Anger and Forgiveness

It has taken me 18 or so months to finally forgive once dear friends their carelessness with us after Gabriel's death. And that's what it was, not malice or meanness, just carelessness. It was a lack of thought and foresight, nothing more. Didn't understand what it was to be us, and couldn't/wouldn't/didn't learn. In its own way, it was apathy.

I have lived the hurt, when I think about the things these people did and did not do. About a year ago, Anna suggested I write down every single thing that they did to hurt us. Anna, was, as always, wise. Because mostly what I did was minimize the horrible things. I kept saying, ignoring all the pain in my heart, that what they did wasn't that bad, and they did try. And Anna didn't debate that they didn't try, but she also forced me to own up to the hurt. She forced me to own up to a powerful truth, in situations like mine: apathy is far more dangerous, more painful, more devastating than malice. If perfect is the enemy of the good, then our own comfortable lives can be the enemy of compassion. So, I wrote the list, from my place of discomfort.

And then I got angry.

I've spent a stupid amount of time angry. Disgusted with them. The "and you call yourself Christians, you are horrible, terrible people" type of anger. Anger I am embarrassed to tell you about. Oh, it's satisfying to think about all the things you would like to say, but you really do know that what you would say is unreasonable, and not fair. This is not your best self, or even your rational self, and you know that in anger you would blast them, forgetting what was good, losing that in the pain and hurt. You know you are being unreasonable. You are sinning.

It has been a constant struggle, this forgiveness. I believe that we chose to forgive. I forgive because I am commanded to. I am reminded that I am fallen and have been forgiven much. Realistically, I forgive because at least the rational part of me accepts that it hurts me more to hold on to anger than it does to let it go. I don't get back at anyone while I nurse a grudge. I rip and tear my own heart apart.

But mostly, when I think back to Anna's list, what hurt was when they placed their children, their family, their needs and wants and lives above our hurt. When they made us deal with their kids, because they couldn't be any other way, because they couldn't leave their identity as parents behind, and simply be our friends. What hurt is when they spoke without thinking, acted without pause. When they sacrificed the cause of compassion for ease. When they did things to make it easy for themselves, and harder for us. When they stomped into painful, broken space and they did not stop to care.

On a deeper level, what hurt was that we expected so much more. What rips and tears is that they were not the people we thought they were.

And finally, I realized a terrible and powerful thing: this was who they were, and this was the only way they could be. I might wish them more compassionate, I might have expected them to be more merciful, I might have wanted more care and concern, but they did the best they could. And whatever I might think of their best, they did theirs. And I guess in the continuing process of learning, I have learned about what not to do.

And finally, between those two realizations, some 21 months later, I have learned enough to forgive.

and, please God, enough to do better for others.