I’m a very forgiving person, or at least that’s how I see myself. I love forgiving others – it makes me feel all magnanimous and mature. I usually let things go after only a very minor, a token bit of an apology or even none at all.
Except when I don’t. And now and then, something hurts me a lot, and it leaves me feeling vulnerable and a bit broken and then – then forgiveness is a bit more difficult. In fact, basically, I don’t.
For me, it’s around trust. I have a number of attributes that could put me on the autism spectrum, and one of the biggest is that when I communicate, I don’t do a lot of interpreting of body language, or context for meanings and shades of meaning. Even when I think I’ve done an amazing job of telling two feelings apart although the words said were the same, and share this astonishing discovery, I find people looking at me with this expression which says, “yes, pink and green are different, aren’t you brilliant?” As for feelings that are as close together as violet and magenta, there’s no way at all.
People should know that by now. People shouldn’t trick me by saying one thing and meaning another. People shouldn’t lie to me. I am cautious these days, and have safeties up, and places where I don’t trust. Sometimes, however, those places are entered by someone to whom I offer closeness. Then, they lie about something emotional. When they do, especially when I’ve put all of me – my heart and soul – into a relationship, and then I discover that I’ve been thinking pink whereas actually they’ve been saying green all along – well, my heart breaks. It doesn’t matter if the person is a parent or a child, a beloved or a friend – it’s just, it’s just – it’s insuperable, that’s what it is. I can’t take it, I can’t fathom it and I feel like joining the autistic people in my life, and screaming, “liars! You are all liars and should go to the fields of punishment immediately!” as one child I know has been wont to do.
Forgiving that – that blatant disregard for my difficulty, that placement of a stumbling block before the blind – that is brutally hard for me. Oh, I know. It’s a misunderstanding, for gosh sakes! It’s barely worth mentioning. No one died, or even got seriously hurt. It’s an attitude problem having to do mostly with MY attitude. But yet – it hurts, and I can’t forgive it, and the pain keeps coming back again and again. Oh, it’s not that I actually want anything bad to happen to that person – in fact, I pray daily for good things to anyone I’m feeling this way – all hot and bothered and resentful – towards. I mean, yes, the thought of “I hope someone makes you question the world and yourself and feel as hurt and sad and broken as you’ve made me.” comes into my head. I am not, however, a little kid, and do have the skill to tell myself what’s wrong with this approach.
So, I pray about it. I try to think of the people involved in positive circumstances and remember things they did for me or things we did together that were worthwhile. I remind myself that the misunderstanding is from my side as much as theirs, and I write and say and think words of forgiveness. Yet, in my heart is that knot, so difficult to untangle. This Elul, I own it. I say clearly, “I do not always forgive easily.” I accept that dark part of me. Right now, that’s where I am. With God’s help, may this month move me to a place where I can forgive the unintentional (and maybe, while protecting myself, even the intended) betrayals in my life.