Yep, you read that right, I’m going to talk about it. (cringe) It’s one of those words that every time I hear it I wince a little. I can’t help it. Why do I wince? Well for a lot of reasons but mostly because it makes me feel just a little bit uncomfortable.Yes,…. yes it does, the word “Forgive” makes me feel uncomfortable. * I have thought about writing about forgiveness for a long time, I have put it off for a long time. There are a lot of reasons I’ve waited…… But first let me tell you why this topic makes me uncomfortable;
Following the shooting at the school the media promptly shone a light on the topic of forgiveness. The father of the boy who had died in the shooting, altruistically and seemingly instantaneously announced that he had forgiven the shooter. At that time I think it may have helped some people be able to forgive the shooter and perhaps help in their healing process but for me this focus on forgiving came all too quickly. While others were talking about this miracle of forgiveness I was still in the throngs of intense overwhelming feelings that I could hardly make sense of. Days were swirling into each other, nights were long and full of fear. The idea of forgiving hadn’t even been a spark in my brain when it became the focus and the apparent catalyst to our heeling.
I was in a building across the street from the school, talking to an adult that I had gone to for direction when a reporter came into the building to ask some questions. The first thing she decided to talk about was…..yep, Forgiving. I don’t exactly remember the words she said but it was something like this, “Everyone seems so willing to forgive”. Well that’s all I heard because after that I quickly retreated into a separate room to……. cry. I felt like I had to leave because I didn’t want to answer her and I wasn’t going to lie. I left because if I had answered her it would have gone something like this, ” No, no, everyone is not. I for one am not ready or willing to forgive. I can’t even begin to think about it. Right now I can just think about trying to stay sane. I don’t like what has happened and is still happening to me, my friends, my family, my school, my community. I don’t forgive the shooter. Right now I hate him and I don’t think that is so bad. I think I am entitled to that. Now leave me alone.” I cried because I felt guilty for feeling the way I did, I felt ugly, I felt like I had all this pressure to do something that I didn’t want to do or even believe was possible to do so instantaneously.
It was shortly after this experience that I had a visit from an adult in a leadership position in the Church I attend. He came to see how I was doing and talk for a bit. He started to talk about forgiving but what he said didn’t make me want to run into another room and cry. He talked to me about forgiveness being a process, that it was something that I could take one step at a time. He said it was alright if I wasn’t ready to forgive right now but what mattered was that I wanted to at some point in time. He said that sometimes truly forgiving can take a long time and if it was something that I was working on even into the life after this one on earth it was okay. Suddenly the word forgive didn’t sound so awful, suddenly I didn’t feel so ugly. No I wasn’t ready to forgive but I knew that someday I would be ready to and I knew I wanted to.
Now I can say I have come to and beyond the point where I just want to forgive. I even think sometimes I have come as far as I can in the process of forgiving but as I look deep in my heart I can see that there is room for more. It really has been a process that has taken thought and healing, prayer and patience. I have also found that there were other people along the way that I had to forgive. People that I felt had treated me unfairly, been harsh, insensitive or cruel, people that let me down, people that dealt with it by pretending it didn’t happen. I have forgiven people who I blamed for not doing what I thought they should have to prevent the shooting. I have had to forgive myself and most surprisingly and much to my own disgust I found that I needed to forgive the father of the boy who had died in the shooting. I hate to admit it because it really shows how selfish and judgmental I had been. I didn’t believe he could forgive so easily and I resented him for being so willing to forgive, and I am ashamed to admit that. How could I judge how he was dealing with the death of a child? How could I judge what was in his heart? How could I even feel like I had something to forgive him for? How could I feel anything other than love and compassion for this person?
I have forgiven, and I have let go of things that I should have never taken offense to. I have learned a lot and grown a lot and hopefully matured a bit. I have come to understand that there isn’t one right way to grieve or cope and that everyone is just trying, trying to get better, trying to understand, trying to get by, and trying to help others and themselves and that can be tricky. I have realized that each person has a journey and that we can’t compare those journeys. I have had experiences that have challenged me and my way of thinking and experienced trials and sorrow that have broken the bitterness in my heart. I have learned to love more.
I still have days where I can feel the ugliness sneak back in, when I have a bad day and I think, “Why did you do this to me, to us? Why would you shoot someone?” and then I realize that forgiveness is a process that starts with a choice to forgive and sometimes I have to make that choice to forgive again and again as I continue in the process.
*Now, why I have waited to write about forgivness…. It is a touchy subject for me so I imagine it would be for others. It exposes a part of me that is less than ideal. I also question if I really have forgiven as much as I need to so there is an element of guilt. I don’t want to demonize anyone especially not the parents of the boy who died in the shooting, theirs is an anguish I can only hope to never fully understand and I have nothing but compassion for them now. I wish them peace and love and I will rejoice for them when that day comes that they are reunited with their son in the heavens above. *