Prologue: The temper of the times, nationally and globally, politically and personally, is wroth. Division and anger reign. I do not stand apart, casting my judging eye on all ‘round about me. For I, as opinionated and, I confess, as grudge-bearing as (and, depending on the subject, perhaps more than) the next person, bear in my body, my belly the prevailing tensions of these days. As a Christian, I am called to contemplate that cardinal, necessary act, indeed, art of all human relating: Forgiveness.
To say, “I forgive you” is not the same thing as saying, “I’ll forget it.”
I have come to this understanding looking through the introspective lens of my personal history. Past the midpoint of my seventh decade of life, as I reflect, there are some of my earliest years’ experiences that, as bright (though not necessarily attractive) threads, are sewn so inextricably into the tapestry of my personality as to be unforgettable.
One, in particular. My parents, well-intentioned, persistently taught me that my value rests in what I do, not in who I am.
(It has taken years for me to trace the source and to comprehend the point of this lesson of life, which, instilled through my parents, was bequeathed unto them through my African American and Latin/Cuban ancestors. Their long histories of the tribulations of the dominant white culture’s rejection of the nobility of their personhood was distilled into a message, which, though meant to be personally fortifying for the sake of survival, proved, as an unintended consequence, to be self-defeating, verily, self-damning: You never will be perceived as (thus, never can be) better than they are, so, you always must do better than they do.
This “truth,” which I early and deeply took to heart, has left an indelible imprint on my life. Long ago, through the intensive (and ongoing) labor of emotional and spiritual growth, I discerned and have come to believe, indeed, to know that worth is an innate attribute of existence, an ineffaceable aspect of the God-given dignity, in the words of the psalmist, of being “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Nevertheless, on occasion, forgetting that I am a human being, I strive to prove myself by my human doing.
As some things are unforgettable, again, to say, “I forgive,” is not, cannot be the same thing as saying, “I forget.”
4 thoughts on “Finding the Freedom to Forgive, Part 2 of 5”
Paul, this is so timely and I feel it so deeply. Thank you, for giving gentle, wise voice to a wound that I am seeking to heal.
Thank you, Lisa. Forgiveness is so constantly necessary an act…art of human living because we humans are so consistently messy in our treatment one to another.
Ever and always, my dearest sister, I pray your healing (aye, mine, too!).
Paul I had to let this sink in overnight. I think we received similar messages for our parents. Well in my case, from my Mom. I was told I’d have to work harder than everyone else, and that if I did so I could do and be anything I wanted to do and be!! I had several crushing failures in my career but overall I am happy with my contributions to this world. My forgiveness came into play because I always felt cheated not having the additional lessons I would have learned from my father had he been fully present in my life. I forgave my Mom long but still wonder how different (if at all) I’d be had my dad been in my life.
Loretta, truth to tell, this post – concerning forgiving, yet not forgetting – took me to a place that I could not have imagined (and did not imagine) as I sat down to pray, to think, and to write. I did not know that I would be led down a path to my past tutelage from my parents (and their inheritance from their parents, etc.) and, thus, to a recognition of my necessity in having had to forgive them for (but no forget) the less than salutary effects on me and my life of that teaching about doing, not being.
Now, as for you, dear sister, I think that it is doubtless that you would be a different person had you had a relationship with your father. (I also think that as you are your father’s daughter, some measure of who he was is in you, surely, genetically, but also, I believe, through the sacred deposit of the essence of his personhood, some element of his very self.) Still, as I think – and, more importantly, as you think – of who you are, I’d say that your mother’s guidance and love have had more than beneficial effects on the person who have become and are becoming, and, through you, the goodness the world has and does experience through you. Brava!
Love and carry on!