We have a lot of concepts of what forgiveness is and how it’s supposed to be done. When I was out with my friends yesterday, I passed by a woman who reminded me of someone who hurt me deeply.
Back when I was in college, I had my first anxiety attack when I was presenting my writings in a class. The lady who triggered the anxiety attack showed no compassion towards me and thought that I would never become a good writer or amount to anything. I used to have nightmares of her and whenever I ran into her on campus, I either ran away or froze completely, waiting until she left the room in order to breathe again.
I’m not sure if the woman I saw last night was the same woman who caused my first anxiety attack or some doppelganger of hers but as I went home, I thought to myself “How would I feel if it actually was her?” The answer was “Nothing.” Never have I ever thought that feeling nothing towards a person would ever be a good thing, but in this scenario, it’s a major milestone.
I’ve mentioned before that when I venerated the relics of St. Maria Goretti, I said a prayer of forgiveness towards those who’ve hurt me and asked the saint to help me forgive myself as well.
There’s this song from Hamilton called “It’s Quiet Uptown.” Some of the lyrics in this song reminded me of how I felt when I was dealing with my anxiety, specifically the idea of dealing with and trying to do the unimaginable. One one of these unimaginable things is forgiveness. As Giles said in Buffy Season 2’s “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s-it’s… it’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.” And, of course, there’s also this song:
I used to dream of the day when I would be a successful, bestselling writer and finally get revenge on the woman who caused my first anxiety attack. But now, this peace that I feel, the fact that I can look her in the eye and feel absolutely nothing at all is better than revenge. It’s a release. It’s a new kind of strength. And it’s a very beautiful thing.
I know that for some of you, forgiveness seems like such an unimaginable concept. It’s a lot to work though, especially if someone hurts you so much, it damages your mind, heart and soul. It’s okay to feel angry, hurt, and afraid. But at some point, you need to let go of all of that. Forgiveness isn’t about pretending that nothing happened. It’s more like acknowledging that you’ve grown past that hurt and have healed from it. It means releasing the emotional power that the anger, hurt, and anxiety had over you. It also means that the person who caused that hurt can’t trigger that pain anymore.
Forgiveness is a process. I don’t know if I feel this same peace when I think about others who’ve hurt me, but I’ve already let go of at least two people who’ve caused me pain in the past. It will be a great day when I realize that I’ve let go of all that hurt. But for now, the fact that I’ve finally overcome one of my worst experiences is enough for me.