When Forgiveness Seems Impossible

I sat in Yom Kippur services struggling with an issue I’ve grappled with for several years now. As I looked at the faces of two people, I found it impossible to forgive them. With the gates closing, I could not reconcile the idea of forgiveness with their ongoing actions.

“Oh, God,” I prayed, “Forgive me, for I cannot find it in my heart to forgive them. I see that they are good people in some ways. I see that they have found it in their hearts to take in a nephew and to raise him as their own. I see that they tried to befriend me and mine at one time. But…” and then my mind goes to their other actions, the ones I judge so harshly. “How can I forgive them for bullying other people whenever they don’t get their way? How can I forgive them for calling on the legal system to try and force people to do what they want only to cause those people to lose their livelihoods, their homes, their peace of mind? How can I forgive the for placing fear in these people’s hearts and making them turn their attention away from doing what they love and toward simply defending themselves – and at great cost to themselves and to others?”

Each year, I receive no answer. Well, maybe that isn’t true. As I write these words I hear that Still Small Voice (God whispering in my ear), saying, “Forgive them anyway. You don’t have to condone their behavior, but forgive them anyway…for your own sake.” Ah…for my sake? This I somewhat understand. As long as I have so much energy attached to judging them and to feeling angry at them, I can’t move forward unattached to them.  My energy remains entangled with theirs.

Oh, my! I actually sold my house and moved away from them – at great cost – when it seemed their legal endeavors might become focused on my family – all so that I wouldn’t be in their energy at all! So, even at this late date, a day after Yom Kippur, I suppose I have to work on forgiving them for the damage they do in the world, the hurt they cause others.

I suppose I can put myself in their shoes: I know they think they are trying to do good in some cases. In one case, I know I was in the same situation just a few years earlier, and I  also felt the need to create change. I didn’t choose to sue anyone, but I was angry and upset. I handled the situation very differently, but I understand their frustration.  In others cases, they simply feel wronged and want to right that wrong. How many of us haven’t wanted to do the same, striking out when we feel hurt? I’ve done it myself, even hurting those I love most. So, yes, I can put myself in their shoes and understand why the do what they do. I don’t have to agree with their methods, but I can find compassion and understanding.

And in that way I can find some semblance of forgiveness and at last…maybe…let go. Energetically cut the ties.

Ah, that feels better. Even if I didn’t manage to do this bit of forgiveness during the Days of Awe, it’s a step in the right direction for the New Year and my new targets. One of the bull’s eyes I’d like to hit definitely involves practicing forgiveness – or actually forgiving – all year long.

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