Category: Druidry Written by Nimue Brown
One of the things I’ve learned is that if I’m going to forgive someone, I need to understand them.
Usually people do things for reasons, and what they do makes sense to them. This means that a lot of hurt isn’t caused deliberately and isn’t really about the person it impacts on. A lot of people act from their own trauma, play out their family stories, and are informed by their own wounds, needs and baggage. This informs what any given person thinks is a good idea in the first place. Sometimes the people who do most damage are the ones who are certain they were helping you.
Families are especially prone to passing things down one generation to another. We don’t notice the things we grow up with, they seem normal to us. The lack of compassion in some of our politicians makes a lot more sense when you consider how many of them were shipped off to residential schools and don’t therefore have much experience of a loving and supportive homelife.
It can be quite a process trying to figure out how things make sense from someone else’s perspective. In some cases it’s taken me years of sifting through what information I have to build a story from a different angle. Sometimes the answer is simply that what was important to me did not loom large for the other person. Differences of values and priorities can have a large impact.
One of the difficulties around things that hurt you, is how natural it is to want to centre yourself in that experience. It is necessary to have time and space for your own feelings, but that isn’t always the most helpful way to deal with it. I had a challenging relationship in my youth and it took me years to figure out that the young man was basically re-enacting all the problems he had with his mother. That wasn’t healthy for him at all, but he was playing out his family history and his beliefs about relationships with very little idea of who I am and what was going on for me. I suspect there’s a lot of this sort of thing out there. Recognising that this happened to me but wasn’t about me has helped me move on.
When something dramatic happens in a person’s life it can become the defining story of who they are. All other experiences are coloured by the main story. There was a young man in my teens who had been put into foster care as a very young child, and he couldn’t get past that abandonment story. He’d push away anyone who tried to get close to him, and he’d do that until they gave up and abandoned him too. It was an awful thing, and I held out for years, and I hope things improved for him.
It’s easier to think about other people’s stories in this way than it is to think about your own. Our own defining narratives can be remarkably hard to spot. We don’t see them as personal foibles or trauma responses, we see them as how the world works. Questioning the basis of your own reality is a pretty terrifying thing to do and a lot of people do better when they have professional support for this. However, thinking about how other people’s experiences shape them can be a good way of opening up space for examining how your own stories inform your perceptions and behaviour. When you know what’s driving you, then you get a lot more options about whether or not to keep going with that. It becomes easier to forgive yourself for bad choices made, and to open up new ways of doing things. It becomes easier to forgive other people as well, recognising their flawed and wounded humanity as part of why they’ve done whatever they’ve done.
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