I was raised to forgive men.
In a powerful mixture of words and actions doled out over my formative years, I was handed a few key points to help with the mandatory forgiveness process.
Here are three of them, in no particular order.
#1 Men are not responsible for their breaches.
Read that again, or rather, let me write this again: Men Are Not Responsible For Their Breaches. That one piece alone - apparently attributed to some genetic mystery - is enough to pre design the life a little-girl-then-young-woman-then-woman. The resulting tendrils sprouting from that one sentence feel so perilous I can barely look within to see where they have wrapped themselves around the past decades of my life.
#2 We The Women Must Never Ever Question a Man’s Integrity.
Doing so could uncover things that would hurt us, which would be silly since … well, #1. “I never looked in your dad’s pockets” was spoken at me with pride and with the tone one might use to pass on a chunk of beautiful life wisdom to one’s daughter. It turns out that for my mom to check pockets would have been a a puny and unnecessary act since my Dad, a special man in many other ways, was well aware of #1 and therefore way above hiding phone numbers in his pocket.
#3 A Woman Sticks By Her Man, No Matter What.
Doing otherwise would be a sign of weakness and therefore worthy of shame. This one was demonstrated over and over again. And again. And oh boy, have I sticked. I have sticked for years and through “breaches” like sexual assault, infidelity, vulgarity and profound unkindness towards other humans - that one having been possibly as difficult for me as rape.
I looked quite properly forgiving.
And yet. Did I really forgive?
Did I forgive or did I do whatever it took to look as though I did, because it was the right thing to do?
Three quarters of the way through Glennon Doyle’s book “Untamed,” some of her words jump out at me and I reach for my keyboard for some semi desperate self-exploration.
She writes: ”It is not kind to keep those we can’t forgive close to us and punish them forever.”
It hits me hard. I take my eyes off the page. I close the book. I breathe. I remember.
“Keep those we can’t forgive close to us and punish them forever.”
Damn. That’s what I have done.
That’s what I have done because I did not know what else to do, because I had no plan B and because I did not realize that I was indeed punishing others than myself.
I punished by maintaining a friendship out of duty, twenty years after The Breach.
I punished by continuing to share a home while withholding my heart (because you see, no one can see that)
I punished by sharing a bed while withholding my body.
I published by giving only a sliver of me and hoping that it would be enough to keep my pledge to #3.
I re-read the words in the book and I feel a little sick.
It’s hard to read about yourself and have no way to pretend you’re not.
There was this one time when I didn’t forgive and when I did not pretend to forgive.
Because that time, The Breach had not been directed straight at me, but rather at someone I love fiercely. When that happened, I threw #1 and #2 in the air and let the wind blow them far, far away. I then took a dull serrated knife and began the painful process of severing that relationship, one sawing motion at a time. A sharp machete would have been so much easier but I was not trained in this process and this was the only way I knew how to do it. It hurt like hell.
And it’s worth it.
Here’s what I have learned:
True forgiving brings us a sense of peace, of completion.
Made up forgiving, the kind where “we keep those we can’t forgive close to us and punish them forever,” is spiritually lethal.
I vow to never do this again.
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