To Forgive, Divine…

hate fistI’ll admit that this blog post has been sitting in my draft folder for days now while I tried to figure out both my feelings and my thoughts. So much has been said already, that I likely should just stay on the sidelines and keep my mouth shut. But I’m rarely a sidelines kind of gal if I have something I truly want to say. You’ll find that out about me, if you don’t already know it.

The news out of Charleston last week hit me particularly hard. I’m not sure why–it’s not like this was the first time that:

  1. some lunatic with a gun decided to use random humans as target practice or
  2. some lunatic with a gun decided to shoot and kill random humans based on the color of their skin.

But yet, days later, as we watched Sunday Morning and their lead-off story dealt with the shootings, I couldn’t prevent the tears gathering in my eyes again. Afterwards, seeing my face, my husband asked if I was okay. I wasn’t okay then and I’m still not okay now.

If you’re like me, you struggle daily to find the good in others, keeping your head above water in a steady stream of news that shows us too much evil and madness in a non-stop news cycle. Sometimes the deluge threatens to drown us all. Rape, murder, bullying, robbery. Hate. HATE. HATE

Do me a favor: Stop and think for a minute. Do it. Think of everybody you know. Everybody you’ve met. Drag up old grudges out of your memory. The bully in grade school. The psychotic boss at your first job. The lady who cut you off in traffic yesterday. What do you feel? Do you feel hate–actual HATE? Could you stand in front of any of them with a gun and pull the trigger?

Assholes come in all shapes and sizes. Thankfully, so do good people.

We’ve all been wronged, in ways both real and imagined, big and small. Do you dwell on it for more than a day, a week, a year? Does it become a story in your history that you talk about occasionally when something triggers (poor word choice?) the memory? Do you laugh about it now, realizing that it really was such a small, unimportant thing in the scheme of things?

Or do you join a hate group, write a hate manifesto and go get your hands on a tool with which you can act on that hate–not even against the person who you perceive has wronged you, but somebody or a group of somebodies that you’ll simply use as their proxy. Schoolchildren, teachers, moviegoers, participants in Bible study. All innocent lives. Now fodder for your maddened will.

Perhaps it’s simply me. Two generations removed from the Holocaust, in which my paternal grandparents lost 80% of their family, I’m still extremely sensitive to senseless words and acts of hate. But I know that’s not true: The large percentage of us don’t think this way. We judge people for who they are, not for their race, religion, upbringing, class, dress or sexual preference. Assholes come in all shapes and sizes. Thankfully, so do good people.

Anybody who knows my personal shit knows I’ve handled a couple of my own schmucks this last year. People whose people skills were not just severely lacking but whose small seed of humanity had obviously never taken root in their bodies either. People who made several of my days a little terrarium of hell–you know, hell in microcosm. I refused to dwell in their little world of hate and so I lifted the lid and moved on. Their lies followed me for a bit, but eventually I outdistanced those too. It is what it is. Or rather, it was what it was. Because I’m past it.

Do I forgive them? Well, um, actually–no, I don’t. I have this capacity to move on without either forgetting or forgiving. It’s what I do. But some of the families of the Charleston victims actually FORGAVE the murderer. And that got me thinking some more. And truthfully, I’m still thinking. About the concepts of forgiveness and grief, redemption and closure. Because I know that my first instinct wouldn’t be forgiveness. In fact, I can pretty safely bet that forgiveness wouldn’t have a place in my first ten instincts if something like this happened to one of my family members.

Furthermore, while the shooter’s hatred says a lot about him, his ability to act on his hatred says a lot about us as a society–none of it good.

Their ability to forgive him for his actions says a lot too. It speaks volumes.

We cannot just move on as a nation, leaving evil and hatred to fester under the terrarium lid.

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