by John Greenleaf Whittier
My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!
* * * * *
It was the pain. I remember it very well. It was fresh and new and it reeked of broken dreams. I remember my first betrayal and I remember each face that it came with. It came with young girls and sugar coated lies. It came with passive aggressive friends and egotistic games. The perfume of heartbreak seemed to serenade my entire existence at the time and although I knew best to take the higher road, that road felt lowly to the power of the opposite force taking over. I felt alone and I felt betrayed. I often found myself feeling more betrayed by what I valued than to what others did. Like my belief in goodness and love held no match to that other force. Beliefs did not keep my heart from feeling the blows.
Until one day I realized that the right thing will always be the right thing. And I cared more about the right than about the pain. Pain in its true form is a temporary state, acute none the less, but it passes through you like any other affliction. Pain like rain is here and then gone. It's remarkable how minds are so powerful they can take the storm with them wherever they go. Time may pass but we can still carry that pain. It gets heavy, probably as heavy as clouds must feel right before they let the rain drops sky dive. But we go through life heavy. In denial of the pain, we call it a defense.
I have often failed to forgive in its most idealistic form of execution. I have a signature move, its called forgive the event but not the person. Oh how I love to resort to this time after time. I find myself feeling proud and intoxicated by my glorious execution of forgiveness. I pat myself on the back and envision how Jesus, Gandhi and Mother Teresa are rejoicing somewhere enjoying non-alcoholic pina coladas and cheering me on. I gladly accept this imaginary situation as completely plausible and move on.
I forgive the event in the sense that I don't carry it with me. It doesn't define me. It only teaches me. I don't repeat the event, I don't relive it with others. I let go of the negativity of the event and take the goodness that followed. Of course this takes time, this takes looking at yourself with love, this takes control and it takes a big open heart. None of these things are easy. But they are actions I aspire to perfect. I hope others aspire to some form of this as well.
But forgiveness is not some detachment. This is what I have and still carry with me to this day, a detachment. I look upon those people that have wronged me and often see no human aspects. I see them void of a personality and I try my best to even forget they have feelings of any sort, my mission instead of wishing them well is forgetting they exist. I try to not face them, and I think this is in fear of the pain. What pain? Some illogical pain my neurosis has conjured up. I mean, what pain can my ex-best friend from 5th grade possibly bring me?
And so it seems that yours truly develops grudges. Not ill wishing grudges (OK fine sometimes they are ill wishing), but grudges that forget the human aspect. The fact that one should be thankful for those heartbreaks and that those heartbreaks came from people. People like you and me, people with problems, people with sad hearts and pain. Your heartaches came from people who have yet not grown to see the world as a whole, people who live only for themselves. Your sadness came from someone who did not know what to do with all his anger and placed it upon you.
Forgetting their faces means not realizing we are all headed in the same direction, a cozy little hole about six feet deep. I have recently been a total bitch with people who have tried to reconnect with me. I have been a snobby little elementary school girl all over again, in the name of keeping the memory of someones wrongs alive. In the name of forever making them relive their mistakes I have insisted on being rude, instead of open and happy for their internal growth (whatever, hopefully, that might be).
We all make mistakes and we all sometimes (even subconsciously) do things intentionally that manufactures someones pain. If I have to be the first one to admit it, I will. I have hurt people purposely. With a shitty comment and with a sarcastic joke, I have hurt people. If you must know, some things I am not brave enough to type (in anticipation to hate mail). I try to envision how I would feel if every time I saw someone I knew they just reminded me of my short comings (from " X " years ago!). I try to understand how some people don't need you to be their friends, they just need your support in forgiving themselves.
We are all terminally ill on this ride called life. You and that girl who started that rumor about you in high school will die one day. You and that guy who slept with your best friend (and your ex-best friend) will eventually meet the same ends. Its incredibly foolish to limit your kindness in this world. Everything that has happened has passed and is no longer taking place except in your mind. Let it go. I am not saying drop it all today but to aim honestly at letting it go with time. What is the point of being on this terminal track only to take with you the bad stuff. I say start collecting goodness, be kind, try your best. I will try with you.
And man I wont even get into the subject of forgiving yourself because that's a whole other ball park. But I do know that forgiveness in itself is internal and external and ultimately the effects are universal.