I’ve always been quick to poo-poo the things that others have done to hurt me. People are human, they make errors in judgment – at least if I am any indication. I can just let most things roll off my back. I’ve never held a grudge against anyone (well, except my stepmother), much preferring to let things go and move on. I won’t go through a laundry list of my life’s hurts, as they are only unique because they happened to me. It just takes too much emotional energy to carry around the hurt and anger.
I’m not so easy on myself, though.
Like all other Jews I was injected with a healthy dose of guilt at birth (what, you thought that was a rumor?). That guilt was fostered by various Jewish grandmothers, parents and clergy over the course of a typical angst-ridden childhood. That inherent guilt only enhanced my low self-esteem (which really didn’t need the help). I found a myriad of ways to feel guilty, adding some extra spice to my parents’ divorce and the unfortunate molestation incident that make up the major markers of my childhood. Do I know how to have a good time, or what?!
Being so guilt-prone I even feel guilty for things for which I have no more than a cosmic responsibility. I feel guilty for the way our country acquired land from Native Americans, and for the treatment of African Americans and anyone else who has been enslaved. I can’t step on an ant without feeling guilt, though I do admit to less guilt when a roach meets it’s end stuck to the heel of one of Husband’s boots. Ick.
What does guilt have to do with forgiveness? Everything, if you’re waiting on it. Forgiveness withheld is the ultimate manipulation. Guilt is a horrible emotion, without any productive purpose. The kicker is that even once you’ve managed to wrest forgiveness for transgressions it only assuages guilt temporarily, and in essence leaves one at the mercy of the one manipulating dangling offering forgiveness.
And who the hell needs that?
You don’t have to be a genius to figure out why it’s so easy for me to let others off the hook, do you? I never want to be that person, wielding that power. I’d rather just acknowledge the event, appreciate and acknowledge an apology (if given), and move on.
Still, letting myself off the hook isn’t nearly as easy. I’ve worked to move away from feeling guilt for my transgressions, and instead simply take responsibility. It’s just like guilt, but without the angst. Without the manipulation. Without the condescension. And it’s productive! What worked? What didn’t? Keep doing what works, stop doing what didn’t. Acknowledge and apologize, then move on.
It’s not easy. But it’s worth doing.
There is hope that Son will have a guilt-free, responsibility-rich life. Amen.
Kate at One More Thing is doing a weekly carnival of sorts, choosing a topic for other bloggers to write about. This week’s topic is forgiveness.