Saturday, 2 March 2013
I've been thinking about forgiveness a lot, for a long time, specifically because I don't think I will ever forgive Steve for what he did over those years. The internet is full to bursting with all these quotes about how wonderful it is to forgive - and just this ONE about the other side of the coin. I have thought and thought, and I have come to the conclusion that actually, sometimes forgiveness is NOT the right thing, and that is not because I'm not a forgiving person, but because I am a VERY forgiving person.
There has been lots of discussion on various forums I'm on about how to forgive your abuser, and I have found myself saying I don't plan to and doubt that I ever will, and that I am glad of that. In response, there have been lots of people saying that I should forgive him for myself, not for him, because otherwise the bad feelings will destroy me. To which I respond:
No, bad feelings won't destroy me, because I have no feelings towards him, as he isn't in my life any more. If he WERE to enter my life again, forgiving him would leave me open to abuse again, because that is exactly what happened in the past - time and again I forgave him, and time and again he abused me again. Now, without forgiveness, any contact with him leaves me frightened and wanting to run - and that is how I am MEANT to feel. This man is evil and he means me harm.
You see, that is what is the problem, it is the very essence of him that makes me not forgive him. When I said I was a very forgiving person, I wasn't just going on my own judgment. Son has before now said, 'Mum, sometimes I think you are TOO forgiving.' There was a recent drama because when I tried to clear the air with an ex-friend who had been spreading rumours about me, she graciously refused to admit that she had done anything wrong in either spreading the rumours or in ignoring me when I approached her to try to sort it out - and then lied about the whole incident afterwards, saying I had physically attacked her! In fairness, I would have if someone else hadn't intervened, but that was only because she was poking my chest like she was some badarse, and comprehensive girls don't let High School girls do that sort of thing with impugnity (she's bigly snobbish about schooling). I tell this story to show how I'm no slacker on the forgiveness front - the rumours were potentially very damaging - that I was a drug addict, which is, when I last checked, incompatible with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy's Code of Conduct, even if social services didn't get to hear about it (there is already a file on me and my son because of the domestic violence); the fact that I could easily disprove them wouldn't have stopped the inconvenience and stress of an investigation from either quarter. Yet despite this, I was the one who wanted to make things right.
The thing is, I find it easy to forgive, usually. Then when I do, it is complete forgiveness - I don't have a little list in the back of my mind of what people have done. The worst I do is remember what happened and beware of getting myself into that situation again with that person, but as far as the relationship goes, from my point of view the slate is clean and I feel about the person and treat them exactly as I did before. To me, once you have forgiven a person, it's like you have restored the previous version of Windows - everything goes back to how it was before.
Reason being, I can easily see why people do the things they do, I can understand how we all have faults and hang-ups and that usually people do not act out of malice. In a selfish way, I would hope that people would forgive me and understand why I would screw up, so I do that with others. Also, usually people are in my life because I value them, so to not fully forgive would be like having a crack in a beloved vase and constantly looking at the crack rather than the vase.
For many years I struggled to forgive my mother - we had a difficult relationship for reasons which I'll probably go into in a post one day. Then one day I realised that she was a product of her upbringing, and her dad and gran were products of their upbringing, and back and back ad infinitum. It wasn't her fault she was the way she was. She would never be the mother I needed, but she was trying to be her best. But for various accidents of fate, I'd be the same as her, so who was I to judge? I'm not actually sure this rationalisation is the truth, but I've found it is the only way I can live with her in my life, and now she has dementia, it really doesn't matter what the truth is, she can't change anything now. So that is one situation where I have forgiven for my own sake - and for hers, incidentally, as if she didn't have me she'd be stuck!
Steve himself would say he didn't know why I was friends with certain people because of things they had done to me. In his typical disordered way, he has never forgiven anyone in his life. He doesn't have to - to him, people are either wholly good or wholly bad, and it all depends on whether he approves of their last action related to him. It wouldn't matter that I had paid to take us on holiday, and had spent the whole week doing everything I could to make him happy. If I then spoke to someone while he was outside smoking, that made me a bad person who deserved to be beaten. It wouldn't matter that his sister gave him somewhere to live for six months; if she then refused to lend him £5 she was an evil cow, always had been, and he HAD to move out. Conversely, if she had been refusing to let him see her and her son for a year due to his addiction, if she then gave him her old iPod she immediately transformed into the salt of the earth, a really good girl.
This is part of the reason I can't forgive him. He isn't like other people. He hurts others not because he messes up, but because inside is a soul-less excuse for a personality. I've seen him transform into the devil himself, seen a reptilian persona slide over the mask of his human features. If I believed in demon possession, I'd believe I've seen it. Everthing he does is all about him, he has no genuine feelings for others. Not forgiving him is an act of self-protection and preservation.
Yet here are the definitions of forgiveness from Wikipaedia (I've looked at lots of other sites too, and they are very similar):
"renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offence, disagreement or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution."
"to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of offence or debt"
By those definitions, I have forgiven him. If I passed him in the street and he was on fire, I would piss on him. Well, I wouldn't, but I'd put him out. I have no thoughts of revenge any more. I bear him no malice in my heart. He has no place in my heart at all any more.
But wipe the slate clean? Oh no, never, not if I live to be a million years old, not even though it would most likely be a paper exercise as I doubt I will ever see him again.
Some people don't deserve my type of forgiveness. Which is a shame, because the only qualification is to be a person, not sub-human.