Forgiveness

forgive (v.)

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.
Perhaps a truer sense of forgiveness comes from the recognition that adversity, betrayal, and especially the awareness of one’s blind spots, allow us to see that something previously unknown has come to us as a gift through the lens of the very wound itself. Betrayal, forgiveness and their relationship to ambiguity is the theme of James Hillman’s short essay published in his book, Loose Ends. Hillman sees betrayal and forgiveness as a necessary dynamic for the transformation of puer states in which one’s innocent vulnerability has not yet learned the value of a practice of the art of reflection. This general lack of ability not only limits one’s capacity to differentiate oneself from others, but also the capacity to reflect upon one’s own nature. To move beyond the puer insistence upon innocence at any cost, is to gain the gift of seeing the value of ambiguity, choice and difference in oneself, others and the world we share.
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.
It’s not that Eve, or the feminine bring about the possibility of evil, but The Other as that which is not me. For it is through the other that self-awareness takes place. Along with awareness of the other comes a profoundly unsettling experience of separation, at once the cause of so much pleasure and pain as the recognition that relationship brings with it the necessity of exchange, loss, dependency, cooperation, the desire to know and be known, and hence, all the vulnerability that we mere mortals are subject to.

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.
Conscious ambiguity. For each of us, the ability to play both sides can be likened to the tearing apart of something foundational from within a psychological crucifixion. But to what end? …not only the end of a situation, relationship, or hardship, but to what end this very vulnerable human life? How is it that we carry on and make peace with the claims that mortality’s vulnerabilities and sufferings expose in us?

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”

Eve then, is not only the other, but separate, distinct, uncontrollably Other. As we cannot, and oftentimes are not left to deal with the other after a betrayal, we must tend to our own wounds. This return, experienced as a loss of the other, is too in some ways a threat of the loss of self, or what the self had become through the gifts of relationship, and risks returning one to that primal state of unity, or the puer child, alone in an unreflective state wanting only to retreat into that which protects one’s deepest, darkest vulnerabilities. Hillman suggests that herein lie the dangers of turning on one’s self through the addition of self-betrayal in which the suffering overtakes the heart, and in seeking to protect it can only live through the grief of past, unredeemed suffering.

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.
Ultimately, until one can accept and absorb both the capacity for betrayal in oneself and in others, we may continue the necessity of further rounds of betrayal as long as one is blinded to, or by, the wound. What might break the cycle? What then, does betrayal want from us?

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

All quotes, except where noted: James Hillman, Loose Ends, Betrayal

2 thoughts on “Forgiveness

  1. Wise words! On many levels I can be aware of the sacredness in all, I still need to remind myself to be kind though. Very recently I have been revisiting the writings of Ram Dass. There is so much comfort in the abundance of wisdom and simplicity available to us!

    Thanks for visiting, and it’s always good to hear from you, Brigido!

    Like

  2. theburningheart

    The process of living can be summarized in discovering who we really are.
    In India a great sage said it in very simple words, when asked who was a Rishi.
    He said:
    ‘That one, who when he turn his gaze, and whoever, and whatever he looks at, he can recognize God there, and therefore act accordingly.’

    Great post keep the good work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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