“Everybody has their shit.” -Karen Stefano
The thing about forgiveness is, without it, we’d all be screwed.
Think about it for a minute, or for or a second, if you can.
Think about all those times you desperately needed forgiveness.
Or maybe, if you’ve been on the opposite side—the one who has heroically swallowed the hurt and damage done to you—think about why you’ve managed to keep your heart open for the criminal who did you all that harm.
Why did you?
Why forgive that ___hole when there are so many other more favorable options, like grudge-holding or homicide?
Forgiveness is a paradox, one that has baffled me most of my life.
So, yeah, sex is sexy, but forgiveness is mind-blowing.
It’s another F word that leaves me spinning.
Without forgiveness, we’d all be in tatters. We’d despise each other. Turn on each other. In the least, we’d throw plates, or shoes and live galaxies apart.
Without forgiveness, it would be impossible to co-exist.
For the record, forgiveness is a silent act of bravery. It’s the essence of humility, of subjugating oneself with no expectation of reward, or even, acknowledgement.
Forgiveness is so many things…
It’s saying, “You’re being a poor representation of a human being right now, but maybe it’s just this one—or two, or three times—and I can overlook your behavior because I see your essence, and that essence ultimately outweighs your temporary insanity.”
My wife has forgiven me for a host of sins. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, she loves me still. (Which, in turn, makes me love her even more.)
My son and daughter have forgiven me. (I’m often not the hero of their lives, as the storybooks write, but rather, the opposite.)
My best friends have—and still regularly do—forgive me for a multitude of offenses and felonies.
They literally pick me up when I’m falling down. They literally smile as I’m verbally assaulting them.
It’s as confounding as seeing a double rainbow. As astonishing as looking grace straight in the eye.
My wife, and kids, and best friends, they love me, even though I don’t deserve it whatsoever. Even though I’m often a fuck-up….
Yep, it astounds me.
It’s easy to hurt people. Even when you don’t mean to. Especially, when you don’t mean to.
One’s ego is typically the reason. (I know more. I know better. I’ve been to Harvard, Yale, graduated middle school. I have the right answer. Blah Blah Blah. Listen to me, damnit.)
We’re human. We’re insecure. We often try too hard—to be funny, charming, admirable. Or else we’re the opposite of those, and in doing so we hurt the ones most important to us.
To counter that, the forgivers of us employ mercy. We look the other way when we should be clocking a jackass in the jaw.
That’s the tipping point, learning if the ones we think love and care about us, love and care enough to forgive us?
Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. It all comes down to ego.
If we can set our ego aside, if we can identify with being human and infallible, then the sprout of forgiveness has the chance to take root and bloom.
It’s not easy to do this. It takes something akin to courage. Yet, forgiveness is what keeps us all on the same planet at the same time. Without it, we’d all be smug, but we’d also all be very much alone.
I’d like to think I’ve done my share of forgiving, whether it be big things or small things. Sometimes it’s actually the smaller, less damaging matters which are most difficult to grant absolution.
Recently, I was on a four-plus hour flight seated in the middle of three rows between the Loud Family. I don’t know their actual name, but I do know they were very (and I do mean very) LOUD.
The whole four-plus hours, they were extraordinarily LOUD. Every member of that family—from the two-year old literally climbing over the seats, to the grandparents and parents and cousins and sisters—was deafening. And they were also completely oblivious to their own garishness. In their minds, it was their airplane and the other 120 of us were merely being provided safe passage because the Loud Family was feeling benevolent that day.
Then I recalled some words of wisdom from a mentor of mine, Ann Lamott, who once said, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die.”
So, I hunkered down mentally. I used all the will power I could muster to keep from shouting right back at The Loud’s. I challenged myself to make it through five minutes, then five minutes more, then…
I didn’t want to drink rat poison. Heck, I wasn’t even looking to kill any rats (though I do hate rats.) I tried to recount all those times I was a rat myself, and yet someone forgave me. Did it make my flight any more bearable? No. But it got me through it without having to jab a pen through my eye.
Yeah, forgiveness is a phenomenon right up there with the big L word—love. Forgiveness keeps the world spinning. It allows people to coexistent without actual or metaphorical bloodshed. It saves us all, one flawed person at a time.