I’ve had a lot of sh*tty things happen to me in the past year and a half, and it’s really shaken (probably more like shattered) the faith I used to have in the goodness of humanity. In particular, I look at the behaviour of a couple of people who were in positions to exert considerable power over me through workplace bullying. This behaviour is probably best described as cruel, and it has significantly impacted both my current circumstances and my ability to move beyond those circumstances. It profoundly disgusts me that people in positions of power can and do conduct themselves in such a manner, but how does forgiveness fit into all of that?
Wise words on forgiveness
When a deep injury is done to us we never heal until we forgive.Nelson Mandela
Throughout this current depressive episode, which has lasted more than a year and been resistant to treatment, I have given a lot of thought to what it might take for me to get well again. People far wiser than I am have spoken about the importance of forgiveness, so occasionally I ponder this, and ask myself how, or if, I would be able to forgive. And no matter how often I think about it, I keep drawing a blank.
Forgiveness is how we put a stop to anger, ill-will and a desire for revenge.His Holiness the Dalai Lama
In some of my darkest moments, I have contemplated a scenario where I was driving down the street, and a certain person happened to be crossing the road, and accidentally/on-purpose… Well, let’s just leave it at that; I am not a violent person by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a nasty, vengeful part of me that wishes the people who directly contributed to so much suffering on my part could get a little payback.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.Mahatma Gandhi
Maybe the problem is that I am not strong enough to forgive. I am not the bigger person; I’m the little person that my depression has made me. This isn’t the person I used to be, but now I’m easily irritated and really don’t like most people. It feels as though forgiveness would involve climbing to a new height, and I’m wearing flip flops rather than climbing shoes.
Practicing forgiveness does not mean accepting wrong doing.His Holiness the Dalai Lama
The past and future are both painful directions to look in, so I try to just focus on one day at a time. In some ways that’s a good thing, but it’s perhaps not the most useful as a coping mechanism to deal with uncertainty or unwillingness around forgiveness. If I’m truly honest with myself, probably less is uncertainty, and more is unwillingness. It’s as if by forgiving that would somehow condone the behaviour. As if in some twisted way I would be betraying myself by forgiving. I know it’s not logical or reasonable, but there you have it.
What ended up helping more than the quotes did was this video:
Some things only God can forgive
When I heard the line “some things only can God can forgive,” all of a sudden, something profoundly clicked for me. This forgiveness that I haven’t known how to even begin to find… well, maybe it’s not mine to find at all.
"Some say in life you're gonna get what you give, but some things only God can forgive."
That shift in perspective resonated incredibly strongly with me. Being a non-religious person, I think of “God” rather loosely, in a more general sense of a higher power, but the fundamental idea is still the same.
Forgiveness is a burden for me to carry. Forgiveness is not supposed to be a burden, but it was feeling like just one more way that I was not good enough, not compassionate enough, not mature enough, and on and on. And that sounds a lot like victim-blaming. The responsibility for the bullying I endured lies squarely on the shoulders of the bullies.
"I hope somewhere you're praying, praying. I hope your soul is changing, changing, I hope you find your peace, falling on your knees, praying."
It’s not up to me to forgive or find peace with what they’ve done, the damage they wrought in my life; that’s between them and their higher power, whether that’s God or simply the genuine humanity that lies deep within their own hearts and souls. That is their task, their journey, their burden to bear. It is not on me. The onus is 110% on them. That reframing has been incredibly freeing for me.
It’s time to thrive
“When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name.” My task now is to find a way to thrive, to outshine the darkness they brought. It’s up to me to be…
"...proud of who I am. No more monsters I can breathe again. And you said that I was done, but you were wrong and now the best is yet to come."
It is possible to “find a strength I’ve never known”; somewhere, deep within, I will eventually be able to find that. That needs to be my focus. Whether they eventually find forgiveness has nothing to with me.
“I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell.” And given that letting go was why I was trying to find forgiveness in the first place, maybe I have actually found what I was looking for all along, just in a different way. There is now the glimmer of possibility that I can let the past go and move onwards and upwards. It’s really remarkable how much we can gain from the growth others find through suffering. So thank you Kesha.
This guided journal focused on Finding Forgiveness is about forgiving on your own terms and for your own sake. It’s available from the MH@H Download Centre.