I wrote a blog in March called “Is This Normal?” about a difficult house guest. I was comparing the feeling of questioning what is normal in a person to the feeling of questioning difficult-to-choreograph music. My conclusion was that if I’m wondering whether the choreography expresses the music—the movement isn’t right. And if I have to say to myself about a person’s behavior, “Is this normal?” then, no, it isn’t and I just have to trust that feeling.
We recently had a house guest who was not-normal-on-steroids. I can compare this to trying to choreograph a really difficult song, an impossible song. When I try to choreograph a song that becomes impossible, I throw it out.
Well, this is what we had to do with the house guest— cut short the visit. (A nice way of putting it.)
My problem was that this person subsequently started acting in a very kind, rational manner and needed a place to stay – and I get sucked into that every time. My knee-jerk reaction is that of an orphaned puppy—if you make nice to me I’ll follow you home no matter how many times you kicked me before.
This leads me to the question, “What is forgiveness—true forgiveness?” I have always recoiled from the expression, “I forgive, but I don’t forget.” What the hell is that? It always sounded a lot like grudge-holding to me. And a kind of superciliousness.
I would truly like to forgive our house guest because I do feel compassion for him.
However, I’m also pretty angry. And wary.
When I was younger, I thought forgiveness was saying, “Okay. Everything is fine now. It’s over and we can pick up where we left off.” I have had instances in my life when I was both the giver and receiver of forgiveness. The bad stuff is just forgotten and we begin again. And it’s worked. It has brought out in all parties a deeper understanding of ourselves and of each other.
But there is another kind of forgiveness where we can forgive and feel compassion for another person, but there is really no going back. In other words, I know I cannot let this person back into my home. Letting him into my space would be an instance of not loving myself.
I can’t forget that this person has never learned to control his behavior. It’s as if I couldn’t admit that I was executing a barrel turn poorly. Then I’d never be able to fix it. If a person is not able to recognize and take responsibility for his own behavior, it will never change.
And I don’t want that behavior near me or my loved ones.
So I guess I’ve joined the ranks of the forgivers who don’t forget.
Sometimes, no matter how much you love someone (or a song or choreography) you just have to let go.