Thursday, April 16, 2015


Because what good is forgiveness if it requires you to forgo feeling superior?
A better form of forgiveness comes from the recognition that people are free to make whatever choices they will and that in doing so, they don't owe us anything. But that's unsatisfying, perhaps because it feels weak and small. And so, instead we buy our own self-regard by seeking to put others down. And we tell ourselves that they deserve it.

When I talk to people, and I tell them that I haven't done anything such that anyone owes me anything in return, I am often accused of despair. Because, the reasoning goes, I should want to see myself as powerful, important and worthy. But these are not real things. Were a physicist to examine an atom from my body, they wouldn't describe it in terms of its importance, or worth, just as they wouldn't see it as privileged or marginalized. These are labels that we created, and we attach them to ourselves because they serve our purposes to do so. Usually.
The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
Mark Twain
One day, it dawned on me that the world was not the only thing that was here first. That was also true of everyone in it. Everyone I've ever met has, despite any differences between them, one thing in common - they had an understanding of themselves before they had an understanding of me. Simply, they were there first. And therefore, they have no debts to me. As a result, every bit of consideration, politeness, friendship or love that another person chooses to give to me is a gift, not an entitlement. If inconsideration, impoliteness, disdain or indifference better suit their purposes at that moment, then the gift is withheld. Such is the way of things. It is not the obligation of others to look out for my needs or wants. It's mine. If I can satisfy those things, wonderful. If not, then without a gift, I do without. Beggars cannot be choosers.

It can make for a life that is difficult and frightening. Or simply short. But I am already living on borrowed time. Death knows who I am and where to find me. She may be kicking it at Starbucks over a tall cup of something that I can't pronounce, but the clock is counting down. Eventually it will reach zero, and the world, as I understand it, will cease. And then, after a time, it will forget me, and it will go on as if I was never here. No-one has an obligation to change that.

And so I forgive. And forgiveness, too, is a gift. But not to others - to myself. Forgiveness may matter to someone who cares about what I think of them, but for a great majority of the world, that isn't the case. If I fume and stew in my own anger and impotence, they will never notice. So why wallow in something that does me no good? Better to brush it off, and go on.

No comments: