Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Forgiveness Project

The Forgiveness Project

I have been reading many of the stories which are extraordinarily powerful and moving. The Forgiveness Project is a non-religious, non-political site.

Last week, I said that I could not forgive the man who raped me, but I also said that he was not my problem now and how once he was finally sentenced I was free of him. I also said that I had some compassion for him as I could see that he was a human being not a monster, and I don't want personal revenge.

I remember when I was in a pub and a friend of a friend passed me a piece of paper. It absolutely shocked me. It said 'We know the man who raped you and we can sort him out, tick if you want him a) beaten b) blinded c)...'

It had come from someone who was in prison with him, I think, I don't know, and had made its way to me. Or maybe it was just a joke, or was meant to cheer me up. I felt scared and sick and then kind of bemused. It was tempting for a moment, to think of this man's fate in my hands, to let the revenge fantasies flood in. But I flushed the paper down the toilet, feeling shakey. Then bought myself a stiff drink.

I wonder if that refusing to go there and seek revenge was forgiveness? It was a realisation that I absolutely did not want his blood on my hands, the thought sickened and frightened me, it made me feel contaminated, just thinking about it.

When I started writing about it, I connected the word 'forgiveness' with a particular religious position, and I am not a follower of a particular religion, and so I saw it as forced, which was why I said I did not forgive. But the more I read of these stories on the Forgiveness Project site, I think I misunderstood the word 'forgiveness'.

I wish there was another word for how I feel, but 'forgiveness' will have to do. So I will use it.

I think I have forgiven the rapist after all. And the suicide bombers I forgave straight away. I saw them as misguided fools. I felt sorry for their families. And they were dead, so what was there to forgive? There was nothing left of them to forgive.

Forgiving people does not take away the pain, but it takes you out of the cycle of revenge and hate and violence which just traps you in a dark, brutalised place. And what would be the point of surviving all this if I then stayed in a hell of my own making, consumed by dark fantasises of pain and death and revenge, tasting only bitterness, seeing only darkness, feeling only pain? Or numb, distant, shut down, frozen?

For me, that would be no kind of life. So if forgiveness means I walk away from all this stuff into the sunrise and let all the hate and anger go, then yes, I forgive, because I feel free, and alive when I do so, and I feel imprisoned and deadened if I don't.

Attack - numbness - disbelief - anger- pain - speaking out - acknowledging the pain - becoming vulnerable and letting myself be so - fighting to seeing justice served - letting it be everyone's problem not just mine - reaching out to people - letting go. That was the pattern, both times. It doesn't take the pain away, but it means I don't have to carry it about with me on my own, and it doesn't become the biggest thing , the only thing in my life.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgiveness for me means to KNOW that those who have hurt me are very screwed-up people. My first reaction is to want to avenge them, naturally, but my calmer intelligent response is to be as far away as I can possibly be from from them, my attackers. Anger is the instant natural response to being randomly attacked, but it isn't always the best thing to retaliate! Survival is our first instinct.........

December 04, 2005 11:08 pm  

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