If you’ve read my blog over the past nearly six years, you know that I am loyal – fiercely loyal, in fact – to those who have been a positive influence in my life. I have always supported causes of conscience; organizations that have improved the world of humankind.
And in the same breath, if you have hurt me in any way, to the point where not even an afternoon of How It’s Made reruns can soothe away the pain and the anguish – then, from that moment, you are dead to me. I don’t care who you are. All I care is that your pain still burns through me like a branding iron on flesh.
And believe me, I’ve suffered at the hands of many. Abusive parents. Sadistic bullies. Passive-aggressive griefers. Online trolls with a soupçon of anonymity and a gallon of monitor courage.
It’s been tough. Sometimes I’ve found a way to channel that anger and pain into creative measures. Taking photographs in the dead of night, hoping that the chilly night would quick-freeze the emotional warts on my body. Driving a thousand miles from here to there, hyperfocusing my attention on the road ahead. My feet have soaked in the shores of the Bay of Fundy; my skin exposed to the chilly night air. Let the water and the wind temper my pain and my heartache and my torment.
And in that small section of my essence, that section where the pain is locked down and stored like gold in a bank vault, I will hold onto those pains. To remind me that there are horrible people in this world, people who will make themselves feel bigger by making you feel smaller.
Some time ago, a fellow TU blogger and I were talking about various things. Partway through the conversation, I mentioned that there was someone who had insulted me and made snide, rude, condescending, passive-aggressive, belittling, manipulative, slanderous, marginalizing, unwelcome comments about me, both online and in their blog.
“How long ago did this happen?” He asked me.
“Maybe about four, five years ago,” I replied.
“And you’re still angry at this person? Damn, Chuck, you hold a grudge like Khomeini.”
You know what? Maybe I do. But that’s my choice.
It’s been instilled in me since the day I was born.
So it came as a big surprise a couple of weeks ago, when someone contacted me through my personal e-mail account and asked for forgiveness.
This was tough for me. Tough for me to read, and tough for me to respond – and, for a while, I wasn’t sure I wanted to respond. What this person did to me was both hurtful and vicious and damaging. At point, the damage caused was almost enough for me to simply give up on everything. And by everything, I truly mean everything.
I’ve always operated on the premise that “forgiving” does not mean “forgetting.” Forgetting means that you’re permitting someone to repeat that damage upon you that they initially fostered.
That is a tough choice.
And in the end, though, I made a conscious decision. I hadn’t spoken to the person in years. And I really had no desire to speak to that person ever again.
And “forgiving them” wasn’t going to get me any closer to the gates of Heaven, just as not “forgiving them” would keep me farther away.
So I had to operate within what was going on with me.
And in that, I needed to break a chain.
A chain from my past.
As far as I was concerned, I had moved on from that person and the attacks and the pain and the sorrow. I already moved on from what that person had done to me. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever forget what happened… or that I totally understand the motivations behind the attacks in the first place.
But as the sun sets on our lives, I can’t let that damage consume my life any more.
So I wrote the person back. And in my response – in the final words I will ever say to that person, after recapping all the damage that I know happened (and that I know the person caused), I said these final words.
“I forgave you a long time ago.”
That is true. I can’t forgive everybody who ever hurt me – because, in most cases, I’m not healed from their woundings. But if I take the moments in my life and forgive them, one at a time, so that the forgiveness means more and isn’t just a blanket “I forgive you, let’s be friends” mantra, then I should be okay.
And believe me, I’m not looking to brag or trumpet this. Which is why I didn’t reveal the person’s name or what they did. But in truth, we all have that one “person” in our lives. We all have that one soul who caused us hurt and pain and trauma. And maybe they’re not personally asking for forgiveness at this point in time –
But if you have it in your heart to forgive them, do it within your heart. You don’t have to tell them you forgave them.
You just have to go on with your life as if that person can never hurt you ever, ever again.
I broke one of my chains on an unidentified day in a non-descript month.
Maybe I’ll break another chain tomorrow.
Maybe you’ll break one as well.
And if you do break that chain… just smile and know that life will get better.
And your soul will feel one chain-weight lighter.