In January of 2014, Sarah Christmyer wrote:
"We can forgive others because God forgave us, and for the same reason it is our duty to forgive others."
I revisited her blog post over the weekend, not just because I have to forgive both the Arizona Cardinals for killing my Niners, or because I have to forgive the big dumb owner of my favorite football team for leaving us in such dire straits to face the upcoming game against the Packers. Both of those things I must find in my heart to forgive and, as tough as it might be, I will forgive them. Besides, hope springs eternal in the heart of the Forty-Niner Faithful. The season ain't over until it's over, right?
No, I looked at her writings again ( http://biblestudyforcatholics.com/forgiveness/) because I wanted a refresher course.
I have what can be referred to as a pretty active "Forgetter". I can forget the wrongs I have done others and focus only on what has been done 'to me', This satisfying but unproductive (and sinful) behavior leads no where, unless left unchecked...then it can lead to hell. And quite frankly, I spent most of my 20's and some of my 30's actively pursuing entrance into that state of being. I do not want to go back to that, ever, and so am willing (after some false starts) to forgive that which is 'done to me'.
I think the saddest part of having the "Active Forgetter" is the inability to remember what I have done to hurt others. It makes it terribly possible to repeat the action, even though my intentions are not to hurt, and then surprise the heck out of me when someone is angry.
I am often reminded by my Spiritual Director that this condition of mine, this Emotional Amnesia, is not restricted to me, or to adults or to Alcoholics in Recovery (that ofttimes regarded sacred class of person). In fact, my Active Forgetter makes me a pretty normal human being. I have never, in all honestly, met anyone who has not repeated hurtful things again and again and again. I have, however, met lots of people who pretend they never do that, thereby firmly planting themselves in the Soil of Discontent and Anger. They have not empathy, no realistic view of themselves.
Most of the people I meet like this are in my 12 Step Program. It is often said as an aside that the worst person in the world to make a 9th step amends to is another sober drunk - they will dissect and examine everything you bring them and pronounce, from on high and for your own good, why what you have done is not right and they cannot accept it. I have had this done to me and, I am ashamed to say, I have done it to others. While I cannot speak to why it was done to me (for all I know I did not do it right and they really were concerned with my well being) I know that when I did it, it was because I did not feel the person speaking to me had a real grasp of how much their actions had hurt. They did not seem sorry enough, by golly, so I was gonna 'help them'.
uh huh. No...
Today, the Monday after Pope-A-Looza, I am reflecting on the idea of forgiveness. I think about how difficult it has been for me to forgive the stuff done to me and I am reminded that those people who have decided to vilify Holy Mother Church (Ann Coulter) need to be forgiven rather than attacked. And while I can still have some Monty Python type chuckles over the far right (Ann Coulter) leaping into bed with the far left (most people who think His Holiness 'sanctified oppression' and other such nonsense) in an effort to unite anti-Catholic Rhetoric, I must remember that I am called to forgive these people.
The fact that they represent the worst of my country and always have - the bullies and the waspy elitism that keeps people like me on the outside looking in - doesn't matter.
The fact that one side attacks post-abortive women as 'selfish' rather than looking at the conditions that caused us to do the most unnatural thing in the world (kill our own children) rather than take responsibility for the life we created,
I am struck, again, at how my inability to forgive has shaped my life. If only I had learned the lesson earlier, the lesson that Love tries so hard to impart, that human beings are weak. There is not one of them who will not disappoint or err - and if they are a normal human being, it will happen again and again. My job, as a Catholic, is to continue to forgive and give them another chance. It is to evaluate them and ask, "How has my behavior over the years mimicked what I am seeing now? Was I forgiven? Was I forgiven again and again?" The answer, if I am to be honest, will always be "Yes and Yes, I was" because those who have remained a constant in my life have done just that - forgiven me, again and again.
I am not advocating this for everyone. I made my choice years ago to walk a certain spiritual path. It is a stony, rock fill road upon which I treat. It is not for everyone and I get it. I also get why, for so many, the tough hike that is Christianity can be so overwhelming that the theology will be changed to make it easier. Maybe only walk half way, or maybe only think about walking.....that is enough, these people will claim, to get you in to heaven.
I walk with beauty and Truth....and I will keep trying. Every time I stumble, I will get up and try again.
You are welcome to join me if you like!