In this third segment of the story, some thoughts on forgiveness:
The questions of forgiveness continue to bang around for answers within me. Who deserves forgiveness? Who desires it? What purpose does forgiveness serve? And who benefits from it? The truth for me is this: My daughter needed me present (at least by video conference) to bestow a forgiveness that I no longer need. I did not realize it until she unttered the words. I wonder if she even asked herself if I wanted to be forgiven? Do we ever ask ourselves if the ones who have hurt us desire our forgiveness or do we just assume they must want that from us? I had not considered this question until her pronouncement was spoken.
Time and hard work have done the job of opening the door to growth for me to a point that whether or not my children forgive me for my mistakes and bad choices with them is no longer essential to my well-being. Our conversation needed to be about her and I was able to give her that, even though I felt wounded and sad as her words and emotions landed on my heart. I understand now that what my daughter was saying was really less about me and more about her trying to make peace with her own pain. That is right and good. We cannot move forward until we can make that peace. Perhaps our conversation opened the way for her. I hope it does because all said and done I want for her what I’ve always wanted for all of my children–a life of goodness and love.
What is important to me in this is how I have owned those damaged places in my relationships with my children and those harms that I have done. I do not desire my daughter’s or my other children’s forgiveness anymore. This is not to say that I do not want the love of any of my children. I crave it, but I understand that having it is not up to me. I have also learned that loving someone does not require that they love you in the same way or even love you at all. Love is a gift, not a transaction. Give it freely or not at all.
This is also not to say that I do not love my daughter or my other children. Love drives my actions with them each moment. Here is another thing I’ve learned about love. It is not always a sweet and soft thing. The radical self-love I have embraced is one in which even the people I deeply care for and about must respect the boundaries that I have set to keep me safe and happy and centered. What that means is that I have had to close the doors of access and communication with people who have repeatedly breached those fences. I live with the heartache of my children on the other side of that door. Whether or not that door remains closed is entirely up to them. I am not willing to supplicate the sacredness of my life to their pain anymore. Though I could not model this self-love when they were small, I choose to model it now. It means that loving people doesn’t allow them to do me harm. Choosing to heal the monster in me means that I choose to break the circular rhythm of wounding that began in our Ancestral DNA so long ago. I choose to end it by setting, at last, healthy boundaries for how I move in relationships with others.
There is a monster in all of us. No human is above this. We don’t get to escape from the parts of ourselves that are broken. Becoming whole requires that we recognize and deal with the ways our broken and damaged places have caused havoc, harm and pain to others. It is a process of lifelong commitment to uncovering what we, by nature and by socialization, keep hidden from ourselves. White people do this all the time. It is how you are able to NOT SEE how you participate in white supremacy. As humans, we are wired to move away from the painful and seek the reward of pleasure. White supremacy is a system that incorporates our deep desire to avoid pain so that our compliance and complicity with the system is ensured.
I ask white people in social justice spaces directly, “Are you willing and able to own your part, to take responsibility for your complicity, the harm you have done?” I’ve been shut out of many spaces with white people for simply asking this question in various ways. That’s ok. I am still asking the question and I will not be silenced. White people, are you ready to look at your own monsters? Are you ready to heal them?
Next Week, Even Monsters Need Flowers, Conclusion