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Mea Culpa February 9, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.

I mean, I still think you're a cunt for taking the last bread stick, but I'm sorry I said it to your face. And at the Pizza Hut, no less.

Okay, so which do you think is harder: asking for forgiveness, or giving it?  They both kind of suck in their own way, don’t they?  I think as a species we’re pretty bad at both of them.

On the one hand, saying “I’m sorry; please forgive me,” means you have to admit you were wrong.  Or that you behaved badly.  It assumes responsibility, and I don’t know about you, but I feel like I live in a world where personal responsibility is at a low premium.

Oh, and I’m talking about really being sorry.  Not “I”m sorry if you were offended, but…” or “I’m sorry you took what I said the wrong way, but…”  No caveats.  No explanations.  No self-justification.  Just “I’m sorry.”  Don’t worry, I’m not looking right at you.  I’m the same myself.  I admit I do things knowing full well that there will be negative consequences.  Like dropping the cunt-bomb in a blog post.  Most women I know find it offensive, and yet I toss it about casually because I LOVE it.  My blog, my rules.  Sorry if you don’t like it.

See what I did there?  I said I was sorry, but no one reading this really thinks for a minute that I am genuinely sorry, or that I expect to be forgiven.

Perhaps we’ve become too casual about apologizing to where it’s lost its significance.

And what of “Please forgive me”?  Do we automatically assume forgiveness whenever we offer an apology?  The way I see it, asking for forgiveness takes apologizing a step further because it requires your own vulnerability.  Only the truly chastened can ask for forgiveness.  Any asshole can offer an apology and just leave it hanging out there to be accepted or not.  Once it’s out, it’s not on you anymore.  You’ve said you’re sorry and you’ve done your bit.   But specifically asking to be forgiven leaves you hanging out there.  You might very well be rejected, and what’s more, you know it.  You might hear the damning words, “I can never forgive you” and where does that leave you?  Nope, ’tis a far better thing not to ask at all.

Maybe it’s hard to ask for forgiveness because in our hard little hearts we know how hard it is to forgive.  I’ve been part of discussions about forgiveness and there have been very strong cases made against the whole idea of it.  The notion that some things are unforgivable is strong and rampant. “What about Hitler?  What about 9/11?  What about child molesters?  What about…”

I put forth as a given that there are people that have not asked for, nor do they deserve, to be forgiven.  And yet, I believe, I argue, I insist, as have far better people before me*, that they must be forgiven.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean saying that what was done unto us is in some way okay or excusable.  It doesn’t mean buying the excuses, explanations, and justifications and accepting them.  It doesn’t mean giving approval of the wrong that was done, nor does it give assent to repeating the wrong.

If you assume that to forgive means to say, “Hey, it’s okay, I understand.  No harm, no foul,” and you combine that with the notion that if we wrong someone and can justify it to ourselves then it’s not really wrong at all, the waters of forgiveness become muddy indeed.

Well, if that’s not forgiveness, what exactly is it, then?

Forgiveness is not something you give to someone else, but it’s something you do for yourself.   It’s the very act of letting go of hate, anger, and resentment.  Not forgiving keeps us struggling.  We keep fighting the same fight, and losing, because when you don’t forgive–when you can’t forgive–the person who has hurt you still holds, and will continue to hold, the power.  They will keep on hurting you.  If you want that control back, you have to forgive. You have to make the choice to end it.

Holy crap, is it HARD.

And how do you do it?  How do you just let go of anger?  I mean, it sounds easy enough.  But I’ve found that the thought process usually in some way means trying to justify what was done.  It’s as if I feel like I have to get to the point where I can say “I understand why so-and-so did that…”  and when I can’t get there, when I can’t make sense of the motivation or I disagree vehemently with it, I can’t stop being angry about it.

Which is why forgiving is hard.  It’s being able to say “I neither understand, agree with, nor condone what you did.  I never want to lay eyes on you again.  You are a horrible person with no redeeming qualities at all.  But I forgive you.”

You see, in the end, forgiveness isn’t about them.  It’s about it’s about me.

Maybe the way to forgive a wrong is to accept the other person’s limitations.  No one is perfect, and we all have personality flaws and defects that cause us to behave badly.

For example, you know that thing in your brain that tells you “Don’t say that out loud”?  Mine is unreliable on a good day.  I have to practice self-control when it comes to unleashing my natural snarkiness to the point that there are days I have to lie down until the feeling passes.  It’s not that I want to be hurtful, but it’s just so damn easy for me to do.  I’m not naturally sweet and/or kind.  I have to practice being good.

And I know I should be sorry for some of the unkind things I’ve said…


I should be sorry for ALL the unkind things I’ve said. But the truth is that I find it hard to be apologetic for saying something harsh to someone who I felt needed to hear it.  Don’t people like myself exist to keep self-righteous prigs and the militant majority in their places?  What good is served by not taking some pain in the ass down a peg?


I’m a work in progress, folks.

I’m an unapologetically flawed individual, and I hope that people will forgive me even though I haven’t asked for it and know I don’t deserve it.

Can I do any less for a fellow human?

"If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive." Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (*a far better person than me)



1. bezzie - February 9, 2011

yeah I don’t think people realize that forgiveness is a selfish thing. I didn’t really either til Dr. MS got to that step 😉

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