I grew up Catholic. My mom took my brother and me to church every Saturday — well — kind of religiously. Why Saturday? Isn’t it supposed to be Sunday? Yes, sure. However, technically Sunday is the first day of the week and so Saturday is the last day of the week, a day of rest and the Lord’s day. Also, Saturday mass is less crowded than Sunday mass, so it’s shorter and we’re in and out faster. What can I say? My mom was a very efficient Catholic.
Regardless of what day and time I went to church, I grew up hearing about forgiveness. There was confession, where the priest forgave you your sins, there was praying to saints and Mary who could intercede for you, and there was also praying straight to God, whichever of the three members of the Holy Trinity you decided to pray to, who you might ask for forgiveness. This isn’t meant to be a critique of the Catholic faith or my upbringing, but in some ways — even as an eight-year-old — I just felt, or even knew that someone saying, “You’re forgiven” didn’t really mean it was so. Really? Just like that? Forgiven?
I spent some time as a child, adolescent, and young adult thinking about forgiveness and what it actually is, but I didn’t have much to grab hold of, something concrete. Even when I’d watch 20/20 interviews with the mothers of murder victims — the poster people of forgiveness — saying, “I’ve come to forgive [so-and-so murderer] for what he’s done to [so-and-so victim],” I’d watch and still wonder. What exactly happened, inside that mother, inside her brain or her heart or her consciousness or her spirit or her I don’t know what, that determined she had undergone the process of forgiveness?
I meditate. I’ve been doing meditation and energy work for years now, and in that setting, some of the energy I’ve worked with is the energy of forgiveness. It even has a color. Gold. And I’d use it in meditations, work with others using it, and still not quite get it. What is forgiveness? What’s happening here?
And maybe this is all obvious to you, if you’ve listened more carefully in church than I have or watched 20/20 interviews more intently or really gotten it when you meditated, but it hasn’t been like that for me. I just never knew if I was going to be capable of understanding forgiveness, of having forgiveness, of performing the act of forgiveness towards someone else.
Then, when I was in the process of meeting my now-wife, I was hurt. I was really hurt deeply by someone I had considered a friend, even a best friend — if that even exists for adults. After coming out to her (even I didn’t quite know and accept that I was gay until I met my wife), and telling her about my new relationship, she stopped speaking to me, excluded me from her own wedding party without telling me (I only found out when I went onto her wedding website to RSVP and saw the wedding party and that I wasn’t in it), and then informed me the night before my own wedding that she wouldn’t be attending because — well — just because.
And initially I was angry, and then happy because I was married the next day, and then numb to feeling anything about her because I was busy being married and working and living life. But finally the dust settled. And I could feel a space, a hole, that she used to inhabit. And I realized, I’m hurt. I’m sad. And I’m also fucking pissed. I had not forgiven her — at all. And every time I saw her I would either want to pretty much stab a pencil through her eyeball — or on better days — I’d want to be friendly, supportive, caring (her engagement fell through and she was pretty devastated for a while) but there was an invisible wall there, something holding me back.
I could go on and on for another 25 paragraphs about all the internal processing I had about her, our friendship, about myself, but I won’t. I did realize, though, that in order to let myself heal, move on, and make truer, more meaningful, and lasting friendships, I’d have to let go — I’d have to forgive. And every time I see her different feelings are stirred up within me, but when the dust settles, I let go. I let go a little more and then a little more and then a little more. On an energetic level I thank her for being who she was to me when we were friends, and I let go. And the letting go creates a space, a new space, a different space. And in that space forgiveness resides.