Old English forgiefan “give, grant, allow; remit (a debt), pardon (an offense),” also “give up” and “give in marriage” (past tense forgeaf, past participle forgifen); from for-, here probably “completely,” + giefan “to give” (from PIE root *ghabh- “to give or receive”).The sense of “to give up desire or power to punish” (late Old English) is from use of such a compound as a Germanic loan-translation of Vulgar Latin *perdonare (Old Saxon fargeban, Dutch vergeven, German vergeben “to forgive,” Gothic fragiban “to grant;” and see pardon (n.)). Related: Forgave; forgiven; forgiving.
The puer God dies when the primal trust is broken, and the man is born. And the man is born only when the feminine in him is born. God and man, father and son no longer are one. This is a radical change in the masculine cosmos. After Eve was born from sleeping Adam’s side, evil becomes possible; after the side of the betrayed and dying Jesus was pierced, love becomes possible.
But at the inevitable moment we experience the deepest, darkest betrayal, there comes a choice in the making. How can we love and be loved in a world that includes such vulnerability? Is this God’s way, or a series of human mistakes that can somehow be fixed? Couldn’t we somehow have a world without the horrors of pain, suffering and cruelty? What then is love in such a brutish world?
This willingness to be a betrayer brings us closer to the brutish condition where we are not so much minions of a supposedly moral guide and immoral Devil, but of an amoral nature. And so we are led back to our theme of anima-integration, where one’s cold-heartedness and sealed lips are as Eve and the serpent whose wisdom is also close to nature’s treachery. This leads me to ask whether anima-integration might not also show itself not only in the various ways we might expect-vitality, related news, love, imagination, subtlety, and so — but whether anima integration might not also show itself in becoming nature-like: less reliable, flowing like water in the paths of least resistance, turning answers with the wind, speaking with a double tongue – conscious ambiguity rather than unconscious ambivalence.
To say that love is enough comes much easier before the passion that betrayal might force upon us. For although we loved before the betrayal, was it not in part a form of innocence seeking protection from the sting of its loss? And what good love if it be so fragile? What then, if anything changes after betrayal?
These ugly sides of the other suddenly revealed are all compensations for, an enantiodromia of, previous idealizations. The grossness of the sudden revelations indicates the previous gross unconsciousness of the anima. For we must assume that wherever there is bitter complaint over betrayal, there was a background of primal trust, of childhood’s unconscious innocence where ambivalence was repressed. Eve had not yet come on the scene, was not recognized as part of the situation, was repressed.
I mean by this that the emotional aspects of the involvement, especially the feeling judgments–that continuous stream of evaluations running within every connection–were just not admitted. Before betrayal the relationship denied the anima aspect; after betrayal the relationship is denied by the anima resentments. An involvement that is unconscious of the anima is either mostly projected, as in a love affair, or mostly repressed, as in an all-too-masculine friendship of ideas and “working together”
Self-betrayal is perhaps what we are really most worried about. And one of the ways it may come about is as a consequence of having been betrayed. In the situation of trust, in the embrace of love, or to a friend, or with a parent, partner, analyst, one lets something open. Something comes out that had been held in: “I never told this before in my whole life”. A confession, a poem, a love-letter, a fantastic invention or scheme, a secret, a childhood dream or fear–which holds one’s deepest values. At the moment of betrayal, these delicate and very sensitive seed-pearls become merely grit, grains of dust. The love letter becomes silly sentimental stuff, and the poem, the fear, the dream, the ambition, all reduced to something ridiculous, laughed at boorishly, explained in barnyard language as merde, just so much crap.
The wider context of love and necessity is given by the archetypes of myth. When the event is placed in this perspective, the pattern may become meaningful again. The very act of attempting to view it from this wider context is therapeutic. Unfortunately, the event may not disclose its meaning for a long, long time, during which it lies sealed in absurdity or festers in resentment. But the struggle for putting it within the wider context, the struggle with interpretation and integration, is the way of moving further. It seems to me that only this can lead through the steps of anima differentiation sketched so far, and even to one further step, towards one of the highest of religious feelings: forgiveness.
What does forgiveness do and how can one know that they have forgiven, or been forgiven? There are perhaps as many ways to understand and reconcile betrayal and forgiveness as there have been lives lived. I sense that there are both deeply personal experiences that at the core have, and also serve, universal purposes. To bring awareness beyond the personal expands our notion of what it is to be human, both in the context of one’s immediate place in the world as well as chronologically backwards and forwards, ultimately into the universality of the eternal realms of archetypal dimensions where myths find us so readily. Granted, any understanding we might receive comes at the cost of its incompleteness and the acceptance of limits. To truly understand human nature in its fullest, is perhaps only to glimpse at the possibility that not only “I will be betrayed,” but, “I will betray.” For humility comes directly through the experience of reaching one’s limits, suffering one’s deficits, and especially those character flaws which seem the most unredeemable in their consistency to defy our attempts to overcome and correct them. To the extent that we are able to admit our share in this we may also know more fully that we are never alone. And we have never been alone. Et tu as Me too.
Forgiveness, like humility, is only a term unless one has been fully humiliated or fully wronged. Forgiveness is meaningful only when one can neither forget nor forgive. And our dreams do not let us forget. Anyone can forget a petty matter of insult, a personal affront. But if one has been led step by step into an involvement where the substance was trust itself, bared one’s soul, and then been deeply betrayed in the sense of handed over to one’s enemies, outer or inner (those shadow values described above where chances for a new living trust have been permanently injured by paranoid defenses, self-betrayal, and cynicism), then forgiveness takes on great meaning. It may well be that betrayal has no other positive outcome but forgiveness, and that the experience of forgiveness is possible only if one has been betrayed. Such forgiveness is a forgiving which is not a forgetting, but the remembrance of wrong transformed within a wider context, or as Jung has put it, the salt of bitterness transformed to the salt of wisdom.
“…if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will be the same again.”
― Wm. Paul Young, The Shack