Thursday, January 13, 2005

Forgiveness

 

That's a very blurry Albuquerque sunset.  I think I took this Saturday evening.

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I read an article in Diane magazine yesterday while I was waiting for a meeting to start, called "Forgiving the Unforgivable" by Ellen Michaud.  This was a powerful article about a woman named Carol, who had been viciously abused as a child by her mentally ill mother, and how she was able to finally forgive her mother on her death bed, right before she died.

I think everyone goes through painful experiences in their lives that are basically avoidable and caused by the actions of one thoughtless individual.  I've had several of these individuals in my life, (one very recently) and forgiveness is something that I've had to confront and work on based on those experiences.  Everyone does this, I'm sure.

Anyway this woman was able to forgive her mother for the physical and mental abuse she suffered as a child, even as her mother was beating her, because she could see the pain her mother was in.  She said, "I understood that if she hadn't been ill, she would have been able to show love instead of anger."  Amazing that a child could recognize that and be able to use it to cope with the horror of her everyday life.  She held her mother on her death bed, and told her she forgave her right before she died.

When my mother passed away we had tons of unfinished business.  Years of hurt and anger and questioning...I think that's why this article touched me this way.  Mom had an incredibly hard life, and I should have probably been grateful she left rather than expose us to the stuff she was going through.  I still can't imagine having the wisdom and peace as a small child to look at her and understand that like I do now. 

The article goes on to reveal research that's been done in the areas of social work and psychology, and gives tips on how to get there.  The bottom line isthat forgiveness is a tool - a way to free yourself of things and people who have hurt you in the past. 

I never thought of it that way. 

The final tip in this article is to recognize how forgiveness transforms your life.  "You're just not the same person.  You've changed from a hurting woman who doesn't understand the harm done to her to a woman who incorporates the injury into her life to a woman who no longer thinks of herself as injured."

Pretty cool, huh. What a great perspective to have.

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The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.
         Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin (1973) "Personal Conduct"
 
Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900)

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What a weird, abnormal entry, huh.  I'll write a more normal one later.

2 comments:

martinsek5 said...

Ah... forgiveness.  I wish I was better at this.  Pamela

phlskygirl said...

I love the Thomas Szasz quote.  Just yesterday my mother and I were talking about the "to not forget is to not forgive" concept, and both agreed that we disagreed with it (thankfully and gratefully, the conversation had nothing to do with each other).  
I have always felt (pretend you asked) that forgiving is good only if it applies to someone that is truly penitent, but simply letting go is best when it comes to those are not.  I feel that you can let go without forgiving in cases like the latter; forgiving is too close to saying, "it's ok that you did that; I understand, and forgive you."  To condone or forgive the unworthy isn't necessary to obtain peace; you can just learn, accept, and let go.  And laugh, of course.  Whenever possible.