Forgiveness is Earned

She came into our lives like a freight train. Barreling through and doing as much destruction to our family as she could. Now that she is gone, I feel sadness. I do not mourn her. I do not rejoice in her death. While I am relieved she can no longer inflict pain on us or anyone else anymore, (having left fragments of carnage in her wake for years), her death somehow amplifies the emptiness of what once was.

I mourn the lost years for my family. The years we could’ve shared and enjoyed together. Now that she is gone, we will embrace the time we have left. We will not let the impact of her actions have lingering effects. We forgive each other for any missteps along the way, for the distance, the separation. We do this because we understand what brought us to this point, that we human beings are fallible and we make mistakes. We acknowledge this with compassion because that is what is required to move on. We move forward. We turn away from what was and towards what will be. We accept each other, failings and all because we love each other and there is a genuine desire to make amends.

I do not forgive her. Our sages taught that we must admit our transgressions, conquer our impulses to repeat the behavior, and make amends. This is what is required for teshuva, repentance. We cannot be forgiven until we take these steps. She made no attempt to right her wrongs. She never sought forgiveness, because she never recognized how damaging her behavior was or she didn’t care. While I am not required to forgive her, I will let my anger go. It is not a companion I wish to keep.  We read in Proverbs 16:32 and are reminded again in Pirke Avot 4:1 that controlling our anger and evil impulses is a sign of true strength and character. More than that, it is required for our mental well-being.

I do have compassion. While the pain she inflicted was intentional, I did not wish her to suffer. She hurt others because she was filled with pain and insecurity. She had no example of a healthy relationship as a child and didn’t understand that you can share the people you love. In fact, loving someone means relishing in their joy and appreciating what is important to them. Sometimes, it means putting their needs before your own. She knew none of this. She was broken.

So with a deep breath, I’ll let it go: the anger, the disappointment, the heartache. Instead, I’ll breathe in hope, promise and life.

*Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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