with.  I happen to agree with you about anger.  

                    In my explanation of forgiveness above, I emphasized being able to feel positive feelings toward the wrong-doer, a feeling that I would call True Forgiveness.  It is perhaps more appropriate to situations involving marital infidelity.

                    Others, throughout this thread, are content to define forgiveness as essentially 'choosing to walk away from anger' and that's a definition I can live with, especially when it is specifically applied to the example of offering forgiveness to a murderer.

                    The Anger Instinct is a biologically-programmed response to perceived threats.  As fundamental response instincts go, the anger instinct has almost no redeeming qualities.  The ONLY time anger serves a useful purpose is when it is used to opposed those who are motivated by their anger.

                    The anger instinct encourages us to attack/hurt any person/group it perceives to be a threat.  The acts of physical violence that anger incites are reason enough for us to always reject the advice of this regrettable instinct.

                    But even when acts of violence are avoided, the anger instinct is still constantly working to poison our perceptions, identifying threats that do not actually exist, provoking conflict when none is necessary.

                    There is only one 'force' in human experience that is powerful enough to overcome the anger instinct, and that is fear.  In order for us to enjoy relationships with each other that are not poisoned by the anger instinct, we must all develop an appropriate fear of the advice that the anger instinct is always offering to us.

                    Contrary to what many seem to think in this society, the anger instinct is not your Friend, who is trying to protect you from threats, but is actually 'the devil' encouraging you to ruin your life with impulsive emotion.

            •  Also have to disagree. (0+ / 0-)

              You are not thinking of the big picture.

              Here's a case to ponder: Someone you dearly love commits suicide and hurts you terribly by doing so. How can a dead person perform "acts of atonement"? How can you ever deal with the loss unless you learn some 'forgiveness'.

              •  Atonement is often not a possibility... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BusyinCA

                ...as with the example you gave, and there are many others.  In those cases, the positive feelings that a victim might otherwise feel for an atoning victimizer are not possible/likely.

                (This statement makes a lot more sense when it is applied to a situation involving marital infidelity)

                As I suggested above, when atonement is not possible, one can ultimately overcome the 'pull' of anger by developing an appropriate fear of the advice/influence the instinct gives.

                If we do not fear it, it becomes nearly impossible to stop ourselves from becoming consumed by it.

                Why Are People So Cruel?

                •  You nailed it. (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Maianewley, James Kroeger, LSophia

                  My personal journey through this territory is as complex as that of the the diarist. The ultimate battle we face is within.

                  A fear of anger is a good way to phrase it. Fear is a motivator. Anger pushes the big red button.

                  Thanks for sharing :)

                  •  Oh my, that's an incredible comment (4+ / 0-)

                    I was once asked by a therapist where my anger was.  "I don't have any" I smugly replied!  She didn't believe me and, finally, I said "I daren't start being angry because, if I did, I'm not sure I would be able to stop, I honestly wonder if I might do something truly awful" - yes, I was scared of it.   Terrified to be honest.  

                    But I think also scared because I wasn't sure who or what I was angry AT if that makes any sense?  For the longest time, however irrational this sounds, I was angry at my friend for dying!  Displacement maybe, but it felt safer than uncontrolled fury.

                    So, yes, I agree very much with this and it made me smile slightly as I remembered denying it so strongly to the therapist!

                    Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

                    by Maianewley on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:23:28 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  It's interesting... (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Maianewley, LSophia, BusyinCA

                      Even though the topic you addressed in your post was 'forgiveness', it necessarily became a discussion of the Anger Instinct that all human beings are born with.

                      But I think also scared because I wasn't sure who or what I was angry AT if that makes any sense?
                      Oh yeah, that makes all kinds of sense.  The Anger Instinct is notorious for identifying 'enemies' who are actually not enemies at all.

                      I can remember, for example, stubbing my toe on some inanimate object as a teenager and then immediately 'hitting' or 'kicking' the object that my anger instinct identified as the threatening enemy responsible for my pain.  Unfortunately, my attack on this 'enemy' only caused me a great deal of pain as my frail flesh was striking hard at an immovable object.  The result was that I endured more pain from the injury I inflicted on myself, as a direct result of me following the advice of my anger instinct.

                      The sad truth is that the Anger Instinct is rather stupid.  It tends to ignore observations that might threaten its perception of enemies to attack.  Constructive criticism---lovingly offered---is perceived by the anger instinct as an attack by an enemy.  Perhaps the biggest problem with the anger instinct is that it just doesn't listen because it is too busy thinking about how to pursue the next offensive strike.

                      In contrast, the Fear Instinct puts us in a receptive state, as we take in new information that might give us an idea of the kind of threat we are facing.  This is important because oftentimes the 'threat' we are facing is our own stupid behavior, but that is not something the anger instinct is going to take notice of.

                      Unfortunately, one of the big reasons why we have such a violent culture in America is many, many people have convinced themselves that it is better to be angry than to be in a state of fear (both are a response to the same thing).  They couldn't be more wrong.

                      Why Are People So Cruel?

                    •  Sounds like you had a good therapist. (0+ / 0-)

                      It is not irrational to be angry at someone whose only defect is that they are currently dead.

                      In my case, it was my first wife that died, and I had a lot of anger at her for doing so. Mixed with natural grief, etc. as you might well understand.

                      I can read between the lines too, and soon realized I was being blamed for her death. I ended up moving away, not so much as to get away from the 'scene of the crime' so to speak, but to get away from the constant reminders of what was, and is no more.

                      That, and the neighbours, friends and relatives that treated me differently, and I knew I could not function in that environment. And after a few years of living happily in another time zone, I realized that it was a small sacrifice on my part, that if it made them happy to blame me instead of themselves, then go ahead and blame me. Go ahead and blame me for all the faults in the world, if that floats your boat. How much better for their lives to blame me than take any responsibility for anything unpleasant. I can handle it. I've had worse.

                      And no shame in being angry either. Just don't let it control you. Remember what I said before.

                      You cannot always control what happens to you. But you can control how you react to it.
                      When I feel anger now I try to channel it into some constructive activity. We aren't born knowing it, and it can't be taught, we just have to discover it by living.

                      One must first know a great love to truly understand great loss.

                    •  To be angry at someone for their having died (0+ / 0-)

                      is a psychological phenomenon I had only read about, but that I literally could not believe ---- it seems so weird ---

                      but, a few years ago a relative who'd recently lost his beloved spouse reacted in that exact way

                      He would say "she left me" as angrily as if she had walked out on him, in the pink of health and vitality --- as if she'd skipped away on a whim, explicitly to scorn and reject him -- instead of losing a long dragged-out battle w/cancer before his very eyes, in his own home

                      Had I not heard with my own ears his angry laments,  I wouldn't believe such a thing possible to this day

                      I appreciate your inside view on what that felt like, and how you view it now, maianewley!

          •  just my opinion (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Maianewley, 2thanks, BusyinCA, grover, dkmich

            But this is the way I see it.

            But maybe you're right, perhaps forgiveness is more about what you don't feel, than what you do!
            Your sig line also reaffirms what you posted.
            Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...
            I believe that forgiveness is a process of letting go of negativity.  Hatred and negativity destroy us from within, so the perpetrator of the act will have won (in a way) until we let go of those negative feelings.  I think you are doing very well in that way.  

            "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

            by gulfgal98 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:19:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •   Her sig line does say it all, and (0+ / 0-)

              explains why I said she had to.    

              "bin Laden's dead, and GM is alive" ~ Biden

              by dkmich on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 03:20:37 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think bearing ill will or (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                LSophia

                a grudge, is not the same thing.  I accept though that others may feel it is!

                I don't (I've said this so many times now on this thread that perhaps I don't need to repeat it) bear him any ill will - it's not that exactly that I was talking about.  Neither was I wondering about Forgiveness-lite as someone called it (great term, I agree absolutely with this).

                I suppose I'm talking about a purer form of forgiveness. No amount of rationalization or intelluctualization (both of which I've done and continue to do) can change that core/gut feeling you have.  That feeling only goes when it's ready to go.  It disturbs me so MUCH, probably because of this very thing.

                On a head level, it's easy.  He's not to blame, it's a tragedy (etc), but on a gut level, it's hard to know.

                But what I DO know is, it's not about blame, or anger, resentment, or any of those things - if it was, I'd be there at his parole hearings fighting to keep him in prison.   I'm not.  And yet, at the same time, I don't want to bump into him on a street corner.  I don't fear him, I don't think I might suddenly want to harm him, I just think it's something I wouldn't be ready for.  Why?  I don't know.  Because of that old gut feeling I suppose.

                I was very young when this happened, 16, and I also think this has some bearing on it.  Along with my high functioning autism which, as I said previously, has the tendency to make me approach things in an all or nothing way.   Either I want to embrace him or I don't (that's simplistically put, but you take my point?).   It plays in to all kinds of insecurities, sadnesses and any number of other hang ups which we all probably grow up with but which, in my mind, seem focussed on this one event.  Hard to disentangle - in a real, gut way.

                My signature is talking about grudges - and I stand by that absolutely.  I do not bear grudges.  I get annoyed for a day or two with people but, generally, I just move on.  Life's too short etc.  I also find that a genuinely intended apology works wonders.   But, in the case of murder, an apology just doesn't really seem to sound right!

                It's perhaps easy to say you "must" do this or you "have" to do that in theory.  Sadly, as with the old military motto "no plan survives first contact with the enemy" - I would paraphrase that and say "no plan, or rationalization, stands first contact with a gut feeling that you don't control"!

                Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

                by Maianewley on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 02:57:55 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  When you forgive others for their actions, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BusyinCA, Maianewley

            Aren't you also forgiving yourself for your
            own inaction, or lack of perception or empathy, or
            for the release that comes from not constantly and
            endlessly replaying/reliving of whatever memories
            you may have associated with that particular situation.

            I think forgiveness is a natural and necessary
            element of the human condition, with, of course,
            the great and varying distribution of capacity our
            species is renown for in its short historical time.

            So it could very natural for some to forgive all,
            and again, just as natural for some to never forgive.

            Thank you for a touching and thought provoking story.
            And also for all of your many other efforts.

      •  I agree with you that there is a LOT of societal (12+ / 0-)

        pressure to forgive. I especially see it in Christian groups, but also in Yoga/spirituality type groups.

        To me it looks like it is tied up in being a "good person". Sometimes a person's thinking does not go deeper than that and "everyone" knows that good people forgive!

        Well, like you I wonder what that really means. I suspect it is different for each person.

        For myself, I know when I have hit something that feels like forgiveness to me when I don't feel the need to keep explaining why the action or person was wrong. It's like I can finally stand down. It doesn't mean the action was right, but I can walk away and feel like I don't have to carry the argument with me.

        This doesn't happen fast or frequently for me. I suspect that what a lot of people call forgiveness I might see as pushing under the rug.

        That's ok… I don't need to know how it is for other people. But sadly forgiveness is one of those things that a lot of us feel comfortable shaming others into doing. That gets my back up. It's my belief that everyone gets exactly as much time as they need to forgive and that gets to look however they need it to look. So when people try to shame me into forgiveness they end up in a discussion they generally do not enjoy.

        Poverty = politics.

        by Renee on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:21:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  If an attack is caused by a mentally ill person... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TiaRachel

      this discussion of forgiveness isn't appropriate or helpful. Even family members who fear their mentally ill children or young adults have nowhere to turn in our present mental health 'system.'

      I just heard an expert on Brian Lehrer's WNYC public radio show say that only a small percentage of criminal assaults and murders are caused by the mentally ill. However, so many of these high profile crimes appear to involve them.

      So, education leads to understanding, which should lead to a radical overhaul of our healthcare and legal system regarding the mentally ill.

      Forgiveness is a valuable topic when the perpetrator is responsible for his or her behavior in such crimes.

      No people ever recognize their dictator in advance. ... When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American. Dorothy Thompson (1935)

      by DorothyT on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 08:45:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sorry that you find (0+ / 0-)

        my discussion on forgiveness "unhelpful".  I have clearly said in my diary that I do not (and could not) 'blame' the perpetrator, perhaps I blamed the State which so let him down, perhaps I blamed a society that allowed someone so unwell to be shunned rather than  helped.  Maybe I just needed someone to blame.

        Forgiveness is not as simple as you imply.  I am not talking about forgiving in the way you might understand.

        It's possibly hard to explain unless you've actually been in this situation.

        I'm a forensic psychologist by trade incidentally, and so I am very aware (and very sympathetic to psychiatric illness in criminal situations - indeed, I have campaigned long and hard in states such as Arizona, where they choose to use a one-pronged version of the M'Naughten rules which prevents many people, who are genuinely and indisputably psychaitrically ill) from using an insanity defense. I disagree with the use of the Model Penal Code similarly, in both its forms, both the MPC 1 and the MPC 2.   M'Naughten requires BOTH prongs, not just the "intent" but also the "understanding".  Point being, this is not really what I'm talking about here.

        It's something entirely personal.  One can rationalize as I have done many times, but one cannot change the way one feels inside because that is something which is somehow innate, or primal.  It's not about blame or responsibility, it's not even about anger (as so many others have said in their responses), it's about looking deep down within yourself and asking yourself the most difficult question of all which is "how do I really feel about this?"

        Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

        by Maianewley on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:44:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Just to clarify... (0+ / 0-)

          When I say I've campaigned, I mean (hopefully obviously), that I've campaigned AGAINST their mis/ab-use, imho, of the M'Naughten NOT in support of it!

          Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

          by Maianewley on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:55:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  You don't forgive somebody for them. (19+ / 0-)

    You do it for you.

    You decide to stop holding on to the anger; to stop letting the anger control your life, your decisions, and your ability to trust.

    In order to forgive, you have to trust yourself. You have to believe "I'll be OK, I can endure letting people into my heart again."

    Hanging on to the anger is like building a fortress around yourself.

    •  I agree with you but that's not what I meant... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GrumpyOldGeek, 2thanks, JBL55, Flying Goat

      I am asking something a bit more intangible and perhaps it isn't possible to ask it this way : I want to know what it looks like, what form it takes, not just "it is".

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:54:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's what I described. (6+ / 0-)
        You decide to stop holding on to the anger; to stop letting the anger control your life, your decisions, and your ability to trust.
        You open yourself up to the world -- you give of yourself. You accept that invitation, you envision yourself happy, you plan your future with the same hope you had before.  You come back to life.

        I suspect you know exactly what I'm talking about.

        •  I'm not at all sure I do... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Its a New Day, LSophia, 2thanks

          I understand what we are TOLD we will get from it.  But I'm interested in the experiences of people who've managed to do it, to know what it looks and feels like.  I don't feel particularly angry any more, I don't feel my life is ruined because of it, but if you asked me "do I forgive?" then I honestly don't know.

          I think there are many nice expressions which sum up what forgiveness means but, when you're truly confronted with something heinous and dreadful, then I'm not sure it's quite as some people think it might be.

          Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

          by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:05:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My wife was murdered when our child was (20+ / 0-)

            very young. I had to make a decision about how I would teach my daughter to handle the loss of her mother and I decided the most important thing was to make it easy for her to move on and to do that I had to forgive my wife's killer and move on myself.

            There is absolutely nothing to be gained by holding onto past grievances. It will eat at your soul until you have lost sight of the most important things in life.

            What does it look like? For me, it began by turning my feelings over to God and leaving the murderer's condemnation and punishment to Him. The man received a 50 year sentence, which seemed appropriate. My child, on the other hand, never really knew what it was like to have a mother, but in spite of her loss she has grown up to be a wonderful daughter and I think her mother would be very proud of her if she were still alive.

            So, I guess forgiving looked like resetting the clock to a time when I didn't feel the loss and allowing myself to live a normal life free of resentment and hate...It has been forty years since her death and I still miss her, but I am thankful for the time we spent together and I feel very blessed that she left behind a wonderful child...that makes my life full...resentment would only subtract from that.

            I hope you find peace...

            •  I agree nothing is to be gained... (7+ / 0-)

              by holding on to past grievances.  I'm so sorry to hear of  your experiences.  

              I do believe that, in some ways, forgiveness is a concept which works better if you have a "God" in your life, but on the other hand, I don't believe it is exclusively in that domain.

              I very much relate to the "resetting the clock" comment - I remember saying this to someone else, someone who had even more difficulty than me in getting over what happened.  It's hard to do and I admire your fortitude in being able to do it, not just words, I truly do admire those who have done that.

              I think it's possibly the healthiest thing to do - I suppose I also feel though, that emotions and how you really FEEL, are often beyond rationalizations, or beyond things we aspire to, or want to do.  My emotions seem to have a process all of their own at times.

              Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

              by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:15:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  "Letting go of past grievances" is forgiveness. (7+ / 0-)

                You seem to be looking for more.  That is pretty much all there is to it.

                Some people get off on it because it denotes power: "I" forgive you.  So there can be ego involved.  But mostly it simply means you are no longer seeking retribution, and the reason for it is simple: so you can get back to living your own life for yourself and not for someone else (even if it is for their detriment).

                Forgiveness isn't always a virtue, it can be used to cover-up and enable continued crimes, such as pedophilia within the churches.

                and their contempt for the Latin schools was applauded by Theodoric himself, who gratified their prejudices, or his own, by declaring that the child who had trembled at a rod would never dare to look upon a sword.

                by ban48 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:34:03 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  forgiveness has two connotations (6+ / 0-)

                1. the post-bereavement notion of deciding to forego anger, revenge fantasies, and other nonproductive emotions, directed at the perpetrator, that accomplish nothing for the victims or survivors.

                2. the vernacular notion of granting the perpetrator some sort of post-facto "apology accepted" communication and status balancing.

                I think you have very much accomplished #1.

                I think #2 is only properly applicable to small transgressions like being late for dinner -- not horrific crimes.

                Keep WA-Gov Blue -- Help Jay Inslee beat Rob McKenna. Go Inslee!

                by Em on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 10:00:01 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I agree that emotions are beyond rationalizations (4+ / 0-)

                or I would say rational thought. They are emotion. And in my life I have seen so terrible consequences from sweeping them under the rug.

                But there is that interface in which we can either solidify or relax our emotions with our thought. That can be fertile ground to experiment and learn from the process.

                Poverty = politics.

                by Renee on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:28:41 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  there was someone who wronged me badly (7+ / 0-)

            a few years back. I don't dwell on him anymore and I don't don't hatch revenge fantasies with the passion that I used to. I would not say that I've forgiven him, but who cares? I've moved on, he doesn't hurt me anymore. When he dies I'll be glad. I just don't expend any mental/emotional energy on him any longer. I'm happy with that.

            It's not about the hundred people whose minds you can't change. It's about the two people you empower. ~ Beth Ditto

            by dejavu on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:02:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  "forgiving" is based on the assumption (8+ / 0-)

        that something was taken from you and you don't expect to get anything back in exchange.
        The idea that the murder of another person is a taking from an unrelated third party strikes me as strange. It is, however, the premise for the state executing a miscreant in revenge.  I consider that strange, if not immoral, as well. Killing the miscreant does not bring the dead person back to life. Keeping him from killing again can be accomplished otherwise. So, the state killing in revenge is really a claim of ownership or property right in the person killed, as well as an assertion to dispose of the killer as evidence of the proposition that the interests of the state are superior to human rights.
        While the U.S. has rejected the sovereign rule of a person (king, tyrant, dictator, emperor), there has been and continues to be a persistent effort to assert the sovereignty of the state/nation, an impersonal, amorphous, secular, all powerful entity, the ship of state, whose tiller is transferred as a matter of routine by the voice of the people via the ballot box. It is the assumption that the nation is supreme which makes it possible to argue that the person chosen to place his hand on the tiller is unimportant because the ship is on automatic pilot and the guy at the wheel is just for show.
        People concerned about ethical behavior have some reason to look askance at this secular automaton. Is an automaton likely to be respectful of human rights?
        When the Constitution was drafted, the founders envisioned the agents of government to be real persons whose perception of human rights would be the same as those of everyone else. The substitution of the "rule of law" for real persons may have seemed like a good idea, but, in practice, it has amounted to the substitution of impersonal ideas (authority, power, permanence, stability) as the object of governance for the welfare of the people. Everyone "subject to the rule of law" means everyone is subject and nobody is free to do their own thing, or not.

        One person staking a claim in another person may well be the root. Ownership is a pernicious concept when it is applied to other people.

        Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage"

        by hannah on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:54:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm going to have to spend longer... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          roseeriter, ZedMont, Renee, Larsstephens

          thinking about this reply.   I suppose that I don't feel as though I was a "third party" because, although the crime wasn't directed at me, it certainly did affect me and my life very tangibly any in many very real ways.  

          I find even writing this, and commenting on the points raised, quite emotional and so I'm going to take a break for a bit now - roseerwriter made a good point when she said she allows herself 15 minutes of ruminating on past events - I think perhaps I need to step back for an hour or two and come back to it a bit later in the day.

          Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

          by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:58:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I think you badly misinterpret relationships. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LSophia, Larsstephens

          When a person is murdered, those who were close to that person are not devastated because they've lost someone they "owned".  They're devastated because they've lost the years of friendship, love, companionship, discussions, experiences, etc. they anticipated having with that person over the years.  They're devastated because they imagine the fear and pain that person experienced as they were murdered.  They're devastated because they think of all the things this person they cared about will never get to experience because of the murder and they ache for that person's loss.

          With such a horrendous false premise to your theory, I can't imagine anyone taking your theory seriously.

          "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

          by gustynpip on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:12:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I believe you have mistaken which (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Maianewley, Renee, Larsstephens

          definition of "forgiveness" is being discussed here. The word can be used when talking about finances, such as loans, but here the discussion is about the emotional use. Loving another, being loved by that person (thought that is not a necessary component) is a sharing. There is nothing monetary about that.

          "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H.L. Mencken, 1925

          by cv lurking gf on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:31:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Process... (5+ / 0-)

        ...as a survivor, it has become a tedious but necessary process. Since so many of us are plagued with memories; either recalled as part of the part or in flashbacks and nightmares that intrude into the present.  The first is easier though still very difficult and painful to forgive; my need to let go of what I might even feel entitled to.  But like it says, it's really like drinking poison and expecting the other person to keel over.

        The harder part is forgiving as the old moments intrude on today or tomorrow; re-offended as if it was happening all over again.  But it still is necessary.  I choose to acknowledge the hurt; you can't forgive if you don't recognize how much you were harmed.  And then I set myself to forgive my offenders.  

        My therapist was helpful to remind me of the following; I'm not the only one who hates and loves my parents.  Whatever judgement they face is beyond my scope.  But I am torn daily between wanting to love my Mom and Dad but forced to look at the hate in my heart for the horror they inflicted upon me and my siblings.  It's not that God won't forgive you if you don't forgive others; mercy is always there and freely given.  It's that you can't receive mercy and forgiveness if you don't forgive.  No capacity to appreciate and apprehend forgiveness.  

        As others have said; it's a decision to stop holding onto the anger; an empty hand can easier accept what it has been given.

        Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do. ― C.S. Lewis Much Love, Andrea Lena.

        by Andrea D on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 10:52:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  dear Andrea D, you have given me much to think (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          upon here.

          dear Kossacks,

          [TRIGGER WARNING]

          As I have said before, I am a survivor of infant male genital mutilition. I know that my parents loved me. And yet in their ignorance they paid a doctor to mutilate me when I was 3 days old. I bear the scars. I have the document.

          The decision of my loving parents caused me lifelong problems - physical, psychological, and marital.

          We have the internet, and we know a lot more about the bad effects of genital mutilation of boys now; I certainly know a lot more than I ever wanted to know, and have had to spend a lot of time discussing and exploring this issue with recovery groups and therapists to recover from that assault on the body of innocent me.

          As part of my recovery and finding forgiveness inside myself, I decided to discuss the effects of circumcision on me with couples and singles in my family who are pregnant. Since 1995 no child in my family has been circumcised. This mirrors the nationwide US cultural decline in circumcision rate. Currently about 30% of little boys in this country are ravaged in this way.

          Please allow me to generalize and say that part of forgiving is protecting others from undergoing the trauma that you underwent. Look at our Kossack, Roxine; part of her healing is helping others heal.

          Dear Kossacks, please protect your children.

          (These comments are from me, speaking my truth about me. My triggers are my scars. I am not pointing fingers and saying anything about anyone else, and I do not want to hijack this diary.)

          peace.

      •  I suggest the book (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        boudi08, Larsstephens

        "Picking Cotton."  It tells the story of two victims - one of a violent rape, and one of a false accusation and conviction for that rape.  It's a remarkable story about forgiveness of others oand of oneself.

        My own experience as an abused child of an abused child, I wrote about in a trio of poems, which I published here.

        http://www.streetprophets.com/...

        Old people are like old houses - lots of character, but the plumbing leaks.

        by ramara on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:06:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think forgiveness and acceptance are quite (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Maianewley, Larsstephens

      the same thing, though perhaps that puts me at odds with the great wisdom of wikipedia.

      You can accept what happened, move on with your life, perhaps even recognize the humanity of someone who's committed a great wrong, but is that really the same as forgiving them?  You can still think they're horrible human beings, and deserve to suffer for their actions, can't you?

      •  Great comment plus... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Flying Goat, Larsstephens

        being at  odds with Wiki is a positive thing in most cases!  But seriously, I think you make an excellent point here.

        So many excellent points in this diary comment part that it's going to take me a day or two to assimilate them all.  So much food for metaphorical thought, so much that I identify with and so much that is new to me.

        Thank you so much.

        Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

        by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:16:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I couldn't forgive. . . (7+ / 0-)

    . . .someone who killed my wife or son. I live in reality.

    But, I caan also tell you that I recently made a mistake and asked someone I really cared about for forgiveness. I will tell you, recieving it from the one I offended felt great. I can also say that extending forgiveness, also feels fantastic.

    When you forgive others, you also forgive yourself.

    •  I think this is a great point (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluesheep, JBL55, Larsstephens

      I think it is interweaved with others, it's NOT just something you do for yourself.  I totally 'get' what you're saying here and it resonates very much with me.  Thank you.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:01:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I also don't understand what the word means (10+ / 0-)

      It makes no sense.

      Why shouldn't I be angry at the man who sexually assaulted me at work, lied, and I got fired and blacklisted? Should I pretend it was OK? It wasn't.

      You made a mistake and ASKED forgiveness. But what about when a person does not make a mistake but consciously and deliberately causes great harm and not only does not seek forgiveness, does not apolgize, but doubles down and causes more harm?

      I get really annoyed at this "let go of anger" and "don't let them control you" because it is not only victim blaming (it's YOUR fault you feel bad! If you were a more worthy human being you wouldn't) but because it's bullshit. Why should we just say fine, get away with it?

      I can't turn to a god, I'm an atheist and was raised Jewish where the obligation to forgive starts after apology and atonement. And why is being angry so terrible? We should be angry about some things. I am not talking about someone getting ahead of us in line; I am talking about lifelong harm done deliberately and without remorse. Fuck yes I am angry. When everything else is taken from a person isn't she at least allowed her anger?

      •  I could not agree more (6+ / 0-)

        I am so sorry that happened to you. I hope you have heeled or are heeling.

        Recently, I had the whole nature of my life stolen from me from close family members. They believe a lie and there is absolutely nothing I can do to change their minds. We no longer speak and I miss, terribly, each and every one of them. Surely, they shou;ld believe me simply because of the standing I thought I once held, but they do not. What they have stolen from me is incalculable in it's worth to me. IMy heart aches every single day.

        So, I know a bit about the nature of your suffering. My heart goes out to you.

        •  Something happened in my family ... (4+ / 0-)

          ... that made your post resonate with me.  

          Everything changed after that thing happened, and we cannot go back.  One of my sisters and I have periodically talked about it, trying to figure out if there was something, anything we could have done.

          Eventually we realized that not only was there nothing we could have done. there was nothing we should have done.  Anything else we might have tried would have only papered over the actual problem and simply delayed the rupture.

          This realization has helped us forgive ourselves for ... um ... well, for not being able to fix the unfixable.

          There can be some comfort in knowing what you do now, that your close family members choose to believe a lie.  At least you know now.  You know how and who they really are, which sure beats not knowing.

          You might not like what you know, but it is the truth.

          "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

          by JBL55 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 02:20:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I also dislike the attempt to shame people out of (5+ / 0-)

        anger. Anger is useful. It teaches us our boundaries.

        And I think people want to force us into a place of inauthentic forgiveness because our anger triggers them and they do not want to be triggered.

        Whatever the reason for it, I resist it and I talk about it when I get the chance. Lots of people have never considered that it is offensive to try and push people to forgive, or even what forgiveness really means to them, beyond "it's what nice people do!"

        I'm sorry for what happened to you.

        Poverty = politics.

        by Renee on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 02:58:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't see a need for naked forgiveness (16+ / 0-)

    In my humble opinion, there must be some attempt at remorse, atonement or apology. Absent that, forget forgiveness.

    I learned this years back from working in the advertising business. My boss was a great mentor. He was Jewish which, I guess, meant that he had a pretty good grasp of atonement. One time, I sent out an ad - a retail printed piece - which had the wrong phone number for the advertiser. Totally my fault for letting it get out without double checking that the number was right. This was the biggest mistake that could be made in this form of advertising. I was resigned to the fact that I would have to foot the $400 bill to re-run the ad. My boss told me to return to the client and confess my critical mistake. Then apologize, then... shut up. Let the client make the next play. To my surprise, the client forgave my error and said that we would get it right the next time.

    It taught me the power of the sincere apology.

    Years later, while at a family retreat, I noticed one of my young sons getting bullied by one of his older cousins. I went a little overboard and perhaps overdid it with the admonishment of the cousin and it got back to his parent, one of my in-laws. After things cooled down, I realized my error and sincerely apologized to the in-laws and the boy. To this day, they have yet to forgive me for the error which, over time, seems trivial. The way I see it, I hold the high ground. It is their error for not seeing the big picture in offering forgiveness. It is all water under the bridge yet they cling to this one incident to hold umbrage. It has caused me to lose respect for them.

    These are little things in comparison to the big things mentioned in the diary but it underscores the importance of remorse. And remorse for getting caught doesn't count.


    i just baptized andrew breitbart into the church of islam, planned parenthood, the girl scouts and three teachers unions. - @blainecapatch

    by bobinson on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:54:58 AM PDT

    •  I very much agree with your... (5+ / 0-)

      sentiments and I wish you'd written this diary not me!  I think mine is perhaps not very clear.  You've summed up a lot of things for me and I am truly grateful for your comment. Thank you.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:59:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I believe there is much to be said (7+ / 0-)

      for sincere contrition and, no, being sorry because you were  caught, doesn't count.

      You would be amazed at the number of otherwise good-hearted, level-headed people out there who cannot apologize. Literally, they will do absurd flip-flops to avoid taking responsibility for bad, destructive behavior when they have clearly acted inappropriately. On the other hand, I feel that apologizing is something I've become very accomplished at over the years. I will always try, sincerely, to see things from somebody else's point of view, even that of somebody who's very upset at me (scary as I sometimes find that).

      The point you made about the need to see another's contrition before you can forgive or pardon them is well-taken and pretty central to this discussion, I think. The movie, "Dead Man Walking," made it eloquently. Do you remember the scene where the nun, played by Susan Sarandon, who's made herself the spiritual adviser to a death-row inmate, is in the office of the prison chaplain? He believes she's spending "too much time" on this hardened and remorseless criminal. The nun is going on about "the compassion of Jesus," blah, blah, blah, and of course the inmate deserves her attention. The prison chaplain uses a New Testament reference to back up his argument that one who hasn't repented for a sin, can't be forgiven for it. The nun then faints, because she hasn't eaten in a long time. When she regains  consciousness, she understands her role in regard to the death-row inmate as that of working to elicit his remorse for having committed a rape-murder. Once he has begun to exercise the basic human faculty of regret, his spiritual progress can begin.

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:42:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I very much identify with this... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        karmsy, OleHippieChick, Larsstephens

        I said recently to someone that I didn't think I would ever feel able to meet face-to-face with the guy who perpetrated the murder (even if he wanted to), because I had heard his 'side' of things when he gave a very long interview for a documentary and there seemed (to me anyway) to be no contrition or real understanding of what he had done.  And yet, he also seemed to be receiving appropriate treatment and didn't seem to be unwell at the point of the interview. His responses were coherent, rational and made sense.  

        I've often wondered, when I've thought back to hearing that interview (I will admit that I found it hard and disturbing, just hearing him talk - not sure why) whether or not that's just HIS way of coping with the dreadful thing he did while very unwell and not in control of his emotions?  I suppose that it must feel awful to realize you have done a horrendous thing, that you can't take back or 'put right' while you were not in control of your own mind.  Just the thought of not being in control of my own mind is scary, let alone the thoughts that may haunt him.

        But, still, I honestly couldn't bear to sit in a room with him, or look at him in person, across a table.  This is somewhat irrational as I honestly don't know WHY this would bother me so much, I just know it would.

        I've often wondered if I would find that idea easier if I thought he would show some degree of regret, or sincere feelings of contrition.  I may find that easier, I'm honestly not sure.

        But, then the rational side of me takes over and I think to myself "how on earth can I expect him to take responsibility for something that he did while NOT responsible for his actions"!  It's like a kind of weird vicious circle.

        Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

        by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:22:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I've always believed that it takes (0+ / 0-)

      a big person to make a sincere apology. We all make mistakes. That's why pencils have erasers. But to own up to it, and admit that, yup, I did it, takes strength. I think it also shows some honesty, which seems to be in somewhat short supply in some circles.

      On that note, I would like to make a tangential comment about honesty. Most people would be able to forgive a co-worker if they pilfered a candy, or a pen from their desk. But think about it. If you can't trust that person with something so insignificant, how can you ever trust them with something more important? Conversely, if I found a bag with U$20 million in small denomination non-sequential bills, I'd really be tempted to make off with it. Who wouldn't? Small risk, big payoff. I might even lie about it. Nope didn't see anything. But to lie about something as small as turning off a light or 'borrowing" a pen? For a person to lie about that, makes me think they lie about everything. I don't think I could ever trust that person again. Although I certainly could forgive them.

      I can forgive. But I never forget. Just like the IRS.

  •  Forgiveness is a form of emotional acceptance (18+ / 0-)

    that can't be easily engineered.

    I gather that forgiveness eases the heart of the forgiver. It may or may not move the heart of the forgiven. But it certainly doesn't change the past.

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:56:36 AM PDT

    •  Thank you ... (9+ / 0-)

      for this comment, this is getting much more to the heart of what I'm trying to work out.  What IS it, and your answer falls more or less in line with what I think about it, it's some form of emotional acceptance.

      It can't be rushed, you can't be forced into it (no matter how much others tell you you should).

      Thank you.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:00:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you would like a Buddhist perspective (5+ / 0-)

        The four noble truths in buddhism are that dissatisfaction and unhappiness (the Pali word "dukkha" is usually translated as suffering, which isn't the best expression of the idea I find) are part of the typical human condition.  Second is the idea that this unhappiness/ suffering arises because of our attachment to certain things and ideas.  The third notion is that the way to end the suffering is by accepting things as they are and becoming unattached to the ideas and things.  That is, unattachment undermines the cause of unhappiness.   (The fourth truth is that the third truth is possible, but takes rather a lot of work but that there are methods and practices to cultivate it, which is the Buddhist practice essentially).

        Thus, the anger and upset is an example of dukkha.  The cause of that is the attachment to the ideas and thoughts that you see as having been harmed.   Forgiveness then would be the process of letting go of the attitudes and ideas that you see as harmed.  In the case of insults, this is the sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me approach.  If you let go of your concepts of yourself and decline to attach importance to them, that is forgiveness and the Hirt and anger recedes.  In the case of loss, it is the harder process of recognizing that impermanence is everywhere and the source of pain is the clinging to things as you want them to be, rather than recognizing the way things are.  Forgiveness comes from accepting reality plainly and declining to engage in anger (note the four noble truths say suffering can be avoided, but pain, well, that is probably inevitable.  It's in how you relate to it).

        Of course, as the fourth noble truth suggests, it ain't easy exactly, but it can be done.  It is important to forgive yourself for having a hard time forgiving.  Become unattached to the idea that you should be a better and more forgiving person and recognize you are who you are where you are.  The rest will come in time, with effort.  

        Good luck.  And wish me luck too!  :)

        Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

        by Mindful Nature on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 09:38:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm Theravadin and so... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          2thanks, Renee, Larsstephens

          I kind of come from this perspective already but I really appreciate you outlining it so clearly - are you Mahayanan by any chance (just curious!) as I often have difficulty explaining it so succinctly and so well.  Thank you.

          Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

          by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 10:24:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The other thing I said somewhere else was ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          2thanks, TiaRachel, Larsstephens

          that there IS no real concept of "forgiveness" in Buddhism, unlike many other faiths (I prefer system of belief for Buddhism but you know what I mean?)  and, as we don't believe in a soul either, it perhaps makes the mental calisthenics necessary to 'forgive' a little more complex (for me anyway) and also leaves me feeling that 'forgiveness' in itself, is not necessary in the way so may people believe that it is.

          But, on the other hand, I think perhaps there's an element of semantics there, because, as others have so adeptly identified, forgiveness means as many different things as there are people.

          Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

          by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 10:50:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  ah, semantics! (4+ / 0-)

            I am actually theravadan also, but have a tendency to boil things to the point of oversimplification (how many times did I cut corners above?).  For my part, now that you mention it, I do sort of think of forgiveness as a side effect of mindfulness, rather than a central piece.  In fact, in my better moments, forgiveness of small stuff never enters into it, because by not being wrapped up in things, it never occurs to me to feel hurt in the first place.  I suppose there might be somethign to be said for the notion that being mindful might make forgiveness a little obsolete.  On my better days, it is so.  Alas, that practice has suffered the last few years, if you'll pardon the expression!

            Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

            by Mindful Nature on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:11:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We are turning into parrots!... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mindful Nature, 2thanks, Larsstephens

              I said it was a similar or connected issue to mindfulness somewhere further down the thread too!  And so, yes, totally agree with your points.  Sorry, having a  dreadful day healthwise today so please forgive brevity of response.

              Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

              by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 02:07:50 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Forgiving ourselves is hardest of all. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          2thanks, Larsstephens, BusyinCA
          Become unattached to the idea that you should be a better and more forgiving person and recognize you are who you are where you are.  
          Thank you.  You put your finger directly on something my sister and I were discussing less than a week ago.  

          "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

          by JBL55 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 02:24:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I used tO be Christian (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            2thanks, Larsstephens, JBL55

            And I still believe that the idea that we are forgiven our sins is one of the most powerful (even if my views have shifted a touch on just who is doing the forgiving.  It works out much the same much of the time ). It does help me keep going

            Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

            by Mindful Nature on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:11:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Here's a version of the Lord's Prayer ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              LSophia

              ... written by an Episcopal priest by the name of Sarah Dylan Breuer when she was a deacon.  It's in the pattern Jesus taught and everyone with whom I have shared it -- Christians, non-Christians, and ex-Christians -- have all found it remarkable:

              Loving Creator, we honor you,
              and we honor all that you have made.
              Renew the whole world in the image of your love.
              Give us what we need for today,
              and a hunger to see the whole world fed.
              Strengthen us for what lies ahead;
              heal us from the hurts of the past;
              give us courage to follow your call in this moment.
              For your love is the only power,
              the only home, the only honor we need,
              in this world and in the world to come.  Amen.
              "Heal us from the hurts of the past" ...

              "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

              by JBL55 on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 10:02:17 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Wow. An excellently useful encapsulation! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Love, 2thanks, Larsstephens

      Poverty = politics.

      by Renee on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:03:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I can easily forgive little indescretions. It (6+ / 0-)

    also depends on how personally connected I am with someone. I use a 3 strikes and your out rule for myself. I am mostly offended by chronic liars, lies of ommission like media, political/government and religious lies.

    Regarding outrageous crimes against humanity? All I can do is make sure I don't do that or support those who do that-meaning don't lie, cheat, steal or kill.

    When I think of forgiveness, I remember going to confession where 'our souls are wiped clean' (by who?) where mostly I had to make stuff up as I was a pretty good person. But often wondered how many people go back and do the same things over and over again and then go to confession and repeat repeat repeat the 'sins.?'

    I let the powers that be deal with it and have witnessed (many times) that what goes around comes around. Some call it Karma. Or negative energy begets negative energy..

    "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

    "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

    by roseeriter on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:03:11 AM PDT

    •  This interests me greatly... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      roseeriter, LSophia, Larsstephens

      I'm a Buddhist, and Buddhists don't have the concept of a "soul" or "forgiveness" as we tend to see it as an irrelevance.  Not an irrelevance exactly, that overstates the case, but more as something which isn't to do with us, as I said, what does it matter if I forgive someone or not, it seems like more of a God-related concept, or divine being type of concept.  The wiping clean that you mentioned seems tied up with it too.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:07:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't call myself anything except a human being- (6+ / 0-)

        and the golden rule is the only so called rule I do my best to live by.

        I also believe that if one cannot master individual responsibility and control, no GROUP will ever be able to succeed doing it for them.

        "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

        "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

        by roseeriter on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:13:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Grace Too (6+ / 0-)

        I come down half-way between in that I'm a practicing Zen Catholic--I use meditation and mindfulness to get closer to God.  The practice of Zen with the wisdom of Buddha and Jesus (I'm not good at explaining it, but it works for me)

        I think grace is tied up with my sense of forgiveness--an acceptance of what is, and trusting that there is wisdom from what has come before.  For me, to forgive is to dispense with the attachment I have to the negative energy from the actions of other who have hurt me.

        While I've thankfully not gone through the sort of thing the diarist has, after my divorce I spent a lot of time trying to understand and quiet my rage at my ex-wife.  Zen brought me the ability to forgive her--although I find I have to keep doing it :)

        Forgiveness isn't a one shot thing for me--often I find an echo of that anger and hurt, and in my really dark times I nourish it; but ultimately, I don't want to go back to being the angry person I used to be.  To forgive is to let go of that echo.  Perhaps one day it will be gone for good.

        Yet most times I forgive, for the briefest of moments I glimpse a pearl of wisdom--an understanding of the person I'm forgiving; like a moment of insight into why my ex-wife did what she did in trying to destroy my sanity.

        I'm sure this is a hopeless muddle--but perhaps it provides some insight into how I forgive:)

        Sean

    •  I'm glad... (5+ / 0-)

      I really hoped that I may not be the only one struggling with this (not that I'd want to put anyone else through it but you know what I mean?)  and some of the comments so far have really resonated so strongly with me, they're not only helpful, they are helping to clarify something which I've grappled with unsuccessfully for many years.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:34:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I Am An Atheist (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maianewley, roseeriter, emal, Larsstephens

    I still look to historic religious traditions for concepts that seem to play an important psychological role for the faithful.    I acknowledge that religion has played an important role in peoples lives and I can't replace something with nothing. The forgiveness that I grew up with seemed to come from a sense that we are all sinners and redemption is always available to us no matter what we do. The forgiveness that you give others for trespasses is really to acknowledge that  you would be capable of generating such evil if circumstances of abuse, maltreatment led you to be as ethically compromised as the perpetrator. I do not feel that a perpetrator should expect forgiveness though. Seems that understanding your sins should make you realize that the magnitude of them should not allow you to feel that you should not be shunned for your actions. That is your hell on earth that you have to live as a price for your actions. So I wouldn't feel that a sense of forgiveness for the murderer is something you should strive for and something the murderer should expect.  Maybe just acknowledging that this is a flawed planet and but for the grace of God you would be capable of generating such horror as well.

    •  This is an interesting perspective and... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      probably not dissimilar to the Buddhist perspective (Buddhism is a non-theistic system of belief).  The difficulty for me perhaps is that the perpetrator certainly doesn't seem to "expect" forgiveness but, from my side, he can't be held responsible as he was genuinely very ill when he committed the act.  I suppose I just find it hard to know where to place any blame at all, not that blame helps, but there kind of needs to be a 'reason' of some sort in order for me to find a place for it - if that makes any sense at all?

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:36:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  To Me Your Acknowledgment That He Can't Be (4+ / 0-)

        held responsible because he was mentally ill is forgiveness in itself. In recent months I have become aware that brain chemistry is a great clue as to understanding our actions. That is one of the interesting things about the Aurora killings. You would think that the perpetrator would have sensed that circumstances in his life might have really been messing up his dopamine levels or something. He was educated in neuroscience. Thought the same with the psychologist who killed many on the military base in Texas.  So there is a reason for all this. We are flawed creations who are capable of generating acts of evil because the chemicals swirling around our brains can't handle ethical reasoning.  Can we be thankful that these type of things don't happen more often?

  •  I suppose what I'm also asking is... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roseeriter, LSophia, Larsstephens

    How do we KNOW if we've forgiven someone or not and does it matter at all?  If that makes it any clearer?

    Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

    by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:38:20 AM PDT

    •  Maybe when the ruminating stops.. (7+ / 0-)

      When I find myself STILL ruminating about something that happened a long time ago, I know I have yet to come to terms with it . Some old issues can be triggered by a new event which dredges up one's personal similar experience etc.,

      For myself, I've learned to give an old rumination about 15 minutes of 'emotion' and then let it go, until next time.

      I've yet to control all those 'voices' in my head, but I'm working on it :)

      "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

      "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

      by roseeriter on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:50:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is very true in my case... (5+ / 0-)

        and perhaps in everyone's.  But, in the case of my friend, it was a very high profile murder and it regularly discussed in the media, almost as though he wasn't a real person, with real family and real friends, if you know what I mean?  I once described the aftermath as some kind of public spectacle, as though we weren't allowed to grieve in private, but it had to be on some huge scale.

        Maybe it's only more recently that I've felt able to 'reclaim' it in some way (don't usually like those terms but it seems apposite here) and so perhaps that's why it's bothering me.

        Also, I have a life limiting condition and I suppose that I'd always hoped to resolve this before I spiral off to the next part of life's journey.  Perhaps that's why I've finally "owned up" and asked the question publically as I would love to work out what prevents me from letting go of it.

        Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

        by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:54:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The obvious to me is maybe you don't want to let (5+ / 0-)

          it go for whatever reasons. And that's okay, too. Maybe it's your 'anchor'...?

          I've been close to the edge also with my scleroderma so I know how one's thinking changes and in GREAT ways IMHO.:)

          "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

          "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

          by roseeriter on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:03:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I, and my family, have experienced (7+ / 0-)

          many different situations where each of us needed to forgive another, or seek forgiveness. Some occurrences were minor, a few on the level of your experience. I will admit one was a murder of a child - which just typing leaves me shaking. Though it has been many years the immediacy still comes; it will never recede to the past. Losing my foot to bad drivers has receded for me, and I hope it has for them. I tend to hold on to grudges, call it being a guard dog. At a friend's funeral I realized I still had actively strong dislike for her husband of twenty years past. She'd remarried, had a family, had done everything she'd ever wanted, but I was the one holding the anger. I thought back to the man who caused my accident, calling me after the suit was settled, begging for my forgiveness, but unable to accept that I'd moved forward long before. I carried a poison in my body and spirit and it was harming me, just as that driver did. It doesn't matter if the perpetrators of these horrific memories want forgiveness; I need to heal myself, move forward so that my life is good. I will never forget any of the people lost, the experiences (and daily, how can I forget my foot is gone, no more than that child gone, the mental health of another gone, and more) but my life is being lived well. There is always sadness and horror; we must create and mix in happy times, good times to overwhelm them.

          "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H.L. Mencken, 1925

          by cv lurking gf on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:50:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This raises many of the points... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            2thanks, cv lurking gf, Larsstephens

            which occupy me at times.

            I think that, long ago, I was able to understand that the perpetrator was ill and not to blame him for his actions, but at the same time, I know that even writing this has gotten me very choked up and brings a lot of feelings I thought were long-since gone, back to the surface.

            As my signature line indicates, I also agree that it is a bit like carrying a poison around in some ways - but maybe that poison is about much more than just the one event I spoke about.  You're absolutely right to say there is horror all around us and that it's necessary to create our own destinies if you like.

            I once said to someone that I wouldn't allow what happened to take away my future, because at the time I really DID feel he had taken away some of my past - but, now, I'm not sure I'd agree with that.  I think it just took me a very long time to be able to see my friend's face without seeing what happened in the end.

            It took me years to even go back to the city where it happened and, to this day, I get a shudder when I walk past the building.

            Thank you so much for your comments here as reading them, not only yours but many of the others too, really do help me to feel that perhaps forgiveness is not such a concrete concept - it is more about the overall, than the nitty gritty, if that makes sense?

            Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

            by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:57:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  My take on it (11+ / 0-)

    I have been confronted with this issue in a situation that is very close to me, involving the actions of close family members.

    For me, the moment of relief from my most intense anger was the acknowledgement of the severity of the attackers' mental illness and alcoholism.    It didn't feel so much like forgiveness.  Forgiveness has always felt like the wrong word.  The right word is "understanding" and "compassion".  

    I still harbor some anger.  I acknowledge that anger as a natural response, and feel is appropriate and even healthy, even though it might be true that I am angry at a crazy person for acting crazy.   However, there was a very noticeable shift when my compassion for the attackers counterbalanced my anger in such a way that it was mostly neutralized.  I felt balanced, and my soul felt more at peace.   The anger was still there, but buffered by understanding and compassion.

    That is as close as I have come to whatever people mean by forgiveness, and to me, it was the destination.  As unforgiving as it sounds, recognizing that the attacker suffered at the time they committed their act, and are still suffering, gave me a sense that justice had been done.   I guess you could say that I found peace  when I was able to see the greater cosmic Karma of the situation in my mind's eye.  

    I retain some anger, and I feel it is appropriate.  They had a degree of free will, and mental capacity, and they made choices, and are responsible for their actions.    To that extent, I am angry that they did not make better choices, or have more consideration for others in their choices.   Their actions were destructive to our relationship, and that destruction remains.  If you call that a lack of forgiveness, so be it.   But, I am much less angry than I was initially.    I have seen, over the years, their own struggles and their suffering.    It is sad.  That whole situation is sad.    The sadness of it all is a quieter emotion than the anger, but far more lasting.    The whole thing is just so sad, for everyone concerned, attackers and victims, like a huge natural disaster destroying everyone in it's wake.  The attackers are just as surely destroyed by their own circumstances, and their actions, as their victims were, and considering their mental illness, may have had just as little choice in what happened to them.

    Instead of seeing a attacker and a victim, all I see now is a huge tragedy, with tragedy enough to go around for everyone concerned, attackers and victims alike.

    Is that what other people call forgiveness?  

    I do not know.  

    But, I do know that if I saw a person struggling under an overwhelming burden of anger, I would offer this perspective to them, in the belief that it would bring them greater peace.  

    The knowledge of how the attacker has suffered, or the knowledge of what an attacker has missed out on without ever truly understanding what they missed (often the greatest treasures that life has to offer, such as the love of their child), has helped me to overcome anger and move on with my life.

    •  THANK YOU for this... (6+ / 0-)

      I, too, feel "understanding" and even "compassion" for his attacker, genuinely I do - it took a while but I definitely do feel that.  

      I've also been through the maze of "he should have made better choices, taken his medication, etc" but, on the other hand, I've realized that when someone is very ill, they do not always realize they need medication and there is an onus upon society (all of us) to assist such people when they need assistance, not to turn our backs on them.

      I also see what happened as a tragedy all round, no question about that.

      I'm so grateful to you for sharing your very personal experience because, if this IS forgiveness, then maybe I'm further along the road than I thought.  

      I wonder if "what it means" is entirely subjective?  Maybe it's only value is in what it means to you, to me, to any one of us?

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:02:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's not always like it is on TV (3+ / 0-)

        Yes, I agree that it is subjective.  

        Regarding this, however, I do have a comment.  

        there is an onus upon society (all of us) to assist such people when they need assistance, not to turn our backs on them.
        Many people are burdened with the belief that there is something they should do about another person who is mentally ill or addicted, as if they were responsible for the sitatuation.    The truth is that our society enforces civil rights in such a way that there is nothing that can be done to help a mentally ill or addicted person, until after they have reached the breaking point and become very obviously a threat to themselves or others, which is often too late (even then, very little may be done, and it may be a very short term solution that doesn't address the problem), or until they decide they need help, something which is often nearly impossible due to symptoms of the disease itself.   Without some form of coercion, there is really no practical way to help many people.   With my own mentally ill and addicted family member, it was only the threat of losing a professional license, or of going to jail for DUI, that was sufficient to moderate their behavior, or inspire them to seek treatment, neither of which I had any control over.

        There are great TV shows about interventions, but in real life, the patient often drives away anyone who might intervene, or the family may have similar issues and be in no condition to fix anyone else, or there may be no family.

        A relatively healthy person must often recognize that the situation of another adult who chooses not to be helped is beyond their control, and that as much as they'd like to change the situation, they do not  have the authority to make the necessary changes. A healthy person is responsible for her own health, and therefore must maintain healthy boundaries, which may mean distancing themselves from a person who is suffering mental illness or addiction, and refusing to seek help.

        My conclusion is, again, that natural disasters happen.   We are just a traveller on the road.  We do not have as much control over events as we believe we should have.   Even doctors are not magical beings.  There are conditions of mental illness and alcoholism taht doctors cannot correct, either because they cannot get or keep a patient in treatment, or their remedies don't work as well as we'd hope.    Sometimes, the only person we can "save" is ourselves.

        There is a "Big Lie" that is often repeated, that all that is needed is to get a patient into treatment.   Too often, patients go into treatment, and yet in the end, end up as bad or worse than they ever were.  

        So many people suffer stress and guilt trying to control such situations, without ever realizing that they are trying to hold back the tides, or part the Red Sea.   We not Gods.  We do not control other people's lives.    We do not have the power to remove another person's mental illness or drug addiction.   Peace is found in humility.

        Sometimes, sad as it sounds, the solution is not to fix the other person, but to accept that things that we cannot control, and that things don't always turn out the way we think they should.

        •  I agree with this! (5+ / 0-)

          I've learned to love from afar. Too often people become enablers and co-dependents of someone elses bad behavior, out of 'love'.

          I've been called cold-hearted when my answer to many others bad behaviors or meta issues is 'not my problem'.

          We can only fix ourselves.

          People do not all think the same way.
          And maybe some things are unforgiveable..

          "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

          "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

          by roseeriter on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:59:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  dear Maianewley - notes on forgiveness (13+ / 0-)

    I struggled to find the feeling of forgiveness in myself for a long time.

    I had to meditate a lot, many hours, over many years, to find how I perceive forgiveness in my body.

    I thought, if forgiveness is a feeling in me, where is it?

    And I would look for it.

    1. How does my body feel when I think of an issue I cannot forgive?

    2. How does my body feel when I am in a state of comfort and peace?

    What are the different feelings in my body when I feel #1 and #2?

    Is it here? Is it here?

    I finally found that, for me, not forgiving is located mostly in the front of my chest, and it feels as if a fist is gripping the lowest one third of my sternum, the bone that joins the right ribs to the left ribs in the front of my body.

    It is a feeling not limited to my actual physical body. [Sorry, I cannot put this next part into words.]

    For me, the process of creating forgiveness in myself involves letting go of that fist, opening the fingers slowly, and breathing deeply, straightening my spine and letting my shoulders fall back, letting go of a contracting of my upper body from the body position I took many years ago when I accidentally received a blow to my solar plexus.

    I do not know if others perceive forgiveness like this. I can imagine that some might feel it most intensely in their solar plexus or In the back of the neck and upper spine. For me, it would have to be found in the midline, but others might localize it somewhere else.

    Part of letting go of that fist around my lower sternum is loving that area, sending love to it, sending love to the person or incident, sending love to myself.

    I know I have found foregiveness regarding an issue if I no longer find myself feeling that clenching feeling when my mind lights upon the subject and no longer gets stuck there, swimming in anger, grief, abandonment, rejection, whatever, and unable to get out of the pool.

    For me, forgiveness does not happen in my head, by any rule, or because anyone tells me I should forgive. And sometimes when people apologize to me, I say something like "Thank you for apologizing, I cannot forgive you right now, but I will think about it and get back to you." Forgiving is not instantaneous or just words for me.

    Good question, good diary. Thanks, Maianewley!

    •  This is such an amazing comment that ... (6+ / 0-)

      I'm going to have to copy it and print it out, I think I am going to put it on the wall above my desk.  Seriously.

      A real, physical description of how it feels.  Comfortingly, I actually DO experience some of the things you describe and hope to aspire to some of the others.

      It ISN'T a head thing, I would have to agree with that, it's something within yourself and something you have to really FEEL.  I also don't say sorry unless I truly mean it, unfortunately, for many, "sorry" is just another word I sometimes think.

      I won't say more as there's no need, your comment speaks for itself.  But thank you, more than that really...

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:48:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I relate to this comment, mostly because I value (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Maianewley, 2thanks, LSophia, Larsstephens

      feelings and emotions. What came to my mind first was 'Love Hurts' i.e. heart ache, broken heart-always pain in chest after a break up or loving too much etc.,

      Also have researched the physical effects of TRAUMA on the body and agree with many that TRAUMA is a main cause of many mental and physical diseases.

      The process of whether to forgive or not is also very physical and rooted in many emotions.

      IMHO, people who are desensitized, be it by chemicals, drugs, alcohol or over exposure have harder time processing emotional and/or physical TRAUMA.

      Meditation helps if for no other reason than 'taking the time to focus' on an issue, on self. Many are very afraid to confront self and their emotions are too scary to deal with.

      "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

      "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

      by roseeriter on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:54:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Totally agree with this... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        roseeriter, 2thanks, LSophia, Larsstephens

        I have a condition which means I have problems with my white cell count (the cells which help deal with infections) and I KNOW, as I've read a fair amount of research which supports it, that trauma can certainly adversely affect the white cell count - amongst other things.  It's not the cause of my illness, but it certainly doesn't help I don't think.

        Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

        by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:57:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes! And add bad stress or good stress like (4+ / 0-)

          anticipation, excitement and the ill body REACTS and or over-reacts, exactly the same way! (I forget the name of the chemical the body releases when we get hyped-up) And LOTS of stuff hypes the body up.  This feeling also scares people-anxiety, panic attacks and much of it is the body's reaction to stress or excitement. Once one pays attention to their body these stresses can be easily adjusted without drugs or hysteria, with deep breaths IMHO.

          "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

          "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

          by roseeriter on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:11:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Mine is also located in my solar plexus (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      2thanks, OleHippieChick, Larsstephens

      but your post is spot on.

  •  Republished to House of LIGHTS (6+ / 0-)

    (Loving Inspiration, Giving Hope To Survivors)

    A place for survivors of physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse, assaults, and bullying.

    A place for the people who support them.

    A quiet place for all voices to be heard.

    A safe place where we can learn to educate, support, and protect our children and each other.

    Dear Kossacks,

    If you would like to join House of LIGHTS, please kosmail SallyCat.

    [Remember, if you join any Daily Kos group, you must Follow that group (click the heart on the  group's home page) to see their diaries in your Stream. Delivery of a DK group's diaries to your Stream is not automatic.]

    Thanks, again Maianewley.

    •  Thank you... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kishik, LSophia, Larsstephens

      I'm so grateful for the comments I've already received and I'm genuinely open to hearing what others have experienced.  Perhaps sharing these things is also a part of the key?

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:57:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, I think so. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kishik, LSophia, Larsstephens

        And I would like to hear where others localize forgiveness in their body. Where is the tension?

        •  well, 2thanks, i feel it in my body in the exact (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LSophia, 2thanks, BitterEnvy, Larsstephens

          same spot as you do and thank you for expressing that as well as you did.

          i'm not an expert on the matter by any means but i've dealt with my own share of traumas. what i have experienced as 'forgiveness' or 'acceptance' is intertwined with my greiving for the trauma.

          small transgressions take less time to accept or forgive, devastating and life altering traumas like the one you experienced Maienewley, will take much more time, if ever to truly accept. i think that's understandable.

          i'm very sorry this has happened to you and your friend.

          peace.

          “Wall Street had been doing business with pieces of paper; and now someone asked for a dollar, and it was discovered that the dollar had been mislaid.” U.Sinclair

          by dear occupant on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:54:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I think that forgiveness is not something that (7+ / 0-)

    is done once and then forgotten about forever.
    I think there is that initial decisive moment when one commits to "forgiveness", but I think it has to be updated over time. I think people who experience something for which they are compelled to hold someone permanently accountable for will always equivocate or experience ambiguity in their thoughts about it, including forgiveness.

    My father has senile dementia, and despite his faith and his lifelong protestations against judgmentalness, his lifetime list of grudges and "axes to grind" are apparently going to be the last element of his psyche and memory to leave him. It doesn't bode well.

    I think can be considered as a psychic or spiritual equivalent of "breathing". When you experience a transgression against you, there's a sense of outrage, of anger, of self-defense, and of holding the other accountable. You cannot "hold your breath" spiritually forever.
     You have to "let go". Human life is a sea of transgressions, disappointments, moral failures, broken promises, assaults. If you reflexively carry
    all of these moral debts owed you they eventually drown you.

    Ultimately spiritual traditions encourage forgiveness as an acknowledgement that we are all transgressors and need forgiveness ourselves.

    Forgiveness is a daily exercise in asking that our own sins, transgressions, including those that we collectively share with the rest of humanity, are forgiven.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:36:32 AM PDT

  •  Also republished to Courtesy Kos. (3+ / 0-)

    Courtesy Kos Profile

    I am Following you now, dear Maianewley.

    Oh, I see, your name is pronounced Maia Newley.  ;o)

    dear Kossacks, please do not forget to Tip and Rec this diary.

    •  Thank you, I just... (6+ / 0-)

      sent you a message actually!  But I'll say it here too, I've mentioned before on DK that I have high-functioning autism and so if I inadvertently say anything tactless or insensitive, either on this thread or anywhere else, could you please not assume the worst first!  I'm very open to people pointing that out to me and am happy to apologize if I've done so unintentionally and unreasonably.  Thank you.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:46:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for letting us know! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BitterEnvy, LSophia, Larsstephens

        imho nothing tactless. I will let you know by kosmail if I see anything "tactless or insensitive," since one of my courteous behaviors is "Compliment in public and criticize in private."

        I welcome the comments of others with high-functioning autism too! Such comments would help shed light.

        (ps, dear Maia Newley, I sent you kosmail.)

  •  Forgiveness is not the same as (6+ / 0-)

    not hurting any more.

    Forgiveness is not the same as trusting or liking that person ever again.

    Forgiveness is simply giving up any claim you might have (legally, morally, emotionally) to seek revenge.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:46:10 AM PDT

  •  This topic fascinates me, as well. (7+ / 0-)

    I believe our culture has mucked-up the concept of "forgiveness," big-time, mostly because authoritarian religions hard-sell it, so people won't focus on their discontents. Mindless enjoinders to "forgive and forget" irritate me so much because they are politically motivated.

    I believe anyone is obliged to learn the circumstances in which an atrocity they are personally grappling with, e.g.,  your friend's murder, was committed. Knowing these circumstances can, all by itself, cause you to forgive the perpetrator of an atrocity. Or not. Either forgiveness, or non-forgiveness, when you've had the chance to weigh all the circumstances of the awful event, can count as "moving on." It's wholly personal.  

    Thanks for your diary, I look forward to reading your blog.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:49:39 AM PDT

    •  Just what I was thinking -- (8+ / 0-)

      I'm onboard with the 'understanding and compassion' thing, but IMO 'forgiveness is' sometimes almost a fetish. Complete with the self-important 'I am such a Good Person' and the internal guilt about not being a good-enough person.

      But then, not christian. I suspect 'forgiveness' (and related concepts) mean something different in a cultural context that assumes Original Sin (which is something I consider profoundly obscene, but that's another discussion).

      •  Yes, I said something... (6+ / 0-)

        along these lines in reply to another comment.  I'm not a Christian either and I do think it's a term which is often linked to religious belief, although I'm not sure it strictly belongs there!

        I also find it hard to hear people criticize me for saying I find the idea of "forgiveness" strange, or hard, or difficult to understand.  It's like they're saying I'm somehow less of a person .

        I really do agree with your comment.

        Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

        by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:32:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  When you get that sort of criticism, keep in mind (5+ / 0-)

          that their vehemence probably says more about them than you. Could be that they're so intense about how 'wrong' you are because they don't get it either -- and they may be in one of those subcultures where 'forgiveness' (and being 'forgiving') is essentially a pre-requisite. Admitting that 'I don't get this concept without which I cannot truly be a member of my group' is tough. If they let themselves treat you as inferior, they don't need to face the possibility that they're 'inferior' as well.

  •  Here's my favorite thought about forgiveness: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LSophia, 2thanks, Larsstephens
    “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
    ― Corrie Ten Boom
    Can't read all of this right now; will later.
  •  i've found... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maianewley, 2thanks, LSophia, Larsstephens

    It's not so much forgiving the person(s) who've inflicted so much pain or caused so much harm, but more of forgiving oneself. My forgiving myself allowed me to move away from the incident that changed my life.

    Forgiveness doesn't come easy.  

    All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.The world is neither good or bad. It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other - Lama Anagorika Govinda

    by kishik on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:56:02 AM PDT

  •  Saying the words, isn't the same as having the (7+ / 0-)

    feeling.

    So I wouldn't confuse social conventions with the genuine faculty of forgiveness.

    Saying you want to forgive someone is a good first step. But it takes years to get there. You go back and forth on the matter frequently, because you as a survivor of some sort of trauma, will have all sorts of feelings emerge over time.

    Each new feeling, each re-surfaced feeling often requires a new, wholly independent act of forgiveness.  I did write something on forgiving. I am not the survivor of a mass shooting, so I am not going to claim that what I wrote must be absolutely true for anyone else, or for the people who survived this tragic crime.

    Also my stuff is older. This is something I have been struggling with for decades, so it's not as fresh for me, as it is for the people you speak of here.

    These are just my feelings on the matter, and my observations.

    Perhaps others might have also written on this topic.

    •  I think this is part of what... (5+ / 0-)

      confuses me.  At times I honestly believe I HAVE forgiven and then, at others, my own emotions catch me off guard and I realize that perhaps I haven't.

      I also think that each person's relationship with the idea of forgiveness may be very different.

      It's something people often avoid talking about I think, not just forgiveness, but terrible things in general. A bit like people like to avoid talking about death.

      I'm just going to read the diary you linked to at the bottom, thank you.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:01:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I hotlisted your diary, dear GreenMother, (4+ / 0-)

      after only skimming it.

      You gave the link. For others, here is the title: Practicing the Art of Forgiveness--and I have to practice a lot.

      I encourage you to republish it and cross-link your diary to this one and this one to that.

      That we all find and create forgiveness,

      2

    •  Creative Aggression (& longish comment)... (0+ / 0-)

      I remembered last night a book someone gave me years back.  It was called creative aggression and looks at various ways of getting anger/frustration/all kinds of negativfe -perceived emotions OUT in constructive and positive ways.

      I absolutely agree that each now thing, or feeling, requires a separate act of forgiveness - and that's always very hard to explain to those who've never truly been in the circumstance.

      I think there are very few situations that one person has to have BEEN in the situation in order to understand or truly empathize with someone, but I do wonder if these types of situations are the exception to the rule.  I have had so many flip comments over the years, along the lines of "you must forgive, let it all go, you will feel so much better" or "forgiveness is a great gift, it allows you to move on" and so on.  While I don't disagree that SOME of these things MAY be helpful to some people; I truly do not believe they are very helpful to everyone - in fact, I often find them quite insulting as it somehow belittles the attempts I HAVE made and seems, to me, to say "well, no, you obviously haven't done it right" (whatever right would be to that person!)

      I also think people very often confuse anger with the idea of forgiveness - if you forgive, you won't feel angry.  I don't agree with this either and, as someone said on another comment, when something truly awful has happened to you - anger (in my opinion) can be a very useful, appropriate and constructive thing to feel - but, despite that, I do still think that it can become exhausting if it consumes you, hence I made the point about the book further up (it's probably still available).

      I also used to get very annoyed when people would say something to me about my friend and then, as a kind of afterthought, they'd say "oh I'm sorry, I didn't mean to remind you of it" - as though I might somehow otherwise have totally forgotten!  It's ridiculous, because whether or not anyone 'mentions' it, I still remember it regularly and will never forget any second of that particular day.  I'm fine with that - I don't want to forget it - but what I found I DID need to do, was to find a way of reclaiming my friend...

      A way of remembering him without seeing awful images in my mind of what happened to him at the end.  To be able to remember fondly all the times we'd shared and to be able to think of him without flinching away from my thoughts.  I wanted my memories back in other words.  And, in my opinion, only time allows you to get to that point.  I have now got there, but the murder is still always a side-issue in my mind whenever I think of him.  

      Maybe one day it won't be, I honestly don't know.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:13:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Foregiveness is about YOU, not the other... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2thanks, LSophia, Larsstephens

    You foregive for youself - because carrying around hatred and resentment is damaging.  You foregive to let yourself move on.

    The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. --George Orwell

    by jgkojak on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:10:04 AM PDT

  •  I can't tell you (10+ / 0-)

    what forgiveness feels like because I have struggled with it just as you have.

    But I have come to believe that forgiveness is just a word and it doesn't have to be a word that matters to me.

    I grew up in a disfunctional home and, because I didn't know how to do 'different,' my children were raised in a disfunctional home as well. For years I fought with myself trying to forgive my parents, thinking that I should forgive them now that I can see why they behaved as they did and that they also grew up in disfunctional homes.

    I rarely fight with myself anymore. Time has taken care of a lot of my anguish and now I mostly feel 'acceptance' which is good enough.

    Along with time, the one thing that has helped the most is the serenity prayer. As an agnostic, I don't call it a prayer and I don't begin it with 'God.' It's more a reminder to myself.

    Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

    "Ghosts," said in a half whisper. "I got ghosts." He went on to explain that he was a Vietnam vet and that he'd been on the streets 4 years. "And how are they gonna help all these guys comin' home now, if they haven't even dealt with Vietnam?" - Russ

    by BitterEnvy on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:38:29 AM PDT

    •  I like this 'reminder' too... (5+ / 0-)

      I know that one of the central things in Buddhism is being "mindful" of your own actions, of why others do things, and of the bigger picture than just yourself and this idea has also been something which has helped me over the years to deal with all sort of situations which I find difficult to either understand or, in some cases, 'forgive'.

      But the comment you posted, or the prayer as some would call it, is also something I've repeated to myself very often.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:45:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Before you can forgive (6+ / 0-)

    In my opinion, before you can forgive someone, you have to admit you blame them and face all the ugly feelings you hold for them for what they did. This is the painful part and, maybe part of why it feels good to forgive; you let all that go. You say, "yes, you did this horrible thing and it made me feel these horrible things."

    And, AFTER you face all that, you decide to accept how things are, and not hold the present against that person.

    "I'm grateful for my job - truly, but still...ugh." CityLightsLover

    by Audri on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:59:27 AM PDT

  •  Forgive, but not forget? (5+ / 0-)

    My view is that forgiveness and continuing to have a relationship with another person are two different things. I can forgive, in terms of giving a person the grace to find salvation and/or enlightenment on their own terms. That doesn't mean I need to be a part of that process if it will involve continued conflict.

  •  forgiveness is something you do for yourself, (6+ / 0-)

    not necessarily the other person. There's a quip I like to trot out in these situations:

    Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

    To the degree that we allow our resentment, anger, hatred, etc., completely control us, we are doomed to never heal. That does not mean that these feelings are invalid and shoudl be stifled. Not at all. But forgiveness is one of the tools we have been graced with to help start the healing.

  •  Forgiveness is a 24/7 job for me (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roseeriter, 2thanks, Larsstephens

    but I am A Course in Miracles student (and have been for 21 years).  Forgiveness can be said to be the core of the teachings of the Course.  It's not a light read, but if you have some curiosity and time, you can learn an entirely new perspective on life, death and everything in between.  

    In my own forgiveness practice, I know that I have forgiven when I think of the person I needed to forgive and I no longer get angry -the feelings have been neutralized.  If I still feel angry, I keep forgiving until I don't need to any more.

    I hope this is of some help...

    Melissa

    Dissent is Patriotic

    by mwjeepster on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:20:49 AM PDT

  •  You must cry before you can forgive (6+ / 0-)

    You must allow the pain to flow out.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:27:19 AM PDT

  •  Forgiveness is a hard one (7+ / 0-)

    It is so pushed in our culture and pushed immediately.  No sooner does the dust die down from some catastrophic situation, than the victims or survivors are asked if they forgive.

    I would say that forgiveness is a journey rather than a destination.  It doesn't involve forgetting what happened, stuffing the feelings, "making nice" or any of the other surface stuff.  

    For me, it involved several steps, not necessarily in linear order:

    Acknowledging someone had hurt me.

    Accepting that my feelings of rage or grief were normal.  This step is key for me. I used to blame myself for unpleasant feelings and that would just make it worse.

    Doing what I could to rebuild my life.

    Realizing that this issue was about the other person, not about me - that they'd probably treat anyone else like this, I was just there.  Usually, compassion would start to break through at that point, but if it didn't, I'd go back to Step Two and feel the feelings again and try to take care of myself.

    Physically, I can actually feel a loosening in both my heart and my solar plexus when I forgive someone - often followed by sensation of warmth and relaxation, not to mention relief.  If I try to force it, on the other hand, I can feel tense, constricted and resentful.

    Thank you for posting a diary on such an interesting topic!

    •  Once again, oh Portal of Wisdom, thank you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BitterEnvy, Larsstephens

      for addressing this issue with your usual depth and breadth:

      Culture
      Journey to destination
      Steps, not linear
      The other person's issue
      Compassion
      Directing the process
      The physicality.

    •  Yes, to me it is very similar to the way we treat (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TiaRachel, 2thanks, Larsstephens, LSophia

      rape survivors. *Hurry up and "get over it" on our time table and not yours, completely for our convenience and comfort of course.

      I know this happened to you a month ago, but we had a public "healing" ceremony two weeks ago, so um--didn't we already deal with this? Moving along now.

      Oh that gets a sardonic chuckle from me every time. Talk about pushing buttons!

      I think you are absolutely correct LSophia, Forgiveness is a journey and not a product or a destination.

      •  Exact same thing goes on re: grieving (0+ / 0-)

        Our culture is comfortable with two weeks.  That's pretty much it, no matter how catastrophic the loss.

        It's completely absurd.  Some of these, like rape, like murder of someone close, like abuse, can be with the survivors for a lifetime.  Yes, healing does happen - but the person one becomes is different than the person one ways, and that, too, requires mourning and grief.

  •  I have read that "forgiveness, like love, is not (4+ / 0-)

    entirely a matter of volition." That's a quote from a book I read by a mother whose son was murdered.  People kept urging her to "forgive" the murderer, and she just couldn't.  She didn't feel forgiveness  There's no use saying you forgive just because everyone around you urges you to do so. It has to come from within oneself.

    One may wish one could forgive, but one may not feel the relief that comes with forgiving. At least, I suppose there's relief.  Forgiveness is a concept that I have struggled with for most of my life.  I'm incapable of it, I think.  There are two people in my past that I've never forgiven, one of whom is myself.

    I certainly don't sit around brooding about it all day, though.  I've moved on, had a good life, etc., etc.  It's just that if I were asked, "Do you forgive him for what he did to you," I would say, emphatically, "NO."

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 09:37:28 AM PDT

    •  I would add that I believe that it's more damaging (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      2thanks, Larsstephens, BusyinCA

      to a survivor to coerce them into hiding or denying their true feelings. Because without giving those thoughts and emotions some air and sunlight, they might never be transformed into something useful or healing or at least into a [not]-poison.

      This culture is too fond of disrupting the grieving process, because it makes us as a collective uncomfortable.  I hope we get over that soon.

  •  Forgiving, for me is about giving back the burden. (6+ / 0-)

    That is, its not about forgetting. It's not about resolving all of your feelings. Its about realizing you can process all those things in due time whilst not carrying the added burden of carrying feeling about the offender. By moving forward with those feelings, you are carrying the offender forward with you in your life and that person ends up influencing who you are and how you see the world.

    Give back to the offender what is not yours. You can then process your grief in a way that is more in honor of the one you lost or the things you have lost and less in homage to the offender.

    So, for me it makes perfect sense that the Amish could forgive the perpetrator of horror and still struggle mightily and for a long time with their grief. They acknowledged that the perpetrator was himself a suffering human being, they honored the sanctity of his life as they would any life and then they could move on to the realities of their own lives without having him present in all of their processing.

    Forgiving is not forgetting. It is not letting go of all the pain. It is not a magic pill for making everything better. Forgiving is determining who you will carry forward in your energy, your thoughts, your ways of being. Forgiving is for giving the reetablishing the boundary that the intruder breached and living life on your own terms.

    It is an act of freeing yourself. When I could see the perpetrators of my childhood abuse as suffering humans and give them compassion, I was so much freer to figure out how I would move forward with what I had experienced. It never goes away, what you experienced. But it informs you differently when you're not focused on the perpetrator.

  •  There are a lot of good comments here (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2thanks, JBL55, GreenMother, Larsstephens

    that I share a great deal of agreement with.  I suspect that forgiveness is a way of restoring some justice to a relationship.  It profits both parties if it can be done.  I do not think that the process of forgiveness happens because one party feels obligated to offer forgiveness.  I think the offending party must have the compunction and desire to try to make some amends in order to be ready to receive forgiveness.  And the forgiving party's readiness to forgive must be real.

    Some various other thoughts:

    You are blogging from a perspective of the potential forgiver and it may be interesting for  you to dig into the experience from the point of view of the one seeking forgiveness.  

    MLK's philosophy regarding civil rights.  He recognized the restoration of justice to have power to heal both sides:  oppressed and oppressors.

    For a more personal story on forgiveness, check out "A Justice That Heals".  It's a documentary based on a murder, the response of the parish priest and the response of the families involved.

    This one hour documentary explores the aftermath of a senseless murder of a 19-year-old young man named Andrew Young by 18-year-old Mario Ramos. It centers on Mario’s parish priest, Fr. Bob Oldershaw, as he confronted the reality that this terrible act was committed by a member of his church, and further, that the family of the victim lived in the very neighbourhood of the church.  

    ...

    Several months after the sentencing, Andrews’s mother decided that she wanted to speak with Mario. She explains to the interviewer, “I began to understand a little more about what justice is. The right thing to do is to love someone and to forgive them, but to have consequences to bring them to a turning point in their life so they can be restored – loving punishment.”

    So Maureen Young, Fr. Oldershaw and another parishioner travelled to Mario’s penitentiary to meet with him.
    http://www.restorativejustice.org/...

    There is also an interesting PDF you can google on that subject:

    justice_heals_resource_guide.pdf

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 11:13:08 AM PDT

  •  Jesus Forgiveness (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBL55, GreenMother, Larsstephens

    I read something not too long ago about the Hebrew mind and the concept of doing over knowing. I think that internally, letting go of something can take a while. But in the Biblical sense, forgiveness is action as much as feelings, and feelings can change as one takes action. Jesus says forgive 70 times 7 times. Obviously, he means forgive as often as forgiveness needs to be given. In other places he extends an invitation for people to go out of their way to help even those that you would consider an enemy or someone that has done you wrong. I have found that, being proactive toward an individual I have animosity toward and trying to bridge the gap does have a positive effect on how I feel toward them. I mean, hell, Jesus prays for the forgiveness of the people that are murdering him as he's dying on the cross.

    •  It isn't easy, but it makes sense: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      2thanks, Larsstephens

      You are removing a foundational object from a proverbial fire triangle.

      You are deciding NOT to add fuel to the problem--At least from your end.

      It can be a way to disengage from a toxic relationship, even if you only meditate and visualize forgiveness for that person. It has a profound effect on you and how you interact with them and react to them.

    •  DAISHI wrote: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      2thanks, Larsstephens, BusyinCA
      I mean, hell, Jesus prays for the forgiveness of the people that are murdering him as he's dying on the cross.
      He does this because he can see that these people are fully self aware. That their emotional immaturity reflects a lack of cognizance which allows them to perpetrate horrific crimes against him as well as others.

      By doing this, he is lifting them up, and on a spiritual level offering them some form of enlightenment. A truly self aware being wouldn't be so quick to torment anyone nor stand by and do nothing as that transpires.

      He isn't interested in reparations or for explanations--he simply wants to lift their consciousness to a level where they can actively choose to stop and hopefully want to turn away from evil.

      That is in part what makes his story so remarkable, especially given the context of the time and the cultures he was involved with.

  •  To forgive is such a complicated concept (6+ / 0-)

    and at the same time it is not a concept at all ... it is an powerful and intimate emotion and action.

    It is nothing that can be dictated by values or theology or law or even will power since you can't really lie to yourself (although you might try) about how you really feel. Forgiveness is something that changes you internally and is very personal. It is not a warm fuzzy floaty feeling that leaves you feeling self-righteous or smug.

    Frequently we have to understand and accept the anger, pain, shame, betrayal of the action that requires us to forgive. And sometimes, we simply never get there.

    I have not had the type of pain that you describe -- the murder of a friend. My main experience of trying to forgive has been with my family of origin and with my former husband. I had a really horrible father who abused me sexually and who hated me ... he frequently proclaimed, in my hearing, that I was not his child. My mother was clinically depressed and emotionally absent most of my childhood and also manipulative as hell. I have been trying to forgive them for most of my life, not that it makes a difference to them since they are now both dead, but for the sake of my life. The anger and the pain were a deep dark splotch in my soul and led to my accepting and participating in (by submissioni) the abuse that my siblings and husband meted out to me. I am pretty close to forgiving my parents.

    I don't know if I have forgiven my siblings and my ex since I have chosen not to have anything to do with any of them. But I think I have since I don't brood on what they did or might still do. Because they are no longer front and center in my thoughts; when I think of them at all, it is mostly with compassion and a sense of sadness about how they have chosen to live their lives. I have been able to move on with my life.

    I used to do an exercise with chronic pain patients that required them to think about forgiveness (indirectly). I would ask them to imagint that their life was a painting, with a frame. Then I wuld ask them to fill in the places where various people/objects/emotions were in the painting. For many, the pain was front and center and very large and kept them from really participating in or appreciating or having time for the other things they said they had in their lives. Most frequently, the pain was accompanied by lots of anger at the boss, the drunk driver, the stupid person who put something in the wrong place, etc. This focus on the pain and the anger ("lack of forgivness" for lack of a better term) kept them from moving on and channaling their energy in any positive way.

    Well ... I am making an exptemely long and verbose hash ... so I will leave these half formed thoughts now.

    "Life without liberty is like a body without spirit. Liberty without thought is like a disturbed spirit." Kahlil Gibran, 'The Vision'

    by CorinaR on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 11:31:43 AM PDT

  •  This is generating interesting conversation. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2thanks, JBL55, GreenMother, Larsstephens

    Thanks for writing it.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:21:37 PM PDT

  •  One form of it for atrocities (5+ / 0-)

    The true importance of forgiveness in a case like Aurora is in not dwelling on the anger, not going on forever in fruitless and endless circles, about something that cannot be changed.  It is not a duty to the offender, it is a service to the self.  It cannot be done by will alone because it is part of an evolution.  But conscious choices can promote or hinder it.

    Harboring that edge and that anger will shorten and poison one's own life and may very well interfere in the grieving one needs to go through in order to be able to find a new present and a new future in which it is possible to live with a somewhat normal emotional life.

    A way to think of "forgiving" someone like the Aurora shooter is that in time, they simply become dead to you.  They  do not suck up your thoughts or your energy.  They are not relevant to the future. They are something that happened in the past and took one or more lives, like a gas explosion or a train wreck.  And whatever emotion lingers about the past takes the form of missing and fondly but sadly remembering the person(s) you lost.

    You don't have to tell them "That's OK, I understand and forgive you," you only have to stop (eventually) wasting your present energy and emotion on the person and what he did in the past.  There are others tasked with retribution or justice.  The job of survivors is to deal with their own trauma and begin the task of letting go and rebuilding.

    But forgiveness is a stage one reaches with time and healing, not a moral obligation.  It cannot be rushed or faked, nor should it be.  

    The foregoing is about an outsider who takes something terrible from you.

    When someone close to you causes great hurt, forgiveness can mean (but doesn't have to mean) healing that relationship between you.  It's more complicated in a case like that and it requires participation from both parties.  Therapists (and, I believe, rabbis) talk about a series of things that must take place over time for full forgiveness to happen.  The onus of forgiveness is not something the offended party must carry alone.

    And someone who immediately "forgives" a real and serious injury is in denial.  One must live through the emotional and cognitive stages to transcend past injuries.

    When we don't eventually let go, it's akin to a magical belief that we can change what happened if only we hate and curse hard enough the person who caused it.  

    Letting go also requires accepting that death eventually comes to all, usually without regard to fairness, and focusing on the quality and celebration of the life that preceded it.

    ------
    Ideology is when you know the answers before you know the questions.
    It is what grows into empty spaces where intelligence has died.

    by Alden on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:22:28 PM PDT

  •  Forgiveness is optional. (4+ / 0-)

    Not everyone deserves to be forgiven for what they've done. Some things can't be forgiven.

    And that's alright.

    It's like Katara said regarding the man who murdered her mother: "I'll never forgive him."

    Why would you?

    Achieving closure on something, accepting reality after a horrible tragedy or devestating betrayal is not the same as "forgiveness."

    They are a few people who have done things to me and people I love for no good reason, and I will never forgive them.

    And that's alright.

    I've accepted what happened and the reality of the situation. They are shitty human beings; and let's be honest, there are a lot of shitty human beings in this world. So what.

    This isn't some fiction where there is darkness brewing in my heart and I have to forgive them and be nicey-nice or I'll turn into them or something stupid like that.

    You don't have to cheesily forgive them if you don't feel it just to take some faux-moral high-road. And you don't have to go all Punisher and deal out justice yourself - especially since sometimes that might end up being illegal and get you thrown in prison and ruin your life.

    You just have to find that level of acceptance and closure.

    And that does not necessarily mean forgiveness.

  •  For me forgiveness (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2thanks, JBL55, Larsstephens

    is a very selfish thing.  

    It frees me up to go on with my life - and not having the person "still in my life" -- I can let it go - not make it something that I have to go through in my mind any more.

    I have dealt with it/the person - decided that I want it gone from my life - and forgiving someone then frees you up.

    Hate/regret/etc. binds you forever to what happened --

    so as I said - it is more for a benefit to me - than the person that you forgive...

    "Proud to proclaim: I am a Bleeding Heart Liberal"

    by sara seattle on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:59:25 PM PDT

  •  a long comment (4+ / 0-)

    After September 11th, I was obsessed with the idea of entering the contest to design the new World Trade Center memorial.  It was an open submission, and as I'd once won a prestigious design competition before (in my 20s), I really felt strongly that I should enter.

    The phrase that kept coming to me was :
    "There is no weapon more devastating than the power of forgiveness"

    Forgiveness is not always a little thing that people do with a smile on their face.  Forgiveness is an energy that is to be respected.  Forgiveness has the ability to puncture, and to deflate and to remove power from things that currently have power.  

    Just like any other weapon, Forgiveness is something we should use with caution.  We don't pass it around without serious thought.

    It was my thought (as a designer) to get into the very heads of the criminals who killed so many and to remove their reward by understanding their pathetic fears that caused them to kill.

    As an artist, I also liked the idea that we assume that forgiveness is for the weak, and for the people who are powerless.  

    No, forgiveness obliterates your enemy in the scope of spiritual reality.

  •  Forgiveness is a Process (7+ / 0-)

    Not a one-time thing.

    A close friend of mine lost his little brother to a rich, arrogant prick drunk driver, and as he wound his way through the agony of losing his closest sibling, the subsequent court cases to try and recover some money from the lawyered-up tool who killed him, and the final small settlement, he realized he had to do something to stem the bitterness, anger, and sheer hatred that was rising in him all the time.

    He decided to forgive, literally starting by trying to arrange to meet the guy who killed his brother to offer his forgiveness. He brushed him off and refused to meet him, but the start of the process had a profound effect on my friend, and it continues to this day.

    That was 21 years ago, and when I talk to him, he's much happier even than he was then (his partner and their kids say so, too), but is quick to tell anyone he can that he's still "working through it." It's taken therapy, a lot of meditation, and a great deal of introspection (which is really hard for this gregarious, outgoing, admittedly "not deep" guy), but it's working.

    He also has this to say about it: "I'll never be 'over it.' The process for me is how to incorporate forgiveness into living with it."

    “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.” ~ H. L. Mencken

    by skeezixwolfnagle on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:28:05 PM PDT

  •  Forgiving is kind of like grieving... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maianewley, Larsstephens, BusyinCA

    ... in that it's messy, goes in fits and starts of one step forward, one step sideways, two steps forward, one step back ... and often one can't see one's progress until later.

    Many people have the idea that forgiving means forgetting, but that's not what's needed.  Like grieving, forgiving deals with memories one needs to remember without fossilizing them in amber.

    Your sig line about grudge-bearing is really close to the mark.  Forgiveness is about how one grows through an experience and learns how to let go of it, to not allow it continue to poison one's life and capacity for happiness.

    But it takes time.  At least, that's been my experience.

    Peace be with you.

    "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

    by JBL55 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:53:17 PM PDT

  •  Foregiveness is something we do for ourselves, not (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, BusyinCA

    ...for the perpetrators of crimes or offences against us.

    If we nurse a grievance, cultivate our rage, encourage the poisonous flower of anger and resentment and vengence, it only hurts us. It does not help us move past the event or insult or offence in question, but instead chains us to it. An inability to foregive and move on harms us far more than it does the offender.

    The day you can let go of your aggrieved anger with a deep breath and a prayer of foregiveness is the day you start to heal and get on with your life.

  •  This is an incredible and beautiful diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2thanks, Larsstephens

    I want to thank the diarist for being so open about her own ambivalence about forgiveness.  The comments I have read here are truly wonderful and amazing.

    This diary and all the comments here have given me a lot to think about in my own life even though I have been fortunate enough to never have experienced such a horrible tragedy as the diarist has.

    "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

    by gulfgal98 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:30:02 PM PDT

  •  These comments really are amazing... (6+ / 0-)

    Honestly fellow Kossacks, please all give yourselves a moment of thanks from me and, I'm sure, also from others who've been reading all your comments and who have been helped or given something to think about.

    I'm quite slow at processing some ideas, particularly ones which may be new to me, so please don't think I'm not reading what you're saying if I haven't replied yet, I'm just wanting to take in what's being said and understand it before I post a response.  

    I really can't tell you all how much comfort I have found today in reading what you've all said and shared.  I know some of these sharings must have been difficult or even painful for some of you and I thank you really sincerely for being open enough and willing to share them with me and the others.   This IS a tricky subject for discussion as none of us knows the background of others and grief can manifest in a plethora of ways but I really do hope many others, aside from myself, have drawn a great deal from the entire discussion that you have all felt able to have.

    So far, I think I've concluded that 'forgiveness' itself is just a word - its meaning can be person-specific and there is no one right way of doing things, there are probably as many ways as there are people.  

    I don't 'yearn' to forgive, I suppose I just wonder why I find the whole thing so hard.  In general, I'm one of those joghurt-knitting soft touches who usually supports the underdog (very British in that respect!) and I am more than sympathetic to mental health problems, I'm also someone who can usually 'see the other side' of things even if I don't agree with them.  But I guess this is just something that has really tested me over the years and I've never, before now, really opened up and dared to ask the question.

    Thank you all so much and I WILL be coming back to the answers after I've had time to digest them all.  xoxox

    Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

    by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:32:11 PM PDT

  •  I had no choice. (5+ / 0-)

    It was eventually made for me. I had been keeping so many things mostly ignored, the emotions pushed onto more immediate issues.

    The reasons I started to get this way are...well, justifiable, but thats all that I really care to share. So I'll only talk about what happened after the initial event.

    After moving out from home and years of medical work, I basically lost it and developed a staggering panic disorder. The only way i've been able to reduce it is to address the problems honestly as they occur, and to let it go.

    But then, when you're as terrified as my attacks make me, you would be surprised what you can convince yourself. After a while, it was fixed in my mind with more justifiable reasons; so I could not let those who wronged me have power over my thoughts and emotions.

    Myabe I deluded myself. Maybe I reinforced that idea out of simple necessity. But it honestly doesnt matter now, because it has become what I believe.

    Sorry, I'm certian that sounded slightly confused and possibly insane. Its a hard think to describe, because I used to be completely unforgiving. It was a very abrupt change.

    "Dethklok has summoned a troll." "That's impossible; there's no such thing as trolls." "Then how do you explain the dead unicorns?"

    by kamrom on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:41:10 PM PDT

    •  dear Kamrom, your comment does not seem (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, bigjacbigjacbigjac

      confused or insane to me.

      It seems that you had the courage to say what you needed to say without revealing things that you did not feel comfortable revealing. That is perfectly okay. Noble, in fact.

      These are, after all, words put on a bulletin board. Sharing in this way might be part of healing for some, but not for all.

      Have you been able to read any of the House of LIGHTS diaries?

  •  It's to your advantage to forgive (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens

    spiritually speaking.
    Hate, resentment, blame, etc. are very negative emotions; giving them a home poisons your spiritual wells.

    Le them go.

    Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
    I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

    by Leo in NJ on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:51:37 PM PDT

    •  I actually don't agree with this... (5+ / 0-)

      I don't harbor hate, resentment, blame or any of those emotions as I explained further up the thread.  This may or may not be some people's understanding of forgiveness but, for me, I'm not at all sure they are the same thing.  Nothing is poisoning my mind.   I just don't necessarily think the things you've identified are necessarily a part of forgiveness.  As others have said, I'm not sure it's quite that simple and I also feel that it can mean very different things to many different people.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:02:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I can forgive (0+ / 0-)

    those that kill in "error".  A spontaneous fight that results in death;  a car accident by a drunk;  a crime of "passion" over a  cheating spouse, (iffy) what I cannot forgive is someone who plans (premeditates) the killing, or someone who kills for monetary gain.
    That is why I agree with the death penalty but only for those who are clearly 100 percent proven guilty and not by circumstantial evidence.  Ironclad cases.

    Snuffing out the life a bonafide killer is what makes me a liberal conservative.  I bring this to my simple concept.
    If you kill my loved one for no reason I WILL KILL YOU.

    We just need to hold the state to a much higher standard.

    "Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

    by liberalconservative on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:10:31 PM PDT

    •  I don't think there are many such cases. (3+ / 0-)

      I am against the death penalty for a variety of reasons, among them that it's applied unfairly: the rich and well-connected don't get the death penalty.  You're several times more likely to get the death penalty for killing a white person than a black person.  

      As somebody once said, the death penalty is reserved for the friendless, the destitute, and the despised.  Meanwhile, prosecutors seek the death penalty to win political favor.

      Innocent men have exonerated by the Innocence Project; innocent men have probably been put to death.

      Human judgment is just too fallible for a such a final punishment.

      © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

      by cai on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:20:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This one post has really made me soul search (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cai, 2thanks, Larsstephens, Maianewley

    Forgiveness..I have three people in my life I wonder if I ever forgave.  I thought I did.  I have convinced myself I have but
    there is something deep down that makes me wonder if it was true forgiveness.  Making me soul search.

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:16:40 PM PDT

    •  I know that feeling very well... (0+ / 0-)

      This is part of my whole sense of discomfort with it. In one sense, I suppose I DO forgive, as I said in the diary post, I have never 'blamed' the individual himself as he was unwell and therefore not responsible for his actions but, that just kind of led me into more confusion as it's hard to know what to do with the feelings.

      It's the 'deep down', inside of yourself, that feeling of "I'm really not sure what I feel" that I find so disturbing at times.

      I really do wholeheartedly agree with your comment.  Thank you.

      Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

      by Maianewley on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 12:07:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There's a definition of forgiveness that I dislike (4+ / 0-)

    but also find really useful: understanding that the past can never be different than what it was.

    I like that idea, but I don't think it's what is meant by forgiveness.  To me, forgiveness has an object, and it is the person who harmed you.

    Acceptance is a process and a goal you work on for yourself.

    Forgiveness is a gift to the other person.

    And in many cases, I don't see why it should be given.

    Moreover, I think there are many cases where it can be harmful to give it, especially since people equate "forgiveness" with "access to one's life."

    If you've reached acceptance and want to call that forgiveness, that's great.  But it's probably not a good idea to forgive an abuser and let them back into your life.  It's definitely not something you owe them.

    I hate when recipients of violence, injustice, etc., are pressured to forgive, for the sake of the criminal.  If they can and want to, brilliant for them!  But they don't owe it to anybody.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:16:22 PM PDT

  •  We forgive in order to move on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    helpImdrowning

    We never forget but we forgive in order to free ourselves from carrying around the negative feelings that could destroy us. We let those feelings go and in so doing, we forgive, not for the sake of the perpetrator but for our own well-being.

    None of us can live for long with hatred in our hearts. It eats at our immune systems and then we lose so much more.

    To put this in perspective, think about the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Race hatred has not been erased from that country but some of the most terrible conditions have been modified. Without the work of the commission, change would have been more difficult.

    I think the concept of truth and reconciliation is a high concept that, when applied to many of the world's disputes, holds much promise.

  •  Forgiveness can also (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    helpImdrowning

    pay enormous dividends, usually to be realized later.  Part of my forgiveness journey involves realizing how I have learned and grown from incidents that were difficult and exceptionally painful - ones that I never would have chosen - but added things to my life, nonetheless.

    A few additional random thoughts:

    - Forgiveness cannot be coerced.  It has to be something we want to do for ourselves.

    - Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting, condoning behavior, going back to the way it was before, and, even more importantly, enduring further abuse.

    - Rather, it means accepting what happened happened, integrating it into oneself, and letting go of attachment to outcome.  You don't need to have lunch with your perpetrator, hug them, tell them it's okay, write back to the six pages of strongly worded pleas for understand.  You don't have to like what they did, or them.

    To me, it involves taking a step back, saying, "I don't like you or what you did, but I can't change that, or you, so I will let karma be your teacher - and stop hoping that a random bolt of lightning pulverizes you in your tracks - no that I would weep if it did."  It's about reclaiming my own energy and using it to heal, rather than giving it to or my own power to someone who truly does not have my best interests at heart.

  •  Would anyone mind if I... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    helpImdrowning, 2thanks

    I was thinking of compiling a little update to this diary - actually adding in some of the things people have suggested as their concept of forgiveness and what it means.

    I don't mean that I would share anyone's personal memories as perhaps people would prefer them to be kept in the comments section, but more that I'd love to share some of the conclusions I've come to through reading the comments of you all and also various people's descriptions of what forgiveness actually IS!  

    I suppose I was thinking that, with so many comments, it might be difficult for others to pick out any specific one and so perhaps making up a short addendum to the diary would be useful?  I would find it useful anyway!

    But I obviously wouldn't want to do this if anyone objected?

    What do you think?  

    Bearing a grudge is like swallowing a poison and expecting someone else to die...

    by Maianewley on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:21:10 AM PDT

  •  Very powerful question (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    helpImdrowning, Maianewley

    and diary. The concept of forgiveness was theme in one of my daughters classes this year. Her eighth grade year was devoted to the study of Europe and primarily WWII. This spring the class, and parents, read The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal. It is a true story about a dying Nazi soldier who asks forgiveness from Simon, who was a prisoner in the concentration camp.

    The soldier details a mass murder of Jews in which he played a part and he wants Simon to forgive him for his sins. The struggle with the request lasts Simons lifetime, and the second portion of the book is dedicated to essays from philosophers, religious figures, educators, authors etc.  They are to answer what they would have done if placed in the same situation.

    The students/parents participated in a book seminar together and the concept of forgiveness was discussed in depth. It was fascinating to hear what 12 & 13 year old boys and girls understood about such a complicated topic. I remember one child saying that forgiveness was a gift, you were giving something and should expect nothing in return. Can you bestow forgiveness in the name of others? Is asking for forgiveness selfish? Is forgiveness condoning the behavior? I was blown away by the discussion - it still makes me weepy.

  •  Sometimes you can feel bad *for* forgiving someone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maianewley

    I was at a music festival last weekend in a tiny town in Iceland called Borgarfjörður Eystri.  Combine the no-sexual-holdups Icelandic culture with a festival atmosphere and with alcohol, and well, there were about a dozen guys trying to sleep with me.  While dancing I really clicked with one, and things started happening between us.  A bit too quickly for me, and so as he started reaching into my pants I told him I didn't know how far I wanted to go.  But he didn't stop, so I told him no.  And he didn't stop, and so I kept telling him no!, stop!, etc and trying to take his hand out, but I couldn't.  It felt like it took 30-60 seconds to make him stop but it was probably only 10 or so (I'd been raped before so this was kind of a triggering thing for me).  I obvious was very mad at him and said, "I told you NO!"  He said meekly and seeming genuine, "I'm sorry..."  I hastily grabbed my stuff and ran away from him as he said, again, "I'm sorry" and watched me go without trying to stop me.  

    I should note that he had been drinking, although didn't come across as "drunk".

    The next day one of his friends was chatting me up (I had met the entire circle of friends the other evening, a couple dozen people) and the guy from the previous night came over.  I quickly said "I don't want to talk with you" and zipped my tent shut.  I later unzipped it to continue working on unpacking.  He tried to apologize several times and I kept refusing to talk with him.  He'd back off and give me my space, but would try every now and then to help me out with packing again and to apologize again.  Addressed me "elskan" (love), which is a term you'd use more for someone you're in a relationship with, and it seemed to really bother him that he had done something that upset me.  Eventually (after perhaps 45 minutes) I softened up a bit and let him help, and ultimately accepted his apology and told him that it's okay.  And we talked a little bit, and I said I know, you were drinking last night, you weren't thinking clearly, etc.  We even kissed goodbye before I left.  

    But at the same time, I feel like that was wrong of me to accept his apology.  He clearly did something very wrong, and drinking should not be an excuse.  I almost feel like I was excusing part of the slippery slope that forms part of the culture that makes a lot of people downplay or outright dismiss rape.  That I shouldn't have forgiven him.

    I really don't know.

  •  I don't think it is all or nothing (0+ / 0-)

    I was discussing this question with my family. My wife used the phrase "completely forgive" a couple times, and then it hit me: i don't think there are 2 choices (you forgive somebody or you don't). I think there are 2 endpoints ( you forgive somebody not at all and you forgive somebody completely) with a wide range of partial forgiveness in between.

    Where you describe yourself strikes me as pretty far along towards the complete forgiveness end. I think we as a society have a belief that something is perfect or else it is nothing; but while your forgiveness of that person is not perfect, it is pretty significant.

    I honestly can't imagine completely forgiving somebody for something really big (which I do not say with pride). I hope that in similar circumstances I could do as well as you. I don't think you should stop wondering about the nature of forgiveness because it is a tremendously interesting question. I do think you should give yourself credit for how well you did.

  •  When someone is definitively diagnosed as (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel

    mentally ill and has perpetrated a violent crime upon another person, it is a difficult and complex situation for everyone involved.  Mental illness could be said to absolve a perpetrator of direct and malevolent malice towards any victims, however it does nothing to alleviate the pain and suffering of those who lost loved ones to the perpetrator.  How do those of us left behind deal with the anger, hatred, and violence we consciously or unconsciously wish to see levied upon the perpetrator of crimes against our loved ones, our community, or ourselves?  

    Revenge is a strong emotion and is often egged on by those in power who wish to absolve themselves of any wrong doing due to the lack of attention given to those who are mentally ill.  They like to offer easy solutions, such as immediately "stringing" up or chemically killing those who have committed a crime.  However, who has actually committed the "crime"?  Can we absolve from complete blame those who have purposefully ignored and refused to acknowledge, or treat, the neurological damage or illness that some people suffer from?  Or are the mentally/neurologically ill responsible for their own sickness?  Should we have smarter gun control laws that prohibit any one regular citizen from possessing firearms that fire off hundreds of bullets per minute or do we blame an individual for having access to something that we shouldn't allow anyone to have access to begin with?  Finally, to forgive is not an act of weakness, it is an act of courage, acceptance, understanding, and self help.  To carry hatred and anger in one's being is destructive and soul sucking.  It is the very definition of self loathing.  Forgiveness is to move past the negative and embrace life and joy again, to accept that life is never totally safe and without danger and that every day is a gift.

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy

    by helpImdrowning on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 05:56:04 AM PDT

  •  Forgiveness is to see things whole (0+ / 0-)

    When someone does something that hurts us we set up an "us" versus "them" way of thinking. "They" did this. And it is deliciously and seductively true within the perspective of us versus them.

    What we want most in the world is to be listened to, appreciated and loved. In the end love is the ability to see things whole.

    The trick to getting from the hurt to the forgiveness is to separate the people from their actions - we cannot be limited to only what has been done in the past. We have to allow room for learning, for new possibilities.

    There is no going back. None, ever. The past is dead. But death is what makes life precious. We who are alive represent 4.5 billion years of evolutionary success. OK, we may desperately want to issue a Darwin Award to those who have hurt us. But that action will also define us.

    "Once I remember, I got into a senseless squabble with
    a classmate and came home hurt and angry. Granny took
    one look at my red eyes and asked "What happened,
    son?"

    With the simplicity of youth I replied, "Raman called
    me names."

    My mother would be very tender on these occasions.
    "Don't worry," she consoled me. "What does he know?
    You're really a very nice boy." But Granny just asked,
    "And then what?"

    "Well, he was rude to me, Granny, so I was rude back!"

    She shook her head slowly. "What is the connection?" I
    had no answer of course. Then came the words I dreaded
    most to hear from her lips. "You're such a bright boy.
    Tell me, what does his being rude have to do with what
    you say or do?"

    "But Granny," I said, "he's impossible to get along
    with!"

    "There is only one person in the world you can hope to
    control," she replied drily, "and that is yourself.
    Work on how YOU respond. Otherwise you are like a
    rubber ball: he throws you against the wall and you
    bounce back."

    At some point the pain is too stupid. Someone has to break this back and forth of hurting each other. When we decide it might as well be me the forgiveness begins.
  •  My dear Maia, and anyone else reading (0+ / 0-)

    stragglers' late comments:

    I have the answer,
    the answer to the mystery.

    The reason you have such trouble figuring out
    exactly what is
    "forgiveness"
    is simple.

    There is nothing to forgive.

    There has never been
    any act,
    by any one,
    that was bad,
    evil,
    or wrong in any way.

    Every act,
    by every one,
    has always been
    completely unavoidable.

    The big human brain,
    with its big imagination,
    imagines going back in time,
    doing things differently,
    and making folks feel better.

    If you hate something that happened,
    and you see a way to do things differently
    next time you're in a similar situation,
    that is a practical use for the feelings you have
    that you really hated what happened.

    However.

    The human brain
    works in basically the same way as an insect brain,
    the same way as the computer you're using to read this.

    Have you ever accused an insect or a computer of doing anything
    evil?

    Then,
    simply stop accusing anyone,
    from a serial killer,
    all the way to your loving spouse,
    simply stop accusing anyone
    of doing anything wrong.

    Then,when you understand that,
    you will naturally,
    if gradually,
    let go of the grudge you have against some folks.

    Once again,
    there is nothing to forgive.

    I've never met anyone,
    besides myself,
    who understands this,
    who accepts this.

    So,
    if you are certain I'm completely wrong,
    you have about seven billion people who probably agree with you.

    But all of you are simply wrong.

    There is no bad action,
    not by a tectonic plate,
    not by a fire,
    not by a tornado,
    not by a fly,
    not by a computer,
    and not by any human animal.

    There are so many ways I can say this.

    It's so frustrating to see this fact so clearly,
    and I have no friends who can see it.

    I know it sound arrogant,
    but if anyone wants the big answers
    to the big philosophical questions,
    they don't need to make a pilgrimage to Tibet,
    to see the Dali Lama,
    they should just ask me.

    Thanks for reading.

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