Cuts, Forks in the Road and Forgiveness

“He’s not happy until he’s not happy.” Some people fit that description, it seems. Glass half-empty, miserable creature or maybe just plain a misanthrope—there are numerous terms that can be used. Whatever the case, it seems that there will always be those who find the most comfort when they surround themselves with negative thoughts and attitudes, nursing each injury, every slight, all the losses.

Is that how they seek comfort? Yes, there is this thing about the familiar. Whatever one is used to, deplorable as it may be, tends to bring its own measure of reassurance. But comfort in misery? Perhaps it stems from a generally uncertain, pessimistic attitude toward life. Yes, there are many who have come to a place where they never truly expect to succeed; often through no great fault of their own, mind you. Self-centered or otherwise dysfunctional parents, tragic circumstances or just plain bad lives—all of these can contribute to an overall pattern. When failure occurs, it is not unexpected, but, instead  serves to confirm what the individual already feared, “I do not measure up.”

———–

I see him, young, strong and confident; ready to face whatever life brought before him. Initial success, yes, but then, one by one the cuts came. A small one here, left untended; did not heal, then another, and another. Each time his response was to focus on the harm, not the healing; each wound left to sit and fester. No thought for reconciliation, no chance for the affronts to mend. Bit by bit, he, once so strong, so vital, was brought low.

Finally all that was left was a pitiful shell of its former self. The memories of that former life remained, almost enshrined; idealized. Every thought was for the person he could have been and every emotion tended towards self-pity at the injustices wrought on him by the self-serving others who had so callously picked, piece by piece, at his birthright. To others he had become unrecognizable— a broken, dejected shadow of a being, barely self-sufficient, still aching for imagined glory, yet bitter at the uncaring world that had so mistreated him.

It could be any of us. You know that saying, the ones that starts, “there but for the grace of …”

——-

Some years ago I was in danger of becoming that person. Twice in as many years I had been denied opportunities for significant advancement; things for which I earnestly believed I’d deserved. Alas—for me, that is—those with whom the responsibility for decision-making lay felt otherwise. Two solid blows, I had not recovered from the first and, frankly, the second set me reeling. I swayed and wobbled emotionally. Work, once a joy, felt, for a while at least, almost pointless. It was as if I were merely a puppet whose strings were under the guidance of others. I was no longer an active agent in my own professional life.

At least that’s how I perceived it for a while.

Thankfully it was a brief one.

One day I found myself in a friend’s office, taking, as was our fashion, about this and that, mostly about education. Somehow the conversation come round to the adversity we all face in our professional lives and at some point I found myself listening intently as he spoke to me of the many people he’d worked with in his life and how they’d all struggled on a regular basis. Some thrived on it. My friend Elke would recognize those individuals as antifragile; gaining strength in the face of hardship. Others were resilient, standing firm against all that came before them. Still others, though, were beaten down, never seeming to be able to recover from injuries. They dwelled on them, moped, nursed grudges, and over time, turned increasingly negative.

You know how it happens. Every so often someone speaks and your inner voice yells, “hey—this pertains to me.” Time slows down, the distractions melt away leaving just a simple platonic form of just what happens to be the single great truth for that time and space. There it was: a three-way fork in the road. Which path did I wish to go down: Antifragility, Resilience or Negativity?

————

Forgiveness, a term often misunderstood and, thus, so rare in its purest form.

Some years back I had a brief conversation with a former student, an exchange that I have since come back and revisited in my mind time and again. He’d not had an easy time of it as a child. His dad had died tragically when he was in high school and his mom had turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism—or maybe it just got worse. His adolescence was marked, more than anything else, by the circumstances than had ensued as a result. Christmases and birthdays were not celebrated. His Mom had not gone to his high school graduation. Rather than being nurtured he’d been more of a survivor, working hard to achieve good grades while, at the same time, serving as ersatz caregiver to an alcoholic adult who also resided in his house. As he grew older he distanced himself from her—his own coping mechanism. He’d pursued a career in business and, through dedicated effort, found financial and professional success.

I used to run into him from time to time and we’d stop and talk. Each time, though, the conversation would drift back to his high school years and the old scars would reveal themselves: a bitter memory of an unmarked occasion here, an unkind deed there, each time stripping away the veneer of professionalism and success and revealing the deeply wounded child beneath.

Just before he moved away west to start a new career we met for coffee. Once again the conversation began to take on that old familiar bitter tone.

I interrupted, “You have to forgive her.”

“What? After all that she’s done? How could I? She does not deserve it!”

I simply replied, “You cannot move on until you do that.” That’s more or less where we left it.

Much time has passed since that brief chat and there’s been plenty of opportunity to reflect, and perhaps better expand on what I really had in mind that day when I urged my former student to forgive his mom. In my way of seeing it (which is by no means the only way) forgiveness is an act of letting go of a hurt that was inflicted in the past. You are not absolving the offender of any wrongdoing—that’s something they need to do for themselves; make it right and seek atonement, but that’s another matter entirely. What you are doing instead is freeing yourself from the burden of pain that was inflicted on you, saying “this will no longer injure me. It no longer has me under its power. I can heal now.”

It’s has not come up since. His mom has passed away and he continues to find success in his chosen field. He’s been back home a few times but we have not had the chance to revisit the subject. Has he forgiven her? That’s his business.

———–

For me, though the previously mentioned conversation in my friend’s office made a world of difference. I did not want to be that person who refused to thrive and so, over time my perspective changed. Instead of seeing the failures as slights I instead accepted them for what they were: decisions; done deeds. I reassessed, reframed and began moving ahead with a new plan. Forgiveness, at least in that case, is working just fine.

And, yes, this does come across as rather selfish, entitled, maybe even “sooky.” Acknowledged. But that’s how it is when we hurt. It’s all about perception, about how the message is received, not how it was transmitted. It’s easy to see, now, that no ill will went into the decisions that so negatively impacted me but, at the time, that’s not how it felt and that made all the difference. It therefore took an act of forgiveness to free the impasse and allow me to move on to better things and, just as importantly, to be able to reframe the past events for what they really were.

———–

I write this on the 25th anniversary of the infamous Montreal Massacre. On this day in 1989 at École Polytechnique in Montreal 14 young women were murdered and an additional 10 women and 4 men were injured by a gunman who claimed to be an anti-feminist. While controversy still remains surrounding the incident (Was it the act of a lone, aberrant, deranged individual or a reflection of a lingering undercurrent of misogyny?) the fact remains that it was an act of extreme violence against women, sealed in the blood of 28 innocents; a scar to be worn by all Canadians.

Where, then, does forgiveness lie in this? If the families and friends of those affected—indeed all of us in my country–are to move on then is the shooter to be forgiven? Some—not all—might find a measure of comfort in this, thinking the sins he committed lie on his soul and that’s a matter best left for…the Almighty, perhaps. Others—again not all—would respond that sins like this simply cannot be undone. There can be no forgiveness and sometimes, despite our best efforts at healing and reconciliation injuries will leave scars that can never heal.

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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32 Responses to Cuts, Forks in the Road and Forgiveness

  1. A couple of totally disconnected points.

    1) a description of a relative (and me sometimes tbh) was that ‘if he has nothing to worry about, he worries about having nothing to worry about’. It’s not dissimilar to the happy/unhappy status.

    2) regarding forgiveness reminds me of a fascinating radio series I heard years ago. The premise was interviews with two people, both of whom had suffered the same bad set of circumstances eg death of a close relative, burglary, sexual assault, someone close injured/killed by a drink/driving accident etc

    What I found fascinating was repeatedly, the ones who forgave the perpetrators moved on with their lives. The others remained stuck. Bitterness, resentment, a desire for punishment and vengeance characterised their lives. And they wanted the impossible. For whatever to never have happened.

    It was very educational and thought-provoking. I’ve obviously never forgotten it, the messages were so stark and powerful.

    But to return to the Montreal Massacre. Or even forgiveness in general. Perhaps forgiveness isn’t the key (especially for the non-religious). Perhaps acceptance that is has happened, and nothing can change that. Some people cope by blocking it out. Others cope by throwing themselves into some sort of work to try and prevent similar occurrences. And the old stalwart, time.

    • Thank you. Yes, acceptance is a far better thing to do here. Although I deliberately left my own answer hanging in the post I will admit that I can in no way see forgiveness in this case at all. At least with acceptance we can move to the more pertinent issue of what we are to do now, after we look around and still see those same attitudes and tendencies still among us.

  2. elkement says:

    Thought-provoking, as usual, Maurice!!

    One thing I was once learned – and what immediately struck a chord with me – was that any sort of “conflict” has its roots in being dependent on somebody or something. Wouldn’t we feel we are dependent on employers or families (emotionally or financially) there would not be much conflicts and related bitterness.

    You react with fight or flight or perhaps negotiate and achieve a win-win situation in a conflict, the theory says. I found it more logical to search for the underlying dependency and try to remove that one. I know that this might not be same as forgiving or not forgiving but I personally do not quite think in these categories. But if I interpret forgiving in a very broad sense, stretching your definition of not allowing something power over you even further – then our solutions might be similar.
    I consider my personal philosophy close to Stoic ideas; I found it particularly important not to depend on positive feedback too much – you cannot get totally excited and perhaps “grateful” about something positive happening in your life, if on the hand you should accept and forgive in case of negative events. That’s lopsided.

    In addition, I found (with hindsight) that “hardship” as a professional is often not related to specific persons (in relation to whom forgiving might be an adequate term) but to hard-to-grasp “systems” or even worse, unpredictable events … even though a specific person might take an active role. If a system has broken or arbitrary rules for rewarding or penalizing its members (and I felt this was true for any competitive system I was part of – corporate and academia… and I say so even though I totally hacked both…), it is a question of probabilities if and when either will hit you. Randomness is harder to accept than malicious actions.

    Re extreme events and evil sociopaths … I don’t have an educated opinion but the most “comforting” or “reasonable” thing that comes to my mind is again resorting to statistics and probabilties. If I recall correctly, criminal behavior is just a statistical number: E.g. there are X% thieves in a population, independent of age, education, gender, whatever. Perhaps there are also Y% sociopaths just because of genetic lottery. We need to find a pragmatic solution to find such people early enough (wihout too much NSA-style spying on the majority) and the law should treat their crimes in the right relation to other crimes. If something outrageous happened I often wished that politicians had acted more pragmatically and less emotionally – such as by inventing ad-hoc laws for “safety” that are finally detrimental.

    • I particularly like the way you have come at the problem. Frankly I had never seen it that way and now, I will need the next while–probably a few weeks–to think about it and integrate it within what I already believe. At first blush it does seem to me that yours is a powerful idea. I had never much considered dependencies outside professional situations but, yes, it does seem that they are broadly applicable to other ones, more personal. Thank you for that.
      Yes, I believe that there is overlap when, as you said, you expand the scope to include the prevention of future hurts.
      I also find great merit in your idea regarding extreme events. In particular, the setting of ad hoc rules and laws does serve no great purpose except the political one. Politicians tend to be under great pressure to respond in the wake of those extreme (but improbable) events, always forced to take measures to ensure that “this does not happen again” even though statistically it is generally practically impossible anyway. Too bad the actions they take often just make the situation even worse, even more tense. Worse, by focusing everyone’s mind on what could happen, arguably, the actions have the opposite of the desired effect, serving to increase the probability for a repeat.
      Elke–I believe this may be the longest ever comment on my blog. Thank you for you thoughtful response.

    • I want to pop in on this conversation; I agree that cutting out the dependency is the best way of reducing or removing most of the emotional wounding we feel when life doesn’t go as expected. This was why I worked my way through me degree; I had a bit of money come to me from family and I paid that off quickly, as it left me in a situation of being bound to the wishes and expectations of other people… a situation that couldn’t work, as there was a significant disconnect between those expectations and reality. Years later, my husband and I began to keep one of those “go to hell” funds, which can mean having enough money on hand for 1) when all things go to hell and there’s no more money coming in; 2) when the job itself becomes too difficult to do and … well, you get the point. 😉

      I enjoyed this comment with this post.

      • Now that’s a good thought. I need to get one of those GTH funds on the go soon too. Too often what should be an act of kindness becomes instead a set of fetters. Instead of doing an act of kindness because it’s the right thing to do, regardless, people act strategically. The kind act is something intended to put you under complement. That opens up a huge tricky set of circumstances. Yes, it’s true that we often need to rely on others but the real question then becomes, “what ‘others’ should we come to rely on?” Who are the true friends? Wish I had some pat advice or answers on that since the only thing I can come up with is “choose your friends carefully!”

        • I agree; there is no standard response. In the past, I’ve usually tried to enter into work, relationships hoping for the best, knowing it won’t be perfect… but on the chance it blows up, trying to have an exit strategy in place has helped. I tend to give a chuckle to writing books, especially the ones on character development where the advice almost always includes a statement on the fact that those who play the victim are most often the ones with control. 🙂

      • elkement says:

        What I find amusing – in relation to dependencies or getting rid of them – is that nowadays’ ‘networking culture’ actually encourages you to enter an infinite number of shallow relationships with people … on whom you depend a bit nonetheless. I loath this mantra of ‘You always meet twice’ which means you better never offend anybody anywhere in the slightest as this person might once become your boss or client. All that networking advice fosters cowardice and phoniness.

        In Austria we have actually a strong culture of ‘professional networking’ to put it very politely, and it predates the internet age. Sometimes a daring journalist of researcher unveils the personal networks pervading the powerful positions in society and it is almost surreal. The leading politicians and managers are those who were members of most students’ clubs or other ‘professional organizations’. I personally have made it an explicit goal of mine not to be a member of anything unless the law forces me to do so – which is very hard. Turning down those invites is even considered rude, and I am aware of the options I am depriving myself of. It is considered the norm to have those unnerving meetings with your ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ from time to time for the sake of mutual benefits. I rather spend my time elsewhere.

        • I’m not a joiner of things, either. While I know that networks can ‘open doors,’ I also believe that honesty and hard work can go even further… it might take a little longer, but it works out better. Where I live, the same thing can be said about the interconnectedness of people, which isn’t always positive, either. I removed a job position from my LinkedIn profile earlier this month, because over the past few months everyone I’ve met professionally who learns I worked (briefly) for this company has reported an overwhelming set of negative experiences with this company, whether they did business with them or were simply harassed to become clients or freelancers for them. It has helped that we had only recently moved here when I started work for this organization, and there was no way I could have known the extent of the damage before I took the job. But even with that experience, I find that most people are willing to talk about the situation, and it has been mutually useful for cultivating another layer of connection between us. So, if this says anything, negative experiences can also provide better opportunities to demonstrate our beliefs, problem-solving skills, and integrity in difficult circumstances. So, perhaps it is a needless pressure, to be “nice”? (Nice isn’t quite the same as honest, is it?)

  3. Mary says:

    Just want to say how much I enjoyed this post today – sharing some very hard won personal reflections as well as thoughts on a crime that I personally feel to be ‘unforgivable’. ..at least by this non very highly evolved human.
    I did find Elke’s statistical analysis somewhat comforting but recent world news – the increasing numbers of school killings in the US and here in Canada recent murders of those in service based on the availability of guns tell me also that our laws – particularly gun laws are a very big factor in these crimes and in that case I, as a much less ‘forgiving’ individual would tend to hold the politicians / the ‘systems’ as equally culpable.
    And ourselves – in that our systems in fact depend on us having the courage to speak up and say this or that law – such as stricter – not less strict laws concerning the registering and selling of guns are essential.
    Thanks for posting such a thoughtful essay today – as always – Maurice and also thanks to the interesting comments – has me thinking about – forgiveness vs. bitterness, acceptance vs. forgiveness and possibly the importance of not forgiving or accepting some fatally flawed systems but advocating for either the upholding or changing of certain laws.

    • Thank you for that. Yes, for some reason the whole idea of forgiveness was weighing heavily on my mind the whole time and frankly I’m still not quite sure exactly where I stand on it even now. Regarding gun control laws, while I abhor the whole idea of people owning–and walking around carrying–guns I am not sure that the control laws are effective against the ones we need to fear. Honest, normal people such as you and I have absolutely no need of guns and so the laws have no bearing on us. The violent, criminal types who end up with them, however, have absolutely no regard for the law anyway so more regulations are unlikely to have any effect. If a criminal wants a gun they won’t bother with the regulatory, normal, system anyway. They just get them from other crooks.
      It’s worth noting, though, that the shooter in the incident mentioned above did get the gun legally so, who knows, maybe stricter enforcement would have made a difference in his case. My guess goes 50-50. Maybe the inconvenience of having to get one illegally would have been enough but maybe, instead, it would have just slowed him down and that extra time would have meant he wound up with an even more deadly arsenal.
      I hate guns.

  4. Powerful topic Maurice and each individual deals with these horrors differently. I can never say I could forgive a mother or father that mistreated me because I have a loving family. I have met people though, who have forgiven and moved on. I have also met people who have not, and it eats them up. I guess what I am trying to say is, if we ourselves were in the same position Im not sure how I would have turned out? My life has been filled with positive messages. If my life had not been, I know I would be a different person.

    • Yes, I see it that way too. While some are prone to having bitter thoughts and attitudes my belief is that those who do generally have good reasons for being the way they are. It’s not just a single event that put them in that position but, rather, a long-term, even systemic pattern. Those of us not in that position need to feel a great sense of gratitude and need to show whatever compassion and help that we can.

  5. Very nicely done. I respond by reflecting on a very personal situation, rather than the more ‘global’ sort that you describe here (the 1989 Massacre). Your description, in the first three paragraphs, of the person who isn’t happy until he/she isn’t happy so very well describes someone close to both J and me. You suggest that forgiveness is the only way. I have heard that mantra so many times that I feel poorly that I haven’t been able to accept it. The person who fits your description lives in a very circumscribed world, he/she has turned inward and away. This person finds comfort in routine and in the familiar … but, I digress, those points are unimportant. We are close to this person, in terms of familial connection, but this person continues to treat us poorly, without feeling, without love. We do what we can, we reach out, we communicate, we try … and always, to no end. All we get in return is negativity and scorn. The person refuses to interact, positively, in any way. I know that circumstance has treated this person unkindly, perhaps … but, that isn’t my fault. Rather than see the positives (of which there are many) this person chooses to wallow in self-pity. He/she thrives on the dark and the negative. And, you tell me that we should be able to forgive this sort of behavior? If we do, and reach out in a way which suggests we forgive and understand … then this person has ‘won.’ The person is rewarded for poor behavior. The person is rewarded for treating us poorly and is given license to continue doing so. This person continues with the assumption (for having been rewarded) that his/her behavior is acceptable. No, I simply cannot see it Maurice. I’m sorry. Perhaps you will observe that I am a bad person. Perhaps I have more growing up to do. Perhaps mine is a child-like view. The sort of forgiveness of which you asked of your student is sometimes not. I cannot do it, in this case. I simply cannot reward an ongoing, and hurtful, wrong. Again, doing so only gives license to the wrong-doer to continue such treatment … and to think, all the while, that they are doing ‘good.’ Perhaps it is easier to extent the Olive Branch of forgiveness when one is more distanced from the situation. Sorry to be so negative myself! But your post seems to have struck a nerve. Please do not think less of me for my poor attitude in this particular case. D

    • There are exceptions to every rule and you have certainly shone light on what is the most important one. It would take an accredited practitioner to say for sure but it’s clear that the person you describe is exhibiting classic behaviors of antisocial personality disorder. If that’s the case then everything I said is moot as it was intended to apply only to those without psychological anthologies.
      What to do about it? For the individual in question it’s generally a non-starter since they tend to see themselves as just fine and also resent–often violently–any suggestions to the contrary. In the circles I associate with there tends to be agreement that there’s a lot more to be gained by counselling the persons affected rather than those possessing the disorder. You noted that you do your best, acting generally in crisis management mode and I believe that is exactly what any counselor would suggest too. I know I agree with the stance.
      There’s one thing–take a look at Elke’s comment above. I think that in your situation her assessment and suggested course of action makes a whole lot more sense than does mine.
      Cheers! Thanks, as always I appreciate your thoughtful reply, especially this one as t serves as a nice companion to what I have stated above.

      • J and I both read this … thankfully (in its literal sense). We had already reached the conclusion which you state in your sentence which begins ‘What do do about it.’ It is a difficult situation to be sure. What do they say about letting it roll off you like water off a duck’s back? I cannot forgive, but I do not let it get to me. Thanks for your insights and observations.

        • Coming back to what Elke has said, maybe some day there will come a time when the ‘dependency’ (familial closeness, both physical and metaphorical) will not be the factor it is now. Maybe after that time a certain letting go can occur. There’s always hope. Until then, steadfastness is the only way.

    • Sorry, for imposing here. Your comments caught my eye as I was scrolling. I have a personal situation which Dave’s words have described exactly. I really struggled with the situation, and I already imposed on Elke’s comment, sharing something of personal experience there about cutting dependencies.

      The truth is, my anxiety attacks were connected to this situation with this person. In the end, I learned that the person in my life was diagnosed with a serious mental illness, but it was never explained to me. I coped until I couldn’t, and then I went looking for some answers. My husband was wonderfully supportive. I found what I needed to know; the truth came with some incredible, gracious, weird luck.

      I’ve since learned that the type of brain disorder this person has doesn’t allow for reflection or accurate introspection. The grievances of this person’s life are largely imagined, or drawn from small slights and made larger. I understand, from my reading, this is normal to this type of illness. In many ways, this person behaves like a sulky thirteen year old all of the time–it is what it is, and it won’t change without therapy and medication, which have been refused. I was better learning the truth; it has allowed me to let go of wanting the impossible.

      Counselling did take me toward a path of forgiving, but I think Maurice is right in suggesting this isn’t a process of letting someone off the hook. It’s about taking the hook out of ourselves, and finding a way to be free of it’s entangling lines. I was digging around for a book I have that states this so well, but I need to look around the renovation boxes again, as I couldn’t find it! I’ll post it when I do; it changed things for me. Most secular (i.e. non-Christian) therapists have a reasonable, self-preservation approach to forgiveness, not making it about the other person at all–it has some very nice boundaries built into it.

      Thank you, Maurice, for having your blog and letting us safely crash it with our comments. I’ve learned that my family found my space, and I don’t feel comfortable offering some of these conversations in front of them. Although nothing of what I say isn’t something I’ve already discussed with them, they are not part of my life now and I see no reason to create an opening for them to respond to me. That said, I also will add that our stories are our stories–even when they cross paths with others–and we need to speak those stories if we are to learn a way of living with them; conversation is important, to both give and receive.

      Maurice, I loved this post. It’s so painful and beautiful, resilient, anti-fragile and introspective. So long as we hope and have the willingness to find it, there will always be a way through the darkness. Lovely to be reminded again of this.

      • Thank you M for taking time out of your busy life to offer these words of knowledge and support. Both Joanna and I read your words (all of them) knowingly. The situation is ongoing, of course, and the Holidays are no treat. It has taken a long, long, time but we are now able (pretty much) to see this situation for what it is. That makes things a bit easier. When you do come up with the title of the text you mentioned … please do send it along. D PS: And thanks to Maurice for providing the platform for this discussion.

        • Today I had more than enough of the smell of paint and drywall dust. If my words come out a little muddled, it’s because I am feeling it.

          I agree; the holidays have been a challenge, always. Thus, I am keeping as busy as I can, and decidedly avoiding social media, because I do not want to dwell on my thoughts otherwise. That said, I’ve also been thinking about you guys and wondering if you have something planned you’re looking forward to happening? We’re taking the girls to the Science Centre on one of the days.

          This is the book,
          http://www.amazon.com/Karyl-McBride/e/B001JS4PMG

          There is a small section that she writes on forgiveness that is really empowering; she differentiates it from granting pardons. I’m still looking for my copy so I can quote it for you. Susan Forward has a couple good books out there, too.

  6. Sorry for a few typos .. I wish WP had a comment editor. D

    • Me too. All of my comments tend to be littered with them. It is possible for the blog owner to edit them but not the one who posts. I suppose it’s left that way so that the owner can apply a little creative editorializing where necessary, i.e. take out that which they judge to be offensive. It’s never happened in my case, thankfully. BTW–I re-read your comment and could not find the typos but then again I’m kind of stunned when it comes to the finer details.

  7. tw says:

    A very thought provoking post Maurice. Forgiveness can sometimes evoke images of accepting some awful wrongdoing, overlooking it and the person who caused it in order to move on. I think some things are unforgivable – the Montreal Massacre is one of them. Life is sacred and no-one has the right to take it away in such a manner. As an individual I know I fail to thrive when I accumulate the pain, anger, fear and confusion events like this one create. Every time I watch or listen to the news there is some new horror and as an empathic person if I absorb them all I become emotionally crushed. I find it hard to accept that humans do such horrible things to one another and the rest of the planet but I have to acknowledge that’s what happens, that’s what some of us are capable of. Acknowledging doesn’t make it ok, it just gives me a means to respect the victims, to be upset by what’s happened without being overwhelmed by the grief, fear and anger these events trigger in my own psyche.

    • I really like the way you have put it there. Yes, when you grasp the extent to which our base instincts can lead us all astray it is enough to just crush the spirit so t’s important to prepare a space where that anger can transform to some type of action rather than just adding to the already huge pile of evil.
      Funny, at some point I am sure that a part of all of us originally set out to save the world. Along the way, though we all began to see just what an impossible task it was. Slowly then we came to face a three way choice: let anger consume us and thereby make the situation worse, give up and thereby let the ‘bad guys’ win or just dig in, keep our own selves alive and , with that done, use what was left to contribute back, each in our own way.
      The biggest transformation of all is in the realization of just how many good works have been done and continue to get done, all by solid individuals just working away, quietly day by day.

  8. Tiny says:

    I have seen this kind of bitterness fester in my work life so many times. Some people really get stuck in that negativity – and it doesn’t only harm their careers, but also their families – and their lives in general. They always become less than they could’ve been. I’ve tried to help people out of this mindset to acceptance and forgiveness so that they can move on. The funny thing for me was that when the same kind of disappointment came on my own path, I still fell into this unfairness dialogue in my own head for a little while. But so we’re only human…

    • Indeed, human is what we are: imperfect but able to learn. For me the single thing that’s kept me sane and mostly out of trouble is to reflect before acting. Sometimes the thing that comes to you by impulse is exactly the worst thing you could possibly do! Not always, of course; sometimes that flight or fight thing is correct. For me, though, taking a step back and sizing it all up when I can see the big picture has been the best way to proceed.

  9. johnlmalone says:

    I like the term ‘anti-fragile’. My father had a saying, ‘there are some people who are happy in their misery.’ My mother also had a saying: ‘I can forgive but I can’t forget’.

    • madzbar@yahoo.com says:

      From: Duck? Starfish? But…23 <comment-reply@wordpress.com>; To: <madzbar@yahoo.com>; Subject: [New comment] Cuts, Forks in the Road and Forgiveness Sent: Fri, Dec 12, 2014 10:14:25 PM johnlmalone commented: "I like the term 'anti-fragile'. My father had a saying, 'there are some people who are happy in their misery.' My mother also had a saying: 'I can forgive but I can't forget'."

    • Aye–I like to remind myself that forgiving is not the same thing at atoning. All in good time!

  10. TamrahJo says:

    Daily, I try to balance between the forgiveness that sets me free and the mind-set that never forgets to protect myself from future hurt at the hands of those who have so brilliantly displayed over years they will ‘look out for #1″ – – – your post and Elke’s comment, as well as the other comments, have given me new insights as to where to go from here – – Thank you all.

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