Forgiveness

As I prepared my year in review post, I found myself thinking about forgiveness. One of the hardest things to do in this world is to forgive those who have wronged your spirit. This year I have watched so many incidences of violence unfold on the news against women of color targeted for being women, people of color, young, and/or queer. I have witnessed unilateral violence and internalized hatred wielded outward. I have heard things I cannot repeat. And at least twice this year the combination of so many wrongs has literally choked the air from lungs and left me stunned and bleeding. Under the circumstances, it would be easy to walk into the new year with my hate on.

I am choosing forgiveness instead of hate.

    I forgive those whose brokenness almost broke me too. I forgive those whose unexamined privileges forced me in to corners I had to fight my way out of. I forgive those whose naivete caused all kinds of internet drama. I forgive those who sat in judgment without even considering there might be things they did not know or that I could not say. I forgive those who did not have the strength to stand with me. I forgive those who watched when I faltered instead of lending a hand. I forgive those who lied to themselves and to others to protect the wrong things. I forgive those who laughed to hide the ways lies sting. I forgive those whose own self-doubt or self-hate clinched their hands into menacing fists with each perceived slight. I forgive those so caught up that they killed every opportunity to move forward, to see how much in common we actually have. I forgive those who tried and failed to silence us, to wipe us off the face of the planet, to publicly question our intelligence, or our right to speak. I forgive those whose success made them blind to the barriers the rest of us climb or die behind. I forgive those who forgot to throw a ladder back or who laced it with so many conditions no one could make it up and over. I forgive those who tried to bomb, rape, or shoot us into oblivion. I forgive those whose ignorance erased and punished us in the name of aid or justice. I forgive those too scared to speak, too weak to stand, too broken to heal.

    I forgive you.

    I forgive me.

    Happy New Year y’all.

    7 thoughts on “Forgiveness

    1. My great-aunt, who suffered a stroke this year (and whom I will be praying for blessings in the new year) used to say, “I forgive, but I don’t forget.”Thank you for this much needed and eloquent message. Forgiveness helps us move forward after great wrongs; remembrance ensures that justice prevails.Peace and blessings for the new year!πŸ™‚

    2. Any “year end” thinking I’ve been doing has been tinged with the need to think about forgiveness, as well. I feel less completely gracious than you’re demonstrating here–far less–but this year in particular, I have very little ability to look back and reflect and see the elements of growth. I lack the energy to dig deep enough to find that. So the only alternative is to look forward, talk about forgiveness, talk about a clean slate, a new beginning, a new morning. Thanks for modeling that grace.πŸ™‚

    3. wow purtek what an amazing thing to say “thanks for modeling grace.” who knew that was what I was up to? *blushes shyly*Some really bad things happened in our world this year and some truly bad things happened to me personally as well; none the least of which was having the spectre of my stalker and her behind the scenes involvement in the firing of an amazing scholar raised up at a dinner with two scholars I was meeting for the first time just before the start of the holidays. I haven’t looked back since I got away and a lot of things are tied up in that period for me – including having to avoid professional conferences, colleagues, etc. who refuse to wrap their minds around what happened or who I don’t think can. When the present bad and the past bad all come and smack you head on, forgiveness is the only power left to you, I think; the beauty of it is that it builds and is shared rather than tears down and wields over.ABW – in order to forgive somethings this year, I will have to forget them. Others must never be forgotten. So I agree. I always say, “I am younger than you and I have a *very* long memory.” forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation.

    4. “I always say, β€œI am younger than you and I have a *very* long memory.””This post, and the above line in your comment, are serious food for thought, for me. I think I am weird (too prideful and too invested in seeming tough to ward off feelings of weakness) about forgiveness. On the one hand, I have a habit of telling people that I am like those elephants that occasionally bust out and trample people, but seem to be able to find and trample (kill) only the people/person who abused them at times. Like they never forget an injury and they carry a willingness to exact revenge for as long as it may take to actually exact that revenge. (And this thing about elephants may be a media myth, it’s just something that I relate to in principle, whether its origins are “real” or not.) I tell people I am an elephant because it makes me feel less like a mouse. At the same time, I want more than anything to be able to forgive anyone, of anything, and it is instant for me whenever someone shows any tiny sliver of sincere remorse. And it comes anyway sometimes even when people don’t. It is interesting that the word grace was used, as that is what I think of usually when I think of the ability to forgive – that is a state of grace, not something I can necessarily will myself to feel. Like, it is a gift from the universe or god or who/whatever, to have self-defensive hate or anger lifted.Thank you for this post, and your blog in general.

    5. Of course it’s what you were up to. I was vaguely aware of the truly terrible things that have happened to you this past year and what you were alluding to in the post–I comment little but lurk much, but rarely in comment threads here or elsewhere, so I miss a lot of stuff, plus some of it has been offline in terms of the personal things you mention. But I knew you were talking about major pain and serious violence done to yourself and those you love, and it is rare to see someone in this broken world who is able to recognize the power and strength in forgiveness, instead of the apparent “weakness”. So yep–modeling grace. Sorry for the shy blush-creating, but it’s well-deserved.

    6. purtek – I don’t know about “major pain” just sorrow and disappointment and the sad revelation that in some very sick and twisted way my stalker managed to wreck two black women’s careers at the same uni for the same basic reason: we dared to not want her back the way she wanted us. (The sick part is, I am the only one who knows that piece of the story – including the other black woman – *and* I wouldn’t have put it together if it hadn’t been for that dinner.) Academia is so terribly small, all it takes is one person pretending they do not know another to get some dirt and the landslide takes us all down. (As we all know, all academics talk. But one thing that dinner reinforced for me is that I am a clean slate kind of girl – once I put it to bed, I don’t talk about it. Some times the things I am not talking about are *really* bad and if we worked in an environment where certain behaviors were not condoned or erased, it would be better to talk than to stuff; but we don’t. More importantly I guess, I don’t talk about academics with other academics except in the most even handed way I can b/c 1. we are a complicated crew and one person’s interpretation or experience may be very different than another’s & 2. we are way too small a group to think that the ripple won’t touch you.)Joan – I think that forgiveness and “I have a long memory” come from two different places; one is redemptive the other is about retribution. Retribution is hard wired into our brains as the fight or flight response to perceived danger. Forgiveness takes the strength of love and trust in the known and the unknown and the power to over come wiring. To me it is kind of like that saying about taking the force of something outside of yourself and defusing it by yielding like water and a rock – hit ice with a rock and it shatters, hit water with a rock it falls to the bottom but the water simply ripples and then returns to smooth. (I was clearer the last 3 times I wrote a response to you, but the phone kept ringing so I am wrapping this up before it happens again). So I’ll end with this: I looked at this last year, and tried to imagine a world where wrongs are met with teaching and learning rather than reaction and the word that came back to me was “forgive.”

    7. I’ve just discovered another great thing about forgiveness: once you’ve given it the impetus to dwell on what is “unfair” or to see people in light of their past actions or inactions ceases. That is a very good thing.

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