The Forgiveness Fence: My New Country Album
Why is it so hard to forgive when somebody does a wrong to you?
Wow. I’m a little blown away that you think I can answer this satisfactorily unless it’s a test of character…I guess I’ll just tell you what I think of the whole concept of “forgiveness.”
First, I think the word “forgiveness” is waaaaay too general, as a spiritual goal. The act of forgiveness is something that serves two people- we all want to forgive people we feel have wronged us, to lighten the exhausting, stressful burden of staying angry at someone. The desire to be forgiven is universal- most of us don’t want to be the bad guy.
(Exception: sociopaths don’t mind being bad guys, but they aren’t knocking on doors asking for forgiveness either. Unless they are con men.)
My point is: “forgive” needs to be “forgive for what?”
Example: I could forgive you for avoiding paying me back the $500 you owe me because I know you’re completely broke and have every intention of making good on it one day. But it would be tough to forgive you for stealing $500 out of my wallet, then telling me, and everyone we both know, that I’m a crazy bitch for accusing you of stealing the money.
It’s easy to have compassion for someone who has a real human problem, like the problem of struggling to make rent, which is essentially a survival issue. We all wrestle with different things- to deny someone else the leeway of stumbling would be hypocritical. I certainly want to be forgiven when I make an unintentional mess of things…
In the case of the perjuring pickpocket, I may have a quantum-size speck of compassion for that person’s ostensible mental illness, but ultimately, my mercy gets tossed out the window like fast food garbage flung out the car window on a 1970s highway.
When measuring the dose of compassion to administer in a situation that involves adults, the intention behind an action is paramount. I believe in personal responsibility. If someone has no interest in their accountability, then I have no interest in doling out unrequested forgiveness.
There is something that I think might actually belong at the beginning of this answer, which impacts our ability to forgive: forgiveness comes from the HEART, and we live in a culture that manipulates us to live in our HEADS. How in the world can we forgive someone, if we are trying to do it from a place where we are figuring out how to do it?? Many people hold grudges and can’t forgive the most basic transgressions. It feels like a cultural headlock. The remedy as I see it? More praying, more meditating, and more feeling; less cable news and obsessing about our hurt.
A painful event tends to have either grieving or anger that has to be thoroughly experienced and released from a person’s emotional body. Giving ourselves enough time to wallow, to feel, to cry or scream,…and then be done with it. Less head healing, more HEART healing.
Since it’s starting to feel like I’m practicing ministerial duties without a proper clerical license, the last thing I will say is this: western culture has a problematic preoccupation with duality. Westerners, particularly Americans, love the concept of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. When it’s time to forgive, this mental framework is not conducive to surrendering one’s anger. The Good Guy/Bad Guy story we tell ourselves is a safe-feeling, false narrative.
At the crossroads of any conflict between two people, there are usually two bad guys and two good guys…which is four perspectives occupying the space of two people… see how revealing the math is?
In summary, my opinion on why forgiveness is so tough:
1. Intention: it’s hard to forgive outright malice, but empathy does a great job at filling anger potholes once we admit that all humans, including ourselves, have weaknesses.
2. Organ functions are not balanced: too much brain, not enough heart.
3. “Good vs. Bad” thinking: we are conditioned to react with total blame. It’s hardly ever the real, whole story.
And remember: forgiveness is an ideal virtue for a reason- it’s hard to live up to.
Allowing people to be human, is not only having a foot planted in reality, but it’s also empathetic. We’ve all been on both sides of the forgiveness fence.
Aubrey Thorne is an interior designer, feng shui consultant, and astrologer in Los Angeles. She works with clients all over, both in-person and online. Feel free to contact Aubrey to ask a question or to schedule a consultation.