Tuesday, April 7, 2009


"If we haven’t forgiven, we keep creating an identity around our pain, and that is what is reborn. That is what suffers."

I have thought a lot about forgiveness in my life. I'm sure we each have defining moments in our lives that gives us an insight into our character. Defining moments. Hard moments. Shameful moments.

For me, one of those defining moments was many years ago. My ex (let's refer to him as X) and I were robbed. We had very little. We were in our early twenties, just starting out in the world, and shared a house with another couple. In our little bedroom, we had a crappy box (a radio with a CD player). (Are they even called "boxes" anymore?) A red television. Books. A couple of guitars. In all, what did it total? Monetarily not much. But when you have one room of stuff, it seemed like everything. When I came home to see a window broken, our room upturned, our things missing, I knew who it was immediately--a "friend" who developed a pretty bad drug problem. We cut him out of our life earlier in the year, because he seemed capable of something like this. Our roommates didn't lose anything. The thief came in, went straight to our room and stole the things that he knew meant the most to us. Our guitars were especially hard. It sounds cruel, and it was. The grudge wasn't about me, but still, its effects were so pervasive.

The details are incredibly complicated, and in the end, he ended up being arrested. We got most of our stuff back. He went to rehab. But I wasn't free. I was so angry. I had so much rage against this guy. I would have dreams frequently about running into him. How I would yell at him, attack him, become violent...I just imagined myself unable to stop hitting him. Unable to control my emotions. Or sometimes I would become impotent, my arms like jelly, or I would just see him and cry and he would laugh. I am not sure I have ever hated anyone as much as I hated him then. The results of his actions affected every aspect of my life. My identity. My comfort. My reputation. My anxiety. My relationships. My everything.

Fast forward three years, I was newly single. Preparing to move back east to my family after years in the desert. And there he was, walking towards me on the street, holding a motorcycle helmet. It was a festival, and there was nowhere to go but forward. His piercing eyes stared straight at mine. It was my dream. I felt my anxiety explode, and then I saw him up close. He said, "Angie. Oh, Angie." And in that moment, I knew. I threw my arms around him and began crying. "I forgive you," I said. "I didn't know it until just now, but I forgive you. Thank you for teaching me about my own strength and weakness. Thank you for the things you taught me." All the while, he wept, harder than I had ever seen a man cry repeating, "I'm so sorry, Angie, so sorry for what I did to your life."

That moment was defining for me. I always thought I was an unforgiving person. A harsh person. An angry person. I felt liberated, like I could see myself without blinders on. It is so cliche, I know, but I did. I felt the lightness of being that I miss now.

Today, I remind myself of forgiveness, and of how it worked in me. I thought forgiveness came if I justified his actions enough, if I understood rationally why he did what he did, but that is not when forgiveness came to me. It came to me in the moment I saw his eyes, his fear, his shame, his sadness, his suffering...It came to me when I saw his humanity. It came when I saw myself in him, and him in myself.

And so, today, I am thinking about forgiveness. I am concentrating on manifesting true compassion. I am trying to figure out who I am so angry at, and when I do, I will look in the mirror and forgive.


  1. so beautiful and powerful.

    i too think about who i am so angry at. friends? my community? my midwife? god? myself?

    it's like i need someone to be angry at, someone to blame for lev's death.

    i will sit and hold your words, your experience and look in the mirror too.

  2. Tearing up again, Angie... Your writing is very moving to me.

  3. This post gave me chills.

    Very powerful words. I think I should take a look in that mirror too.


  4. Beautiful and thought provoking, as always. I hope my mirror is big enough to include the entire medical staff of a certain hospital and, most importantly, myself.

  5. Oops- the above is me (danielle) logging in from a work computer. Apologies to Mia, whom I can't log out, and for the confusion.

  6. oh angie, you're such a compassionate person. i think it's amazing that in that moment you realized that you forgave him and saw the positive value that his negative actions had on your life. to my mind, this situation is so crappy because there is no one to be angry at. i don't actually even feel much anger and i think that's kind of weird, that it'll come eventually. but i do feel some frustration with my friends. i so hope that i can find forgiveness for them eventually, like you did for your friend.

  7. i continue to be amazed at you, your compassion and your heart-wrenching honesty. beautiful words.

  8. Your write so beautifully. And you are a sweet, gentle soul.


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