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.
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.