“It took years to realize I could acknowledge that a wrongdoer was doing their best, given their own context, AND that I had every right to move the anger I was holding from their actions. I thought that because I knew where they were coming from, it was not okay to acknowledge their impact. But it’s about holding both awarenesses at once. Maybe they were doing their best, but we still have to work through the effects.” ~Jeff Brown
Forgiveness does not come easily to me. I’ve talked before about my tendency to hold a grudge. Even though I can acknowledge that someone may have been doing the best they could with what they had, I still find it hard to forgive. When I came across this quote, I finally realized why.
I’ve always thought that if I acknowledge that someone was doing their best—which to my mind was an important part of what forgiveness was—then I had to give up any right to be angry about the impact their action had on me. In fact, I often felt that I could not even acknowledge that there was an impact, which felt horribly dishonest. Even more, it felt like self-betrayal.
This left me with a horrible choice. I could choose to forgive, which I had been taught was the right and the “Christian” thing to do, and in so doing betray myself. This tended to leave me with all the anger turned inward at the betrayal instead of outward at whatever had been done to me.
Or I could choose to honor my experience by not forgiving, which condemned me as a bad person causing me carry around both my unforgiveness and a self-loathing at what a bad person I was.
In each case, I managed to only further victimize myself in addition to whatever had been done to me. Either way, I tended to wind up believing that I must have deserved whatever had been done to me since I had proven myself not to be a good person. Learning more about ideas like the Law of Attraction have only made that tendency worse.
“The fox condemns the trap, not himself.” ~William Blake
Perhaps I need to learn to be more like a fox. The self-blame, self-betrayal, and self-loathing have not shown themselves to be even marginally helpful. In fact, in terms of the Law of Attraction, they are probably causing me to create more situations where I have things to forgive. However, if I can think like the fox and avoid the self-condemnation, I may be able to learn from the situation to find ways to avoid creating similar situations in the future without beating myself up for the situation I am currently in.
Even more importantly, if I can hold the awareness that someone may have been doing their best AND the awareness that whatever they did had a hurtful impact on me, it will be easier to let go of the grudge without betraying my own experience. I can let go of a need to punish the other person while at the same time focusing my attention on healing whatever wound they gave me.
After all, holding the grudge just keeps the wound open and bleeding; it doesn’t cause the other person any pain. I am the only one that continues to suffer. At the same time, by avoiding the self-betrayal and self-condemnation, I can instead focus my energy on healing and learning from the situation. Part of that learning may be that the other person cannot be trusted or that I can no longer allow them to be part of my life. And that’s a legitimate thing to learn and an appropriate form of self-protection.
But I think I can learn to hold both awarenesses at once. And in so doing, I may yet learn to be a fox.
It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of being a foxy lady …