I never posted my last blog post…. that’s two or three I wrote that never got online! Well, I hope this one is luckier.
A day or two ago, this writing prompt from WordPress arrived in my inbox:
I Can’t Stay Mad at You
“Do you hold grudges or do you believe in forgive and forget?”
Several weeks ago I searched for ‘forgiveness’ and discovered it’s defined in a way that doesn’t match my understanding of it.
It seems if you forgive someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will continue to have anything to do with that person. It merely means you won’t be acting on ‘it’, whatever it was.
It makes a certain sense if you see forgiveness as a form of self-regulation. If someone damaged something of yours, you might choose not to chase them for reparation. In such a situation, perhaps other things would be of more value to you — community goodwill, for instance, or family ties.
Whether you continue to deal with that person is another issue entirely, and has nothing to do with forgiveness. Well, that’s the impression I formed after reading around.
I always saw forgiveness as continuing to see and speak to the person without changing towards them. If you cut him or her out of your life, that doesn’t seem like true forgiveness. How can you forgive someone without letting them feel it?
I don’t know what to think now. I don’t know enough to know the truth of it, and maybe none of us do.
I enjoyed the following:
Forgive (The Word Detective)
Still on topic, and looking back at the blog prompt… do I bear grudges?
Most of us do, I imagine. First I wrote, “we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t,” then realized cats, dogs, horses and birds in trees most likely bear grudges. Yes, birds sitting on rooftops do; also those flying over your washing. That line of thought was tying me in knots, so the best way of releasing myself was to cut the entire phrase loose…
Yes, I bear grudges over plenty of stuff that has happened to me over the years, and though I don’t act on these things, think, or even talk about most of them, I can still get grumpy when I remember any. Like the time the janitor rapped my knuckles with his keys when a few children were taking refuge in the hallway for some warmth. That really hurt… and I wasn’t shouting, swearing or doing anything wrong… I just didn’t want to be out in the icy playground. How old was I? Six? Seven? How long can we bear a grudge? Oh, as long as we live!
‘Grudge’ is an odd word, but less of a mystery than ‘forgive’. It’s to feel bitter about a wrong done to you. I guess it doesn’t even have to be a wrong that a human, cat or dog has committed, but something more abstract such as… life circumstances, perhaps. You can bear a grudge against the world. The phrase ‘done me wrong’ is interesting, though — very sure of itself.
Perhaps when someone wrongs you, it’s not always something intended to hurt you in any way or to any degree — just a fallout of how things actually are. In that case, what is it we grudge or forgive?
I was interested in the suggestion that ‘forgiving’ means not taking offence at all. Most of us will feel hurt by something, and need a way to move on from that, but what if we can bring ourselves to realize “it’s just how it is” and that no one was being actively malignant?
Can we realize in a comfortable fashion that something is not worth taking offence over? Or does it always take a bit of ‘processing’ to reach that point? Sometimes you have to work out the dynamics of the situation. If they are not clear, then nor are your feelings.
At any rate, there’s often a bit of a battle in our minds when feeling wronged or hurt. The way old grudges fade is when you see them as a curiosity, a bit of social history — something that happened to someone else a long, long time ago. We can’t possibly remember all the ins and outs after all this time, and sometimes we wrong ourselves as well as others if we judge an isolated experience without having all of the facts. Then again, when you find something similar happening all over again, and the same negative feelings surfacing (the ones you’ve long lambasted yourself for giving way to), you suddenly remember why you reacted the way you did all those years ago and appreciate afresh the rollercoaster of emotions you were dealing with back then. You are also faced with the unsettling realization that you’re not really a wiser, mellower being! You haven’t even shown more understanding of your younger self, and (it turns out) you still have those fierce internal battles to deal with. They were only dormant because no one was stirring the magma.
So, forgiveness… what does it mean? I always thought I knew, but life is messy. You can’t say “I forgive” and literally never think of it again, unless you really understand everything and know there’s nothing to forgive.
One way or another, it works best when you are still actively engaging with the other person. It’s a live, warm connection. Your experience of the person continues to update (and isn’t frozen at some point in the past). That’s a healthy situation. Less healthy is thinking you know someone based on something they did years ago, while more recent information is lacking.
These are general thoughts only, and wouldn’t fit all cases. At times we are wise to ‘cut all ties’, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly and without considering one’s own part in it. We are a community for a reason — there has to be communication. Forgiveness should be about allowing that communication to continue.
Have just noticed I’ve blogged on this topic before, and my perspective does not seem to have changed. (The Point of a Grudge). Having gone through some kind of recent upheaval, I’m glad I can say that. 🙂 A tried and tested viewpoint! I prefer my older post to the newer one, especially as I forgot about Mme Ramotswe’s take on forgiveness.