Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Forgiveness Gone Wrong

Damaged inner child wolf
Anyone with a Facebook account knows that the way to heal any kind of family problem, social problem, or mental or emotional disorder is to practice forgiveness.

I've seen at least a dozen meaningful, moving forgiveness platitudes posted on the FB this week alone.

But what does forgiveness really mean?

Before I get into that, let me tell you a story about what it doesn't mean.

Back in the 90s, when I was an adjunct college teacher (roughly the equivalent of a McDonald's employee except you don't have to say "Would you like fries with that?") I was invited to attend a one-day retreat offered by the Women's Studies Department.

A Native American medicinal healer was going to be there. So was a famous Eastern European self-proclaimed feminist witch.

Since my academic mentor had strongly suggested I attend, I did.

It was a pleasant experience for the most part. We made some stuff out of clay. We did some meditative exercises.

Then, as we sat down together to eat a noon meal, the conversation wandered over to forgiveness, the super megavitamin of all non-traditional healing. Everyone seemed to feel pretty damned forgiving and lamented the fact that more people weren't as evolved as them.

At this point I was ready to leave but to do so at that moment would have been impolite so I kept chewing and not talking, hoping this would all end mercifully soon.

Someone brought up Hitler. Would you forgive Hitler?

Now here was a meaty New Age hypothetical if ever there was one (which there never was, just in case you were wondering).

After a bit of reflection it turned out everyone at the table would have forgiven Hitler. One person knew Hitler had had a crappy childhood. Another had read about his conflicted feelings about his Jewish ancestry. Still another suggested that if you can't forgive Hitler you can't forgive anyone.

At this point, against my academic self-interest (such as it was) I cried bullshit.

No one at that table had been in a death camp. No one was Jewish. It was no one's business there to forgive Hitler, because Hitler had not wronged any of them, except to maybe offend their ethereal sensibilities.

Everyone now turned their attention to helping me raise myself to a higher level of consciousness so I could forgive Hitler and heal the world, at which point I said, "Get off of me."

Weirdly, the Eastern European self-proclaimed feminist witch came to my defense, shutting everyone else up immediately.

"No, she's right," she said. "Hitler is in a different category. It's not a good topic."

By the way she was glaring at me, I knew she had no softness toward me as a person (later confirmed through a friend and also my mentor). I mean, I know a Madame Blavatsky bullshitter wannabe when I see one, having that kind of ancestry myself on my mother's side, and having seen one.

I didn't really care that she didn't like me.

So the fact that she stuck up for me in this crowd was a bit of a surprise.

Here's the thing: Human beings are capable of great atrocity. We all can access a darkness that is so deep it feels supernatural, whether or not it really is. The best you can do in such instances is turn away, laugh, focus on loving yourself and others.

Forgiveness?

It was a 'given', beforehand, that Hitler, having aligned himself with this Darkness would cause suffering and death beyond imagining. If we, imagining ourselves safe from harm and looking back at this transcendent evil feel moved to embrace the damaged child inside of a dangerous man who no longer exists in the flesh, does that help anyone?

Does it heal what happened?

No. It just feeds our own egos, which, by the way, are already way too good at giving us bad advice.

Sometimes, when faced with such Darkness, if you can summon the strength to turn away and heal yourself, and go on to live and love, that is enough. That, in fact, is amazing and heroic.

May you never have to experience this truth firsthand.

Many have, however.

You probably know more than few, and yet you don't know, because they remain silent.

I try to remember this, although I'm not always successful. Sometimes you open your mouth and your brain falls out.

Now that, as a person who has lost my mind many times, is something I can forgive.