Forgiveness is a choice-Part 2 by Vibha Shetiya

It’s been over five years since I wrote the first part of this topic. A lot has happened since then; I have changed for the better or so I would like to believe, but I guess the real question is – have I changed my mind, my perspective on forgiveness? The answer is simple: No.

Why then did I even bother to write this post, you may ask. I guess I have gotten a better, deeper insight into why I continue to feel the way I did five years ago. Of course, even now I hear what philosophers have to say, and can understand, often even agree with, their arguments in favour of forgiveness: that forgiveness is not about setting someone else free; it is about setting yourself free.

But I’m still not ready.

In my earlier post I wrote about when is forgiveness exactly due, but in this one, I’d like to elaborate further, which I will in a bit. But before that, I believe forgiveness is due when the person who has been hurt by another is ready to forgive; perhaps for all the reasons I mentioned there she isn’t as yet ready – she is still hurting, she doesn’t think the apologies are genuine especially if the offences are repeated; maybe those who hurt you have now steered clear of you because of your “thin-skin” but continue playing mind games with you and with others. In other words, there are many variables, and forgiveness isn’t something that can be boiled down to one element and rushed into or forced upon someone.

Of course, I am writing from the perspective of the victim. But let us try to deconstruct the psyche of the perpetrator. First of all, I am not talking about making honest mistakes. We all have done and said inappropriate things, for which we have felt remorse, guilt, shame, sorrow. We try to correct those wrongs by realizing that our words and actions hurt someone else and hope to make amends. It is up to the recipient of your offenses to gauge the situation and decide to accept or reject your apology.

I am not, however, talking about such people or scenarios. I am talking about those who delight in hurting others. The smoother they are in their MO the more sociopathic the tendency. It is here that I pose the question – should such people even be forgiven especially if they are wont to repeat their offenses, and if they deliberately trespass upon others’ emotions? I think within such a scenario the act of repeated forgiveness loses its meaning.

Thus, while avoidance or ignorance is not always the best way to deal with such people, indeed, may not even be possible, it’s ok to still be angry. Perhaps the lesson is to not let that anger consume you for then you are only hurting yourself. But doing away with anger is not synonymous with forgiveness. While I have decided that such people are not worth expending emotions upon, they still are not worthy of my forgiveness. Does this mean I am holding on to anger or onto the person? I don’t think so. As long as I don’t let anger over come me, I am in a safe place.

Evil is evil. Reserve forgiveness for people who are capable of remorse – that too, only if you are ready to forgive – not for people who fortify themselves though hatred.

I now finally come to the reason as to why I am still not ready to forgive.

People have their own reasons as to why they cannot forgive. Or cannot “move on.” I admit it upsets me when I hear the phrase, “Forgiving will help you move on.” What if not forgiving is helping me move on. What if not forgiving helps me protect myself. The Dalai Lama says, “Know Thyself.” I know myself. At least I know that I am not good with boundaries. I know from experience that once I forgive, I won’t be able to compartmentalize things – I will become vulnerable once again, and will then literally put myself in harm’s way over and over again, and the healing process will have to reset itself every single time. Perhaps others might be better at setting boundaries, but I am not, and that is definitely one area I need to work on. But the point is, that is exactly why, I cannot, and probably should not, forgive some select people. Should not in order to protect myself.

Perhaps one day I will be able to forgive. But it will have to be an organic and holistic process. Just rushing through by fixing one part of the equation through forgiveness will only perpetuate the cycle of evil, and it is for that reason exactly, that I have chosen not to forgive some people, while I have finally forgiven myself for loving and trusting them, for failing to detect malevolence even when it was clear as a wolf’s snarl to others. In such cases, if I have to practice forgiveness, I choose to begin with forgiving myself.

Bio

Vibha Shetiya was born in India and raised in Zambia before moving back to India as a teenager. She has been living in the US since 1999. Vibha has degrees in journalism and religion and a Ph.D in Asian Cultures and Languages. She is an instructor at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of New Mexico.



Categories: Abuse of Power, forgiveness, General, Identity Construction, Power relations, trauma

Tags: ,

18 replies

  1. I’m dealing with the exact same issue. One is made to feel guilty for not forgiving, making the whole of one’s trauma all one’s own fault.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This is a critically important post – and these words take us to the root of the issue.

    “I am talking about those who delight in hurting others.”

    I wish it hadn’t taken most of my life to get it – that when people enjoy harming others there is absolutely no place for forgiveness. Some people really “get off” harming others – they get high from this behavior – feeling a sense of power – I have neighbors like this …

    I knew this 4th of July that they would bomb me with fireworks – made plans to go elsewhere and thwarted those attempts – leaving the moment I heard the first boom reclaiming my power in the process.

    Attempting to reconcile becomes another way to be mocked and ridiculed. Forgiveness needs to be reserved for those who genuinely regret their actions.

    Forgiveness if both parties aren’t creating the bridge to reconciliation becomes a cultural mandate that we don’t have to follow.

    And why is it that women are often pressured into this stupid behavior?????

    Forgiveness does NOT help us to move on unless it’s genuine – it turns us into more of a victim. Wish Carol was here to comment on this –

    Liked by 2 people

  3. we are all going to miss her indefinitely but keeping this blog going is a way to keep her with us –

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for this post. It reminds us all that forgiveness and, in fact, any process akin to it is such a personal experience. I have personally been trying to grapple with the concept of how do you let go when there is no personal justice, no apology, maybe even a continuing of bad behavior? I recently blogged about the Bill Cosby case. It is so multi-facted and tangled. Actually, his case isn’t but the survivors are left dangling in a horrific, tangled web.

    On my personal journey, I was abused by my father while my mother never acknowledged the abuse. I reached a turning point in my own life after they had both died. With everyone dead who even remembered my abuse, I realized that there was only one place on this whole earth where the battle of my abuse was still being fought and that was in my own body. I have a pretty small body for this gigantic battle and I no longer wanted to carry it. Its been about 3 years and I have let much of it go. Not all, I still self-mutilate at times which tells me I am harboring deep internal anger. And like an addiction, I feel I remain at risk for falling into abusive situations.

    There is truly no one answer that fits all. I admire and honor your courage and your willingness to face such pain head on. I love that you are working to forgive yourself! I support you wholeheartedly.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your support, Janet. I am so sorry you had to endure so much pain. Your strength, though, is amazing, and it is admirable how you have managed to let go of so much. As you say, there is no one answer that fits all. I want you to know that you are in my thoughts, and will always have my support. <3

      Liked by 1 person

  5. working to forgive ourselves is what’s important. That and getting the offenders out of one’s head/ thoughts – this took me a long time but I did it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for this heartfelt and profound post, Vibha. I feel as if you had managed to get inside my brain and write about what you found there.

    “What if not forgiving is helping me move on. What if not forgiving helps me protect myself”?

    Exactly. Once a man wronged me. The consequences for ME were lifelong. Not for him, however. Society will never punish him for what he did because society does not regard it as a crime.

    I don’t live my life consumed by anger about what happened 60 years ago. I live a normal life, a life that is fulfilling and happy in many ways. I am grateful for all the good things that have come to me.

    It would not benefit me to “forgive” him. It would make light of what he did, how he wronged me, how that affected my mental and emotional health. In my first four novels I wrote out the overwhelming mental and emotional pain I had experienced. I’m fine now, as I said, but from age 17 to age 45 my life was blighted.

    I will continue to believe that “forgiveness” was invented by men to get themselves off the hook with women. Many years ago I wrote him a stunning, sledgehammer letter (carefully not providing my address, of course). That is the only punishment he will ever receive. It gives me satisfaction to know he may have experienced something of the pain I experienced.

    Wishing Vibha and all here a good day.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Good point. Do the heroes (not heroines) in all our culture’s stories ever forgive? There is at least a preponderance of vanquishing the evil perpetrator or at least seeking revenge.

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    • Thank you for your comment. I had never thought of it before, but yes, perhaps this concept of forgiveness was invented by a man. And even though he may never experience a fraction of what you endured, I am glad you wrote to him – maybe it will fester within him some day. I’m sorry – I have absolutely no qualms about wishing ill on evil people. I’m not making anything up – as you sow so shall you reap (hopefully; frankly karma might be more baloney. Another justification for why evil happens – “you’re going through this because you must have committed some sin in the past.” BS)

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  7. Excellent post! There is one person I will never forgive: the woman who grabbed my father at my mother’s funeral in 1965. They had been old friends from high school, and she glommed onto my father and never let go. She was extremely controlling and selfish, and the first thing she did was alienate my mother’s whole family. We were all very close, but she tried to destroy that closeness. Then she alienated my brother and me. For 30+ years! When my brother came out of the closet, she decided “it” was contagious and refused to wash his clothes with theirs. That’s when my brother disappeared for 30 years. After our father died, she immediately married another elderly man; his family promptly had the marriage annulled. A few years later, I learned that the woman had died.

    We should never wish for the death of another person or be glad they died….but I’m glad she died because she was unforgiveable. She brought enormous pain to my family.

    Bright blessings to all of us who have such awful experiences with with awful, unforgiveable people.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow Barbara you have just given us another powerful story. We need to hear these stories over and over to help us get free of the forgiveness demon. – what garbage. And maybe forgiveness was created by some man! At least the fake kind that leaves us more victimized than ever.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Barbara, this woman reminds me of someone else who has played a large role in my life. No matter what, some people are not worth forgiveness. Yes, this whole forgiveness game is just that – another set of mind games.

      Like

  8. Well said. I have struggled with this too. So many of us have. I think the only person we should worry about forgiving is ourselves. Let the abuser be responsible for his/her own forgiveness. That’s a healthy boundary.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Part of the problem is that forgiveness is an economic or material concept, as in the phrase “debt forgiveness,” in which a creditor formally agrees to extinguish all or part of a debtor’s obligation.

    This concept is applied to human behavior — wrongly, in my opinion — as if a victim can or should somehow relieve a perpetrator of obligations or consequences. This is impossible because, in terms of karma, it is simply not in anyone’s power to spare others from the consequences of their actions forever throughout the cosmos.

    I think it was Mary Daly who pointed out that the whole justice system is predicated on this (mistaken) understanding of crime/harm as something to be resolved through economic mechanisms of debt forgiveness, repayment, and the material balancing of Justice’s scales.

    As an alternative to this economic concept of justice, Daly proposed Nemesis, a force of rebounding or echoing consequence which women create and become. I’m not sure I completely grasp the concept of Nemesis. But I know that if women just “let it go” every time we or others are wronged grievously, we will never discover any alternative to the unsatisfactory and ultimately victim-silencing system of justice that exists today.

    Like

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