This morning I received a video posting in my Facebook feed from a colleague. It showed a woman describing her holocaust experience and explaining how she came to forgive her Nazi abusers.
Although I admire her resilience, optimism and largeness of character, forgiveness isn’t my thing.
I hear about forgiveness almost every day, and for a few years now I’ve really been wondering if it’s time for me to forgive the people who hurt me – if I would really benefit from forgiving them – if that’s what I need to do for myself and my own ability to move on in my life.
The thing is, I don’t think forgiveness is within my authority to give. Jesus is reported to have said about the people who crucified him, “Father forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.”
Rather than forgiving people, I think my response ability is to accept what has happened, to understand the factors at play when it happened, and to have faith and trust that the truth will be revealed in time.
One of the most difficult truths I had to hear and eventually accept during my recovery was my complicity in my hurtful experiences. One of my most sensitive triggers to this day is when I hear people say “we always have choice.” The choice we make when we submit and keep secrets is that we choose to survive the threat we believe to be real. That’s tough to think of as choice, but it is.
That’s such a difficult fact to accept about myself – that I accepted my abusers’ explanation of reality over any perspective I had of my own – and I acted on their instruction, guidance and demand, even to my own detriment.
If I can accept my unawareness of the truth of what was going on in those relationships, then I can accept that the people I was involved with were unaware also. Nothing about their behavior corroborates a theory that they deviously did what they did in all consciousness, every step of the way.
People are for the most part bumbling around in life, trying to do the best they can, to secure resources to sustain their lives and sometimes the lives of their group members. I don’t observe much conscious, intentional, informed activity at all, in spite of the lofty claims a lot of people make to justify their actions.
It is blatantly incongruent to me to hear humans claim to be the superior species while I watch us exhaust and destroy the source of our survival – the natural world – as well as repel, isolate and if necessary destroy other humans that are different or a perceived threat to our territory.
I get that it’s difficult to be human and to navigate the myriad of experiences and explanations of reality that abound. It seems even more difficult now with access to infinite sources of knowledge at the ends of our fingertips.
Actually, we have a great advantage now with access to all knowledge. In the past we only had what was immediately available to us in our nearby environments and groups. Now we can learn from other people everywhere, and have access to historical knowledge and the full breadth of wisdom that has been conceptualized and passed down through the ages.
If we’re open minded, we can search for trustworthy guidance to being a decent human. It exists in the similar conclusions determined by meaning explorers throughout time.
Those meaning explorers include some spiritual leaders as well as philosophers, scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and naturalists.
When the reality I had dedicated 42 years of my life to crashed and crumbled around me and left me standing alone and naked in the ashes, I had to embark on a journey of discovery to find the ingredients I could use to construct a reliable foundation upon which I could build the rest of my life.
I have learned what I know from every person, experience, and text I have encountered since I began this concerted effort to discover the unquestionable foundation I can stand on.
I have also discovered that it’s the same foundation for everyone, and it’s accessible to each one without the necessity of interpretation from other humans.
As long as Life courses through my body, and I am standing on the planet, I have the response ability to be a conscious human being.
It is not my right nor is it my response ability to define or determine the reason for another’s existence or the purpose of their mission.
I do know however that each human exists as an opportunity, and each one does make the choice whether or not to fulfill their potential.
I especially understand how difficult it is to accept that even in the face of extraordinary barriers, each one still has choice available to them to survive that moment and find a way to thrive in different circumstances.
I don’t forgive. I don’t think that’s within my realm of authority.
I do accept that hurtful human behavior occurs, but I don’t accept it for or from myself anymore.
We’re all trying to do the best we can with what we have to work with, and unfortunately we’re doing a terrible job. We’re destroying the habitability of our home and each other now and for future generations.
We have a choice. We can see the fallacy of the reality we have constructed to explain our self-serving behaviours and open our eyes to the trustworthy foundation we’re standing on.
The blueprint for best human practice has been revealed many times through many lenses. Knowledge and wisdom are available at our fingertips. Some individuals gather in communities for mutual support. There is hope, but no assurance.
We must choose, through our own free will, to commit to fulfilling our individual opportunity and supporting all others to fulfill theirs in harmony with all other manifestations of Life on Planet Earth and in the cosmos.
I for one don’t want to be part of the generation who had the opportunity but instead had to require creative cause “To forgive them for they know not what they do.”