Monday, January 27, 2014

Forgiving v. letting go

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of forgiveness.  For me, it's a thorny issue that has its roots in the religious training form my childhood, but it's also an issue that will, for the foreseeable future, color my life.  I will start by telling you that I am quite good at holding a grudge, but I am not quite a master of it.  I don't believe in "forgive and forget", and I do wrestle with wanting vengeance for the wrongs done to me.  I'm imperfect, but I want to be a better person, so I am constantly striving to change, to evolve.  Forgiveness, though, is one thing I can't fully accept.

For some people, forgiving a wrong done to them is empowering, noble and beautiful. I'm not really one of them. That's not to say that when wronged I am completely inflexible and unforgiving, but I'd be lying if I didn't say forgiveness for real wrongs is rare from me.  I haven't forgiven the man who molested me as a child, and I don't feel I have any moral, ethical, or legal reason to do so. What he did was wrong.  However, I have, over the years, managed to let go of my own guilt and fear and anger, at least to the point of feeling whole again. It doesn't mean I've forgotten how I felt, or that I don't empathize with those who have similar experiences. It doesn't mean that I won't fight for others to have the justice I never received. It simply means I stopped giving it power over my everyday life, most of the time. I've stopped hurting myself by dwelling on it and reliving it. To me, that's not forgiveness. That is letting go of pain and its power of me.  I will not forget this either. Forgetfulness, often, allows mistakes and wrongs to be repeated.

In the process of healing, is it necessary to forgive? Not necessarily.  We can choose to let go instead, which both honors our need to not hurt, to not be trapped in old cycles, but it also acknowledges that we were hurt, and that we are scarred without giving the transgressor any more power over us. Forgiveness wipes away sins, letting go, simply eases pain. It leaves room for moving on, for growing without giving anything to those who hurt us. It requires no forgetting, unless we choose to forget, and it acknowledges the strength we show when moving past trauma.

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