The endeavor to forgive
How can you grow it into something that echoes with pain, never submits?
June 20, 2012 | 3:00 pm
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 3:15 pm)
By Andie Lyons
It’s a humid Tuesday night in Washington D.C. and I am far from home. My hotel room is small and while I’m not the type to keep secrets, I feel like crawling out of my skin – I just can’t live my life in the presence of a stranger. It’s an arrangement of pleasantries and one-dimensional conversation. And tonight, I need permission to live my life to its edges, uncensored, without worry what nuanced political opinions my roommate might have.
Because back at home, just blocks from the too-hot-too-small bungalow I shared with my partner and three dogs near Downtown Denver – in a city I love and a state I’ve called home my whole life – a debate about the validity of that life is raging. At some point in the evening, that debate will become a decision. In approximately seven hours, long after I have descended into a fitful sleep two time zones away, the Colorado Civil Union Act will be dead on the House floor, kept from passage by shenanigans and complex political maneuvering. There are a lot of people talking about the Bible, even though that particular book isn’t supposed to have anything to do with anything in that building. But that isn’t the problem; I like that book. The problem is that those people stole that book from everyone who has ever stood on the other side of a line in the sand. The problem is that book, three copies of which are housed in the too small too hot bungalow, tells me that the stealing is a transgression, but the hatred coursing through my veins is the greatest sin of all.
And so I pray:
Please forgive me for judging you, the multitudes with whom I share an identity but not an ideology. Please forgive me for judging myself. Forgive me even though I don’t deserve your forgiveness. Forgive me because it’s the only way out, it’s the only way through. Forgive yourselves, even if the thought of doing it makes your stomach clench tight knots. Forgive everyone who has ever wronged you. Do it even if you don’t mean it.
Forgiveness is the remitting of an offense – an offense that alienates us from each other, an offense that keeps us trapped so tightly in our own self-involved anger and resentment that we cannot see each other. An offense that has erected walls of fear, misunderstanding, trite answers to complex questions, alienation and loneliness.
Forgiveness is an almost-impossibility. It’s unreachable, just touching the tip of the tongue. Say it anyway. Say, “I forgive you.” Say, “I want your forgiveness.”
But be uncompromising, too. Demand accountability. Never let the sin of broken hearts and devastated worlds and scarred souls be removed or forgotten. Remit them; take them in and make them over, turn them into unforgettable lessons and avenues to something deeper and bigger. Forgive them. Own them. Make them yours and share them amongst yourselves. Give them new life.
In the midst of all that unfurling fucked-up judgment, in the face of half-hearted forgiveness, there is grace: An unmerited favor that we can give to each other and ourselves. Grace is illogical; you have to talk yourself into it. Rationalize it however you have to. Because nothing transformative ever came about through simple structures and making sense.
I’m not telling you to turn the other cheek. I’m not telling you to let your face get smashed in. I’m telling you that it will happen. But what will you do with that devastation? How can you grow it into something that echoes with pain, never submits? How can it become that new thing you know can exist?
If we want to survive we have to create grace, the gentle lullaby made from vicious pain and the deepest of struggle. Its softness, its sweetness, is not an easy one; it is ringed in multitudes of emotion. This is not the easy way out. It’s not the simple answer. It is a resting spot in the middle of hell; a place to lay our heads until we can keep going again.