Lately I have been thinking about forgiveness. A lot.
As you might already know, an elder of my family was dying at the time of the birth of my youngest daughter. Did the prospect of new life bring her joy? No. She told the entire family and anybody who would listen that this child should NOT be born. She told anybody who would listen that we should only have two children. She told everybody that I felt trapped by my pregnancy and that I did not want, that I even resented, the child.
Ladies, sometimes I look at my youngest baby and want to cry at the cruelty of her words. How this woman could even think those things, much less utter them? And who in their right minds would believe them?? This is the sort of slander that this woman had been spreading for years before her death. I don't know what angers me more - that she said them or that people choose to believe it.
My husband and I are still dealing with what this woman said. Relationships within the family have been broken. Horrible accusations and insults have been met with stony silence. What should be a strong family is now fragmented. (And people still believe that I don't love my child. The bastards!!)
And of course we are right. We are the reasonable ones.
Which is why I have a hard time forgiving. No, I simply can't forgive.
Growing up, I remember watching silly television shows where every problem is neatly and humorously dealt with in a half hour. Injuries were caused by misunderstandings, not by spite. But spite DOES exist and we do deal with people who couldn't care less about reconciliation.
So now I believe that this 'forgive and forget' thing is just a load of crap perpetuated by people who don't want to deal with the real issues and want to go on as if nothing had happened.
What I DO believe in is the transformative love of God. Let me explain. I don't think we can 'forgive and forget' because we approach forgiveness as an act of will, not of healing or transformation. I simply cannot will myself to pretend that what happened didn't happen. I cannot pretend that I am not hurt by it. I will never say that on some level what happened was good, right, a misunderstanding, or acceptable. And I will not try to see things from the point of view of a bitter woman who died as a direct result of her addictions.
What can I do? I can pray. First I flung my anger at God and asked for deliverance from it. Then I began to pray for those who wronged me. I didn't pray for any particular outcome, just that they should know the love and grace of God. I prayed for myself. I poured forth my anguish at the harm that this slander did (and continues to) inflict. And one day, God answered:
"Yes, it was wrong. No, you did not deserve it. Yes, it hurt you. But I was with you. I am still with you. Please, come to me and be healed."
Ladies, I do not believe that we can forgive. But I do believe that God can share His vision with us. I may or may not be right in this situation. I may or may not be justified in my anger. But I will not be a victim of slander. If God wants me to let go of this so I may be a part, however small, of His beatific vision, I will let go. And when I see my misguided relatives again, with practice, I can allow God's love and forgiveness to flow through me. I am small, formed of dust and Breath. That is the best I can do.
May God continue to bless you.