Forgiveness is a recurring theme among the wisdom of our most revered leaders whom we look up to culturally, and there must be a reason for this. Forgiveness is love, both for ourselves and for those who are being forgiven, but it is a very difficult thing to practice and a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. I recently learned a lesson in forgiveness when I chose to forgive a person in my life with whom I had experienced significant amounts of pain, not only due to their actions and behavior, but also due to my own expectations of them and my own insecurities and fears. It did not come easily for me to forgive because the stubborn and selfish parts of myself wanted to be sure that they understood my pain before I could let it go – I wasn’t very loving in my process of making sure of this, and it wasn’t until I actually chose forgiveness in my heart that I realized how much of a loving action it was.
Then there was the added factor of the pretentiousness that I felt in saying the words “I forgive you” to another individual; if I truly regard another as equal to me then how could I say something that puts me at a level of pardoning someone for sins that I could have easily committed myself as well? Perhaps Jesus has the ability to forgive, but I am a mere mortal, and saying such words to another makes me feel as if I am assuming that I am above said transgressions, and I know better than to believe that. So I said it for myself, and I was aware of this – it was less an act of pardoning than a call for accountability on my part not to draw us back to the sources of pain and to stop tormenting the both of us. Forgiveness for me in this context was an act of letting go, of saving myself and another from being stuck in a perpetual state of pain and sorrow.
When I think about forgiveness on a larger scale, it is not as simple. My individual experience of choosing forgiveness allowed me to act through love and no longer through anger, but I cannot say I am ready to do so in all aspects of my life. I know that love is what will deliver us from oppression, and I want to move throughout the world and my life through an “operative mode of love,” but I am struggling to figure out how to do so. I say this because for me there are still things that are unforgivable, namely oppression. The amount of unnecessary suffering that is experienced at the hands of oppression is something that has caused me extreme pain and sadness, and I actually believe that this is what has helped me to forgive individuals in my own life. Nothing an individual can do to me can hurt me more than oppression hurts me, and in this way it makes it easier for me to see past my own experiences and to let them go. But I am not ready to do this on a larger scale. If forgiveness is letting go, then forgiving oppression would mean to let go of the pain that I feel that is attached to it, and I cannot even begin to think about how to do so.
Oppression and the suffering that it causes has built inside of me a deep reservoir of rage, a reservoir that at times acts as a source of strength, and at others a source of immobility. I am informed by my rage, and this is reflected through my actions. My ability to “not give a fuck” is informed by my rage, and my motivation to do better for myself is informed by it. I know that my rage is also a barrier to my living fully in an “operative mode of love;” and I realize that it will require my letting go to move into the next space, to exist in the realm of peace that we regard our great leaders to exist in. This is ultimately what I want for myself, but I am reluctant to admit that there is a comfort in staying attached to my rage, because I do not want to forgive the unforgivable without it knowing how badly it has hurt me!
Oppression of course is not one person or even a group of people; it is an invisible force that creates barriers to life and brings us closer to death, so what exactly am I waiting for? I have thought to myself that my heart will bleed for all of eternity for the suffering of people that is caused by oppression, but just as forgiveness is an act of love for ourselves as much as it is for others, can I really be okay with this if I am striving to move closer to liberation? I know that having forgiveness in my heart will not mean that I no longer care, in fact, it will mean that I would have been able to transcend oppression in the sense that I will have only love in my heart… but I am too hurt to let go of my pain and to make room for love to enter. I know this because I have thought deeply about this, and when I think of the possibility of oppression touching me too intimately, I cannot feel love. If anything drastic were to happen to the people that I love due to oppression, I would let go of all my virtues and I would allow rage to rule me. If the police killed my brothers, for example, which could very possibly happen should they be in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong clothes and the wrong skin complexion, then I would kill them. I wouldn’t care about anything anymore, I would just flat-out kill them. It is scary for me to admit this to myself, and it took me a while to bring myself to write about this… but if any bullshit were to happen to my people, the people in my circle of love, then the hell with love. I would want to be ruled by my rage, and this scares the shit out of me.
It is frightening because what it really is, is hate. Rage creates hate. I don’t want any feelings of hate within myself, but I have already realized that I do posses them. I hate the police, for example. This is not just me saying this in a lyrical type of way, I literally have hate in my heart for the American police force for all the suffering that they have caused my people (on a more general level). I have thought many times to myself what I would do if I personally encountered a police officer in my life now, where my hatred for them has reached an all-time apex. I feel that my feelings of hate are so strong now that they would overpower rational thought and practical behavior. Is it really worth it? Is hate really worth that? It is not. Hate in itself is irrational; this is why oppression is irrational, because it is based on hate and death, and not love and life. I feel such a depth of rage within myself that I am okay, comfortable in fact, with the irrationality of my hate. How can I say that I am about liberation and resistance to oppression when I hold within me the same energies that are embodied within oppression? I suppose this is why our leaders are great, because they seemingly have been able to transcend hate, even in the face of having so much to feel irrationally about.
Perhaps one day I will discover the key to this – to peace, and love, and forgiveness. I am not ready to yet, and I stubbornly do not want to be ready, because I am pissed. It feels good to be pissed, to have rage, because sometimes it feels that it is all we have. It can be a source of energy, and it can also be so draining. At the moment the best I can do I suppose is to use my rage creatively, and be conscious that it is not love. If the day ever comes where I am able to heed our leaders’ advice, then on that day I will have to forgive myself for my inability to let go.