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Friday, May 3, 2013

Forgiving?

One of my friends on Google+ posted a story today about forgiveness. The premise of this article was simply the question of whether we, as a society, have gone too far with forgiving others' actions. I have a whole bouquet of mixed emotions about forgiveness. My oldest sister once told me that according to the teachings of Judaism, there were two sins that humans were not able to pardon, those sins being murder and the abuse of a child. I do not know if this is correct, because it is not my religion, but I do know there are Jewish teachings that say God does not forgive offenses made against another person, only the person who is the recipient of the offense may forgive. With this in mind, only the murder victim could forgive their killer, and of course they cannot since they are deceased and can't be asked for forgiveness. Actually, that created another train of thought for me. If I have been hurt by another person and they do not ask my forgiveness, how can it be appropriate for me to give it to them? If I dole out absolution to someone who has no remorse or even a desire to make amends, have I essentially endorsed their behavior? Let me elaborate, please, to have this make more sense.

I want to warn you that the things I am about to share may seem brutal or shocking to some readers. I will certainly not take offense if you quit reading at this point. My father used to abuse his entire family. For years, one of the few clear memories I had of him was him walking from the kitchen into the dining room while doubling over his belt. Someone was going to take a beating. In 1966 the owners of the duplex where we lived in the North Side of Chicago sold their property. The six of us, my father, aged 52, my mother, aged 41, Margit, aged 16, John, aged 15, Liz, aged 13, and me, aged 7, moved into a two-bedroom apartment. In the early hours of the morning after we moved, my father brutally beat my mother's head with a hammer and left her for us to discover. She lived for two days. He spent less than five years in prison. 

My father never asked my forgiveness for the impact his actions had on me and the rest of the family. In fact, he tried to tell Liz in a telephone conversation that Mama had been unfaithful to him. As someone who spent a great deal of time with her, I can tell you that she was not. And even if she was, this brutal death couldn't possibly be justified. Wouldn't forgiving him just be telling him that what he did was okay? I am not sure. One of the things I experienced as a result of his actions was physical and emotional abuse. So here is what ties everything up neatly. I have been pressured by numerous people to forgive my father. I don't think I have the right to do so. And even if I did, I would not want to do so. Some of the same people also pressure me to contact and confront the person who abused me when I was a child. This is a dichotomy that makes absolutely no sense to me. But as I will not forgive my father, I will not confront my abuser. I have seen life/Karma/God exact payment for all the wrongs she did to me. In some ways, I suppose, the same happened to my father. He died alone, and none of us knew he was gone until some years later. 

Am I wrong not to forgive the people who wronged me in the worst ways? Neither one admitted to their sins, nor did they ask for my forgiveness. What is over is over, although I still bear the scars, mental, emotional, and physical, of the things that they did to me. My life has gone on. Some parts have been good, and some have been bad, but I am still here. Some people would say that not forgiving them lets them have power over me, but I disagree. I will ask your forgiveness though, my dear readers. I know I have dropped some heavy stuff on you this time. It's not my desire to give you a downer. I just wanted to share my meanderings on a very confusing subject, and I hope you'll forgive my self-indulgence.