the best kind of supernatural

I’ve been volunteering at a local drug and alcohol treatment center twice a week for quite some time. So twice a week, unless I’m in the hospital or out of town unavoidably, I’m there no matter what. Tonight the group I addressed was very large and I did not have any of my helpers so I did a lot of talking. It’s a very odd feeling telling a group of people your very goriest stories. I wouldn’t do it at all except there are very, very good reasons for doing it (and no, not to be the center of attention, by the way).

I’m always struck by how circumspect the addicts and alcoholics in the rooms are. I think years ago I would have guessed a treatment center meeting would be rowdy and scary. Or lots of drool or lots of cussing. After logging hundreds of hours I can say every time I leave I am incredibly impressed with the people I meet. They are kind, considerate, intelligent. Weighing heavily in their psyche and their spirit are some of the events that got them there, and some of the behaviors they’ve participated in that still bring them shame. Many carry wounds and wrongs committed against them that are very grievous indeed.

I talk about forgiveness a great deal. There can be no fully-lived life without forgiveness. Unforgiveness is an anchor and a sickness, a terribly destructive force that eats at us like cancer, whether our anger is directed at supposed big or small events, whether against people we live with or those we hardly know or those who’ve died, whether regarding incidents peripheral or central to our lives.

I like to talk about nonforgiveness but then I usually assure people I am not there to lecture them about how or who to forgive. Not my business. I’m there to tell people that if they know they can’t forgive (including themselves), “Don’t Panic!” I’ve been there. And I can talk about what it was like, and what it’s like today. I laughed pretty hard tonight talking about a terrible thing my husband did to me once, a terrible thing that I used to think I would take to my grave. I laughed so hard I almost couldn’t tell the story for a minute. What some people will understand, and some won’t, is my laughter is a joy that I no longer live the way I used to, and my laughter is delight at the nature of forgiveness. Because I test it and find it intact every time. Like a flower you examine it from every angle and it remains pure and beautiful and perfect.

I used to believe there were things so terrible one couldn’t forgive them, but today I know forgiveness is possible and it’s one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever found. I share about it in case there is anyone else out there who knows how much their nonforgiveness hurts them, and is starting to want things to be different.

“You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness…” ― W. Paul Young, The Shack

the final form of love

(potential trigger warning as this post contains info about a hate crime/murder case)

A while back I viewed a documentary regarding the murder of a transgender woman (the Wikipedia article regarding the victim is – horrid, so I won’t link here). The movie was mostly about the “gay panic defense” and its implications in assault or fatal crimes against trans* people (talk about dehumanizing). Three men were brought to trial for this murder. During the course of trial, mistrial, and appeal two of these men appeared overcome with genuine remorse as the proceedings unfolded. Of the three there was one man who never expressed any such thing as far as I could tell. He remained remained remote and, to project my own reading, defiant to the end of the process – or at least the end of the documentary.

I don’t remember any of the pleas nor the severity of the charges against each man (I only know they were not all the same). Besides a lot of lawyers and legal people, the movie also showed a great deal of footage and interviews with the family of the murdered young woman. As can happen in these cases, the mother of the murdered woman became a huge legal advocate and has gone on to do so much for the law with regards to these cases and the horrid gay panic / trans panic defense. So, during this film one got to watch the mother grow, too. Despite her incredible strength and all that she learned, at the end of the documentary she expressed she was willing to meet with and talk to the two young men who’d expressed remorse and sorrow. She wasn’t willing to meet with the one who had not. Not that he had asked, as far as I know.

I found myself thinking about this a lot. Did the mother only find herself able to forgive those who expressed remorse? Or did she come to forgive the third man after the shock of the disappointing legal proceedings lessened?

Some people don’t forgive no matter what the offending party does or doesn’t do. Is it easier to forgive when there is some remorse expressed or a public record? Is it only possible to forgive if someone has apologized sincerely or well enough? Or if they’ve been incarcerated, punished, or killed in proportion to their crime or offense?

I don’t think so. I think forgiveness lies within our own power. I think it is accessible to every human being. We have to believe it is possible. We have to want it. Unfortunately, I think the latter needs to come before the former. That is why so many do not forgive. They do not have proof before they commit. Most importantly, they are not able to see, or willing to admit, how sick their unforgiveness makes them.

I know forgiveness is possible because I’ve seen other people do it under the most extraordinary circumstances.

I have been thinking of writing a book about forgiveness. It would be an independently punished work – of course. I see and hear a great deal about it every day and the subject is an immense one. I wouldn’t be able to write from any kind of professional perspective whatsoever, nor a religious or a scientific one. Usually when I start to go down the list of types-of-experts I am NOT, I start to think, “why should I even write about it?” And you may find this ridiculous, but I worry about trying to write about forgiveness. I worry that it smacks of pride to think I have anything worth saying – and that I will be punished somehow by having something horrible happen to someone I love. I can’t help it; I am to a degree superstitious.

Regardless I remain intrigued and think about forgiveness daily, lately. I am an expert on only one thing: my life’s experiences. I would like to help people if at all possible.