Aug 102016

We now rejoin yesterday’s article, already in progress.

You can find part one of this article here.

  • One who repeated her actions over and over, and still does to this day
  • One who revealed a side of himself that proved I did not really know him at all
  • One who’s actions were deliberate, and though he could have made it good, chose not too

All were people who were incredibly close to me, putting them in position to maximize the damage. I wore that damage for years. But a strange thing happened as time passed; the years gave me different perspectives. My views of the damage changed. And of the people who caused the damage. And what it really meant to me.

My sister has never asked for forgiveness, nor intimated in any way that her actions were out of line. Yet she failed me, repeatedly, and in some ways continues to fail me to this day. But I know more now than I did then; I know that my sister has been failed too.

My Gamer Girl has pointed out things about my sister’s situation that I would have never seen on my own, and helped me to look at life through her eyes. Maybe? Who knows what is really in someone else’s head, but Yvonne certainly helped me look at things from a very different viewpoint, one that accommodates my sister, and understands that some of things I see as problems are actually defenses. In fact they may be necessary defenses.

I forgive my sister. I have no need to be close with her, but I’m just not mad at her anymore. I wish her well. Genuinely.

My former brother-in-law actually did ask for forgiveness for his failure, but it was twenty-five years too late and happened when circumstance forced us to be in the same place at the same time; no effort required on his part.

But he still loves my kids. Distantly, he is not good at reaching out to them, but undeniably, he loves them, and has all this time. So there’s that.

Then a few years ago, he lost everyone. Everyone. His cherished uncle, his mom, his dad, his sister (at the time, my wife), everyone, all deceased within two years of each other. His wife left him too, not deceased but divorced. He found himself suddenly and staggeringly alone. This isn’t karma, this is just tragedy. No one should go through that regardless of their past actions.

I forgive my former brother-in-law. I feel no need to be close to him, but my kids do, and I respect their judgement. I wish him well. Genuinely.

friend request list

I only friend people that I actually know, and I only know one of these people. And that one I do not want to friend either.

My high school basketball coach is a different story. It was his job to avoid failing his charges, not just morally but from a literal employment point of view. And yet he failed me, crushingly and deliberately, and failed to make it good for my entire senior year. There is something very disturbing about a man who is supposed to stand up as a mentor and an example of living the life of a Christian (I went to a private evangelical school) but instead uses his position to ridicule and bully a young kid that was already going through hellish times.

As the years passed, I gained new viewpoints on this episode too, as I have the others. Except in this case I realize that the coach’s actions were even more reprehensible than they seemed at the time. As someone who has raised boys of his own, and has been a coach, and watched my boys with the other adult males in their lives, I see just how thoroughly and unnecessarily he failed me.

I should be careful here, there is so much in the news about teachers and physical abuse, I am not alleging anything like that. The man was not a pervert, he was an asshole. But he was only an asshole to me; everyone else loved him. Which made it much worse.

The whole reason this topic has come up today (and yesterday, since this ended up being a two-part article) is Facebook. Out of the blue, I received a Facebook friend invite from my high school basketball coach.

What? Why? Doesn’t he remember? Why would I want to be his Facebook friend? For that matter, why would he want to be mine?

I checked his profile. It looks like after a few years at my school, he went on to another private Christian high school where he stayed for many years. I expect he is even beloved. But I wonder how many others there are like me, permanently damaged through his deliberate actions. Or maybe he really was only an asshole to me. Which would be worse yet again.

It may be difficult to tell but no, I have never forgiven the coach. Thinking about it still pisses me off all these years later. And I am totally okay with that. I am in no way harmed by holding on to some hate; quite the contrary, it helps me identify the people who did well by me, all those years ago.

I call what he did to me “damage”, and it was. Serious damage. But I think it is not really damage anymore, it is a badge. A badge of asshole detection. A badge of “Life Is Not Fair, Deal With It”. A badge of “I Know Better Than To Ever Put Up With That Bullshit Again”. Most importantly it is a badge of “My Kids Will Not Go Through That Themselves, Ever”.

I am not going to forgive the coach. I don’t wish him well, but I don’t wish him evil either.

And I am most certainly not going to be his Facebook friend.

  4 Responses to “On Forgiveness (Part 2 of 2)”

Comments (4)
  1. Excellent post. You seem to have reached a very healthy place through somewhat natural vs. scholarly means. I take it for granted that you probably touched on some professional ideas somewhere for your post but just in case you find the time; have an interest: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell(audio book available for your commutes) has a hidden gem within that parallels your experience. Also, if you can spare 17 minutes and have access to iTunes; Lucy Allais speaks on Forgiveness the Jan. 04, 2015 podcast of Philosophy Bites. She speaks really fast so I’ll probably need to listen to it a few more times before I “get” it all. 😉
    I was working on a visual bullet-point post looking at the question of forgiveness in our game; trolls, kobolds, sensitive player sorts etc. Seems rather petty when I set it beside your’s. Shelved.

  2. Forgiveness isn’t about him. It’s about you and I think you know this. Those memories can’t begin to be healed until you are willing to let them go. Sometimes it’s more comfortable to hold on to what became your new normal – back then. You got the badge, you paid the price, losing the grief doesn’t lose you the badge, but it does take the sting out of it. You forgive him for hope of your redemption, for all the things that you have done, knowingly or not, in how you have hurt those close to you. It literally has nothing to do with him, and in fact, you can’t even go up to him and say afterwards, “I hated your guts for years but I’ve forgiven you so we’re okay now.” It’s going out of your comfort zone to grow, and if you can’t, you can pray for the desire to want to forgive him. And because God is the God of all time and He was there when those things happened, He can heal those feelings. You’ll never forget, you’ll still have your badge, and you don’t “Friend” him, but you’ll be more whole and better to see the humanity of others through the flaws we all have. It sucks but the path to enlightenment is not easy and requires sacrifice.

    Would you want to be forgiven for your past mistakes?

    Geoff, said in all fidelity with no criticism attached.

    PS I’m not trying to be religious but this does strike me as something spiritual that requires resolution.

    • I appreciate the thought and kind intentions that went into such a lengthy and densely-packed reply. I’m sorry that for some reason I did not see it until today.

      I do not think forgiveness, or the lack thereof, affects my potential state of grace. I do not think that I will in any way grow by deciding to forgive my old coach, nor will I fail to grow if I do not.

      Life goes on, I am happy, I have a happy life. That is good enough for me.

      Thank you again 🙂

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