“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
There was a time when I was ruthlessly cold and callously unforgiving. In a little black box hidden in the back of my mind I stored the details of every time I’d been wronged. The sin. The offender. The anger. The hate. The belief that I would never do anything like that to another person.
It was the worst during my teenage years. In addition to my normal teenage angst was an unseen layer of anger. Anger at my father for uprooting our family so many times. Anger at my father for marrying a woman who came in to our family with the grace of a wrecking ball. Anger at my mother for settling for an abusive husband who used her for everything he could. Anger at my father for his angry outbursts which he directed at me physically, the most notable of which was ripping a shirt off of my back that had been given to me my best friend I who I left behind when we moved from Atlanta. That shirt had been bought in Jerusalem, where his father owned two successful restaurants, and was left shredded in the aftermath of my father’s rage.
Somewhere along the line I began to let go of my anger. I wasn’t perpetually focused on all my slights, perceived or otherwise. To this day I don’t know if this was a conscious decision or just genetics taking over. Maybe I had gotten tired of being angry all the time and subconsciously decided enough was enough. Maybe my mother’s serene genes finally began to take hold. Maybe I finally realized harboring all that anger within was fruitless and destructive. I don’t know for certain.
Despite being saturated with anger no longer, I still had an unforgiving disposition. All it took was for someone to wrong me once and that was the end. My judgement of you as a person was harsh and merciless. If you lived your life in a way I didn’t approve of, I wouldn’t associate with you. You would be judged.
Of course, I didn’t realize at that time I behaved this way. I didn’t have anyone to point it out to me because I had alienated everyone. It became apparent when Superbitch began getting upset with me because I didn’t like any of her friends. I had judged all but one of them unworthy of my friendship or as people I didn’t want to associate with. I hadn’t met many of them and my opinions had been formed solely by the way she spoke about them. Most of them were promiscuous, and sluts by her own admission. I had a problem with that. I thought it was wrong. I had no respect for them. I guess these opinions were remnants of my religious upbringing, I don’t know. Frankly, she didn’t much like that they slept around either. The worst part of it all is that I never gave them a chance. I judged them on the words of Superbitch alone.
In the aftermath of my initial separation from Superbitch, I fell into unfathomable depths of depression. An episode of manic proportions which I hope to never experience again. I slowly recovered but my depression has been an unstable roller coaster ride since then. In my darkest times I have done the very same things for which I have so brutally judged others. I’ve slept around. I had a one night stand. I’ve hurt people. I’ve done things I swore I would never do. I desperately craved the attention I no longer received. I’m not proud of these things, but in having done them I’ve gained a new perspective. I realized that even the best of us make mistakes or will do things against our better judgement or character given the right (or wrong) circumstances. I’ve learned that there are two sides to every story.
Some people have forgiven me my sins in the past two years, and for that I am immeasurably grateful. Some people have not and they have judged me as I used to judge others. I have been judged harshly and had horrible things said about me. Some of those words cut me deeply and I still bear their bitter scars. My actions surely said otherwise, but I never set out to purposely hurt anyone. I was mired in selfishness and only ever stopped to consider myself, showing no forethought or concern for the feelings of others until it was too late.
Forgive and forget isn’t as simple as it sounds. Situations saturated with infinite shades of gray cannot so easily be reduced to black and white. While I have found a place in my heart to forgive the majority of the people who have wronged me, I cannot bring myself to forget those wrongs and I’m very conscious of them during any future dealings I may have with them. Life is too short to burn every bridge you cross. If you end up burning every bridge you’ll eventually find yourself with nowhere left to go. That is a predicament I hope to never find myself caught in again.
This post was inspired by today’s Daily Prompt.