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On Forgiving

January 07, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Family, Windy Cooler

All the Foolish Things in This World…

by Windy Cooler

My neighbors across the street lost their house to fire a few days ago and one, an elderly woman, lost her life. Two other neighbors have been displaced because we share walls in our neighborhood, and they share walls with the house that burnt. It took about 20 minutes for most of this to happen. Flames came from the roof. I was home with my six year old. It was horrible.

The following day news reporters came to interview the occupants of our court. What do we have to say? It was horrible? I refused to be interviewed because it felt like participating in tragedy porn to say anything. Other people came and took photos of the shell of a house, where our neighbor had died, on their cell phones. I have no idea why.

And then there is the part where most of the rest of us, people who are really quite close and live together well, did not truly know the people in the home that burnt. They were very quiet. We do not know how to help and the house is a daily reminder of this. There is helplessness in this and some grasping of a lesson and just pain, which varies from person to person.

Reading A Wrinkle in Time with Ob, my six year old, I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 1:27, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” The moral of the book Ob and I are reading, again and again, is of course, that love saves and love is growth and that love is a shared experience.

My task this New Year is forgiveness, as an expression of love, I have decided, for my shaming in love. As I re-read so much of my writing I have noticed this tone of confidence in my ability to love, a tone of always on the brink of new life, or growth, an end to strife. For example, read what I said about my divorce a year ago, six months ago. Catch me now on a bad day and hear some colorful language about the situation, my intense distress, my fears. Forgiving people who have hurt me, and in so forgiving myself for being weak, or for hurting them, because I have been through some process that I thought ended in mutual understanding, is a common theme in my struggle to love. I want to love. But, in some conflicts, I do not behave in a loving manner. Not when I am treated in a less than loving manner and the emotional stakes are high. And are not the stakes always high when you are open to love, actual love?

Sometimes, I have learned through hard experience, you just have to accept that you will never understand why this and why that, and that there will never be an appropriate apology, or maybe one that stays true and sticks, and no, you won’t turn into a butterfly and start all over like nothing ever happened, and other people will because amnesia often follows atrocity, but the only thing left to do is forgive. In the darkness even, so you, in all your completeness and memory can go on living. You turn the other cheek because the blow did not kill your humanity and you still own that head. You forgive because other people need you to and because you are whole and in the forgiveness you claim again yourself from a void. It is not the wisest, best way to live. It is not the same thing as shared love. But it is sometimes the only thing to do, in your confounded shame.

It is an act of redemption from the degradation you have suffered. It is not forgetting. I want to honor the relationships with people who have been important enough to put a few holes in me. Forgiving the holes, with or without the important person who put them there, always ends the same way: scar tissue. But scars are not open wounds and we live on, changed, but we live on, and that is the point. It is very hard to do otherwise and keep yourself whole.

Windy Cooler is a Contributing Author for New Clear Vision. A long-time organizer and former teenage-mother-welfare-queen, she writes about the emotional lives of homemakers and activists. She has two sons and lives in suburban DC. She blogs at windycooler.com, and can be reached at WindyCooler(at)gmail.com.

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