Looking for forgiveness (and not finding it)

I have had a lot of sh*tty things happen to me in the past year and a half, and it’s really shaken (probably more like shattered) the faith I used to have in the goodness of humanity. In particular, I look at the behaviour of a couple of people who were in positions to exert considerable power over me. This behaviour is probably best described as cruel, and it has significantly impacted both my current circumstances and my ability to move beyond those circumstances. It profoundly disgusts me that people in positions of power can and do conduct themselves in such a manner, and I believe it reflects fundamental problems on a broader scale. However that is beyond the scope of this post.

“When a deep injury is done to us we never heal until we forgive.” — Nelson Mandela

Throughout this current depressive episode, which has lasted more than a year and been resistant to treatment, I have given a lot of thought to what it might take for me to get well again. People far wiser than I am have spoken about the importance of forgiveness, so occasionally I ponder this, and ask myself how, or if, I would be able to forgive. And no matter how often I think about it, I keep drawing a blank.

“Forgiveness is how we put a stop to anger, ill-will and a desire for revenge” — His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In some of my darkest moments, I have contemplated a scenario where I was driving down the street, and a certain person happened to be crossing the road, and accidentally/on-purpose… Well, let’s just leave it at that; I am not a violent person by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a nasty, vengeful part of me that wishes the people who directly contributed to so much suffering on my part could get a little payback.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe the problem is that I am not strong enough to forgive. I am not the bigger person; I’m the little person that my depression has made me. This isn’t the person I used to be, but now I am easily irritated and really do not like most people. It feels as though forgiveness would involve climbing to a new height, and I’m wearing flip flops rather than climbing shoes.

“Practicing forgiveness does not mean accepting wrong doing.” — His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The past and future are both painful directions to look in, so I try to just focus on one day at a time. In some ways that’s a good thing, but it’s perhaps not the most useful as a coping mechanism to deal with uncertainty or unwillingness around forgiveness. If I’m truly honest with myself, probably less is uncertainty, and more is unwillingness. It’s as if by forgiving that would somehow condones the behaviour. As if in some twisted way I would be betraying myself by forgiving. I know it’s not logical or reasonable, but there you have it.

There is another factor that has started bubbling up in my mind recently. I grew up in an atheist household. The only religious services I’ve ever attended have been in foreign languages while travelling overseas. I have long had concerns over the unspeakable ills that have been done for many, many years supposedly in the name of organized religion. And yet… Religion makes a regular appearance in a number of the blogs that I read regularly, and this has provided some interesting food for thought. I’ve been reminded of the deeply powerful and positive role that religion can play, as a source of strength, hope, and meaning. Is faith a missing piece of the puzzle in the search for forgiveness?

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins — Mark 11:25

I’m the first to admit I have spent very little time looking at the bible, and I found the above passage courtesy of Google, but I wonder, is it easier to find motivation to forgive if there’s something in it for you? Of course that’s not the intended biblical meaning, and there’s something “in it for me” regardless of how I might find forgiveness, but sometimes a little extrinsic motivation can be useful when the intrinsic motivation just isn’t coming.

Perhaps faith in a higher power can act as a beacon to guide the way along difficult journeys. I certainly feel like I could use at least a signpost some of the time. While I’m unlikely to let go of my concerns with organized religion anytime soon, maybe it really is time for some soul-searching to see if there’s some sort of higher power/purpose/meaning, whatever that may be, that could allow me to move beyond whatever it is that’s holding me back, and find the strength to forgive.

Originally published at mentalhealthathome.wordpress.com on December 21, 2017.

Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle | mentalhealthathome.org