By Jill P. Dabrowski
When do things become unforgiveable?
Do they have to be unconscionable or just unforgettable? Entirely too much in one way or another. Is there a tipping point of remorse that allows absolution? And what if it never comes? What if repentance is never expressed or if it is done so in such a way that it has no meaning and becomes merely illusory? What if it is only offered up for the benefit of the injurious party to assuage their own guilt?
Forgiveness absolves us of something—some internal prison—freeing oneself from suffering and releasing the control the offender has over your life.
Or so I have been told.
I am not sure I believe it. Because while there are so many (perhaps too many) things I have forgiven, there are still some that remain hardened inside of me; pebbles of angst and disgust and sadness and despair that cannot be dissolved or ignored. I cannot offer up forgiveness—whether it is audible or asked for or even just something I have been told needs to be done—no matter how hard I try.
I know the individuals who have perpetrated the wrongs and questionable acts are not apologetic or even remorseful. While some are recalcitrant, the majority are just dismissive, which is potentially more damaging because it is invalidating. And ignorant of the infliction of pain that has been created by either their words or their silences.
Their actions or inactions. Past events or conversations or promises that have been ignored because it was easier, quieter and less disruptive to their lives, but not to mine.
The pain of being insignificant and so easily dismissed has left me with gaping wounds—places where it has become too easy for others to pretend I do not exist.
Or never did.
To ignore the words that were never said, as well as those that were. The insistence on dismissing things that happened and pretending that they did not. That the past was somehow convoluted through the lenses of my memory. Possibly believing that I was an effigy that could be pushed to the side without consequence or acknowledgement.
I am not perfect. Or blameless in my life. I am far from it. I have hurt others, mostly without intention, but at times being fully aware of the infliction of pain I was exacting.
But I apologize.
Constantly. Continuously. And consciously.
Because I am sorry. Deeply. Thoroughly. Wholly. I would take back any and all pain I have created or contributed to if it was possible. I would assuage the suffering with any balm I could create or find. I see suffering and I want to hold it and cradle it, acknowledge it and fix it. Because I know it. Far too deeply.
It lives in my bones. It lives in the space between an inhale and an exhale. In my pulse and the reverberations of my ceaselessly beating heart. I understand how damaging the lack of remorse can be. I have felt the sting of ignorance and the inability of others to appreciate the depths of pain and suffering. So I take note and do what I can to own my misgivings, my errors, my omissions and my failings. To wholeheartedly appreciate any impact I have made and dissipate any collateral damages. To be truly and absolutely sorry when I should be.
I own who I am and what I do. But I have learned not to expect any reciprocity in this respect.
Even without apologies, I refuse to be broken. I refuse to let the words and actions of others alter who I am and what I do.
Even when I feel as though I could not possibly have the positive and memorable impact I so desire—I am still important. Significant. And deserving of love and care. Support and acceptance. And heartfelt acknowledgement of pain that has been mercilessly inflicted upon me.
I anxiously wait for apologies that will never come. Words that acknowledge or at least recognize what I have survived and what has and has not been done. Not the dismissive “I’m sorry you feel that way,” but the true and genuine “I am so sorry I have caused you pain” with or without the desire to alter it, change it or fix it. Or the ability to do so, but with the recognition that the pain, in and of itself, needs to be acknowledged, seen and attended to. Held with care, with love, with understanding and with the attention that it demands and deserves.
Can I forgive and forget? Not likely. But I can forgive and move on.
I cannot ignore what has been done. Or undone. Or dismissed. Nor should I. It has been my life, my experiences in this world. I cannot diminish my own significance to appease the misinterpretations and dismissal of someone else.
I am not that child anymore–the one who screamed in silence, pleading for someone to hear her.
Now I get to decide. And forgiving someone who could care less seems not only pointless, but damaging—to my healing, my hope and my heart. I deserved better then and I deserve better now.
And it is high time I provide that to myself without any need to anticipate apologies that will likely never come.
Jill P. Dabrowski spends much of her time chasing children, chickens, and dreams. She runs and writes and meditates and still finds time to wish on dandelions and falling stars. Jill feels too much, sleeps too little, and is horrible at self care. She lives for the spaces in between and the people who make her heart come alive. She is rather accustomed to chaos but still constantly craves calm. She is actively working to become more comfortable in her skin, scars and all. She has written for Rebelle Society and Some Talk of You & Me. You can follow her musings and mutterings on Facebook and on Instagram.
Editor: Dana Gornall