Finding Freedom by Absolving Myself From Forgiveness
An unexpected journey to peace
Sometimes people you care about will end up destroying your life.
Looking back, I can probably say that I should have known, but what’s the point, because life doesn’t work that way.
I met B five years ago. We were working together as nurses on an mental health crisis outreach team. Our schedules closely overlapped, so I was working at least 3 out of every 4 shifts with him. We clicked immediately. We talked very openly, and about a lot of things, and it just felt good being around him.
However, he seemed very adept at maintaining a level of push/pull in the relationship. He would pull me in closer (literally and figuratively), and then push me just far enough away. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Eventually I had enough of the push/pull. I felt really hurt, and out a sense of frustration I decided to meet him with a wall of silence. That didn’t go over well, and he felt hurt and resentful. He decided to hit back harder and hurt me even more, and lodged an official complaint that I was bullying him.
Had that happened in a vacuum, it probably wouldn’t have had that big an impact. However, our manager had a huge grudge against me, which B knew all about. B’s bullying complaint was the perfect excuse to swoop in for the kill, as B had to have known it would be.
I ended up quitting my job for self-preservation as I couldn’t handle the onslaught of attacks on my reputation, character, and competence. That was not the end of the story, though; that manager made sure it was almost impossible for me to find another job. He was just plain cruel, so while his actions had a huge negative impact on me, I didn’t necessarily feel betrayed.
It was a different story with B, though. He was the spark that eventually burned the house down. He had acted like he cared, whether as a friend or whatever it may have been, and he very deliberately threw my under the bus, knowing there was one of those rollers used for paving coming along behind to flatten me into nothingness. And he refused to speak to me about it at all. While I apologized to him for anything I did that had hurt him, I didn’t receive the slightest hint of an apology from him.
The pain of that betrayal, combined with distress over my career in the toilet situation, along with a relapse of my mental illness, meant I was barely holding myself together by the thinnest of threads. I knew that I “should” be trying to forgive to help myself move forward, but I just couldn’t see how that would be possible.
Then I heard of Kesha’s song Praying, which alludes to the music producer who manipulated and abused her. It was a song about finding her own strength. And it spoke to me like no other song ever has.
I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’
I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come
There were a couple of lines in particular that really resonated with me:
Some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgive
I’m not a religious person, but this just felt right.
Forgiveness was not my responsibility. After all the destruction B had caused in my life, his forgiveness was between him and his higher power, whatever that may be. It was B’s responsibility to seek that out to make peace with the humanity that resided deep within him, not mine. Nor was it my responsibility to forgive the manager who kicked the earth out from under my feet. His evil is not mine to accept.
This shift in perspective led to a profound sense of lightening. Finally, I could begin to let go and shift my mental energy to other things. I was able to move forward and create a trauma account as part of my own narrative re-storying.
In letting go of the pressure I felt to try to forgive, and shifting that burden (or so I saw it) elsewhere, I was able to find the freedom that forgiveness is supposed to lead to in the first place. I just took a little more indirect way to get there.
I don’t know what B is doing now. I suspect that whatever he’s doing, deep down he’s not happy, because he’s not prepared to open himself up to being vulnerable enough to find inner contentment. I hope he does seek and find forgiveness, but that’s not something I have to carry with me.
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell”