As I sit here on my couch, under a very comfy blanket, drinking my coffee, I’m replaying a conversation that I recently had with my mom. Without giving too much detail, there is just a lot of dark family history that spans the last forty years or so. There is a lot of stuff that no one talks about, because that would first require a lot of honesty and who wants to do that.
Because in order to really move on and start over, there has to be forgiveness. Real forgiveness. And that only happens when there is real honesty. With that, comes a lot of hurt.
I have been spending a lot of time over the last ten- fifteen years thinking about forgiveness and what it takes. What it costs. It isn’t something that you give freely to the person that has wronged you, it is something that comes with a fight.
In my numerous years in therapy, the idea of forgiveness has been brought up as a means for closure for myself. That if I forgave persons X, Y, and Z, I would magically be healed of the trauma that they were all a part of. I thought long and hard about that and about what it would require on my end. I thought about the consequences of opening those doors and lines of communication. I thought about whether or not those people deserved to be forgiven and released from their wrongs.
At some point, I realized that that was not for me.
It came after receiving a message on Facebook from a great-aunt. A great-aunt who had legal custody of myself and my little brother when we were very young. She was reaching out, because the years of guilt were getting to her, and she wanted to apologize for her actions and inactions during that period of time. She wanted to apologize for her complicity. I have left that message and all following messages on read, choosing to let her guilt have its way with her, rather than absolving her of her sins.
It is a decision that I am comfortable with. It is a decision that allows me to still sleep at night. It is a decision that I made because at the end of the day, I owe nobody anything, and my own well-being is my priority.
In talking to my mom, we started to dance around this topic. And I told her that I had three options: I could hold on to every wrong from every party and be angry (which I would be well within my right to do). I could freely forgive everything and everyone and be done with it. Or I could choose to remember remember remember the actions and inactions of everyone, but leave that in the past. I had chosen the third option.
It is and was what I deemed the best option for me. It has allowed me to never forget what people are capable of. But it has also allowed me to move in with my life and have functional relationships with the select few I’d like to.
But here’s the thing. You can rarely dance around those subjects without cutting someone deeply. Most people look at a calm river and don’t see the turbulence underneath. Those conversations require delicacy and a detachment from emotion. Because without that, progress doesn’t get made and issues don’t get resolved. Which is why I’m comfortable not ever going down those roads; everyone else is a wild card.
It is hard to say what will come of what we talked about. All that I can add to the conversation is that I am in no way interested in forgiveness, and am in no way interested in hashing out the actions and consequences with respect to the responsible parties. Going down those roads and pursuing this fanciful idea of forgiveness as a healing salve will only lead to bitterness and anger and passing all of the blame. And I am just not about that life.
I accept that there are far reaching consequences for the decisions I have made regarding all of this. I also accept that there are consequences when that bandaid begins to get pulled off. But I have learned to accept that sometimes when we need to heal, that doesn’t mean that we need to forgive.