Sunday, March 15, 2015

Forgiveness—Layer by Layer

Last night I went to a play and there, during intermission, I saw her.   She looked at me quizzically.  When she caught my eye, she came to me and bantered lightness. 

How are your children?  Are they living in town?  How lucky you are?  Her questions rambled on.

I was gracious.  And uncomfortable.  My body entered into a conversation that withheld me, not wanting to give her anything that I valued.  I responded with surface answers and engaged in questions to deflect.  My mind, though, went to many years ago when we worked side-by-side.  When she hurt me.  Deeply.  When I was young and when I jumped to a new position to move away from the hurt.  (A life lesson was learned in the jumping, but that is another story.)

It was then that the forgiveness cycle began.  For me.  I knew that to truly move on, I needed to forgive.  I knew that forgiveness benefitted the forgiver.  So I forgave, so I thought.  And moved on.

Then last night I saw her again.  As she volleyed her words, asking me to do the same, my mind was filled with questions.

What did I do to you that made you feel you needed to undermine me?  I was blindsided.  Why?

At that moment I knew that forgiveness needed to run deeper still.  I thought I had done the hard work.  I thought I had forgiven with the passing of many years.  And in the easy-spirit conversation of nothingness, when there was no between conversation of what really did happen, I knew that resentment lingered.

She speaks to me as if I am a long, lost friend.

Yet, I know.  I know you hurt me.  I know it was wrong.  I know I forgave you and I see now, as we chitchat lightness in the shelter of the theater during half-time, that my work is not fully done.  In the catch of eye-to-eye during a break between scenes, I know I have more work to do for me to be over the hurt.  Some wounds are deep.   I thought I shed the skin of many layers, yet in an instant the rawness reappeared.  I have yet another layer to shed…many years after the event.

When will the last layer be shed?  Perhaps we will meet again…not during intermission, but after the final curtain call.  Then, maybe, I can be gracious and comfortable.  Then, perhaps, I will have uncovered that last layer and know the final freedom of full forgiveness of you.  For me.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.


  1. This is beautiful. You managed to shine a light on the truth of forgiveness. I to learned this in a similar way. Forgiveness is not accomplished in s moment, or a day, or even a year. It takes time and patience and strength in who you are.

    Wonderful slice. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I know what you mean. Sometimes we think we know our feelings, but an unexpected experience, in this case a chance meeting, can prove that we don't. I hope you find peace with this situation.

  3. Forgiveness is such a difficult task, but this story shows that you're doing the work. Bravo!

  4. Thank you for sharing this. Layer by layer, you're getting closer!

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  5. I love how you use language like a painter's brush. The words that show the level of your interaction: banter, conversation of nothingness, surface, chitchat, lightness. The words that show the passage of time: from intermission to the final curtain call. The alliterative hope for the future: final freedom of full forgiveness...for me. This is one I will study to see the many ways you accomplished such complexity and yet made it look effortless.

  6. I felt like I was reading my own story of an earlier time in my life. Wow--you really captured the complexity of our human interactions. Thank you - you gave me a lot to think about.

  7. I felt like I was reading my own story of an earlier time in my life. Wow--you really captured the complexity of our human interactions. Thank you - you gave me a lot to think about.

  8. There's such mystery here. In the absence of naming (your use of pronouns), the other person becomes anyone, everyone? I can't imagine this was easy to write, yet it reads well. The complexities of forgiveness (self and other) are so significant.

  9. Such a beautiful piece. And as others have commented, it spoke straight to my own story too. What a timeless and honest reflection on hurt and the work of forgiving.