This is our truth, tell us yours
Be aware this post mentions suicide, and childhood abuse.
We have covered forgiveness before on this blog, whilst Carter can only ever speak for himself, I found a lot of wisdom here, his support and guidance has meant that this quote has become part of my reality;
One is because, like Desmond Tutu, I have come to realise that forgiveness is something I do for my benefit, not as an act of charity towards the offender. I no longer have the energy or the time to consume myself with anger or the search for retribution.
Letting go of the anger is something it has taken me years to do, sometimes we need that anger to keep going, to make it through the day, to turn away from life ending thoughts, with only a “fuck you” to keep us going. Anger drains you though, as Carter says in the quote, if you want to spend that energy elsewhere, you need at some point to let go of the anger.
I still remember very vividly the day of my abusers funeral, it was expected that I attend, he was the favourite son, and as such a performance of mourning was required. I went to a favourite restaurant instead and ate shandong onion cakes, it was not a celebration, more a refusal to take part in something so far removed from the emotions I was feeling. A lot of my anger, towards my abuser, died that day, buried as he was buried, as part of the past.
However anger, and forgiveness does not always follow straight lines, which was brought home to me very forcibly reading this piece, about the mother of one of the Columbine shooters, in the Guardian. I was stuck by her agonising search for the thing she could have done differently, the need to forgive herself for having been a parent to someone who has caused so much pain.
Blaming the parents is all to often a lazy answer to complex questions. However in my personal story there is the unanswered “why didn’t you notice something was wrong?” This post wasn’t started with the intention of discussing suicide (and I should make clear the fact its referenced is no indication of my current mental state, there is no ideation to worry friends and followers) however I cannot help thinking of my first suicide attempt. I was in my mid teens, and after a night of vomiting, which passed unnoticed, I had to go shopping with my mum to buy a new swim suit. I felt like my legs belonged to someone else, my head had been pummelled by a professional boxer, and I was still unable to eat or drink without vomiting.
Later that day I listened to her complain on the phone about my lack of enthusiasm for shopping and the words “why didnt you notice?” raged through my brain.
This is not to say Sue Klebold’s should have noticed there was something wrong, but instead it strikes me that parents generally don’t want to believe their children might have mental health difficulties, or consider that they may not be the result of some inexplicable “brain malfunction.” I truly believe she loves her son, just as I believe my mother loves me, but sometimes love is not enough. In some ways this links with the post of carter’s from yesterday, about love being a practice, not a statement. Rather than saying how can you love someone who does X? Perhaps we need to ask how can we show that love? We practice being loving in many ways, but one vital way is in paying attention. If you have ever read anything about active listening, you will know that a lot of the time people listen without hearing, I think maybe too often we love without loving. That is we know we love someone (because we feel it, or say it, or must because the world says our relationship is a loving one) but we do not make it an active process.
This is where my story, my contemplation of mothering, and Sue Klebold’s diverge. She seems honest and sincere in examining the events leading up to the shooting. How do you forgive when a similar self examination has not taken place. You have to be careful here, because as usual people do not like nuance, especially when it comes to discussion of childhood sexual abuse. feminism in particular fails here, as it prefers to use victims to score points instead of improving things for victims. My abuser was responsible for choosing to abuse me. However there is a wider responsibility when it comes to children. Its odd that whilst people call for mandatory reporting and a whole host of other measures whose usefulness has not been proven, those closest to the children are assumed to have been as incapable of spotting the signs as a complete stranger would have been.
Sue Klebold may, or may not, have been able to stop her son, its speculation either way, but she has been brave enough to ask the hard questions, many parents refuse to ever do that, out of fear of what the answers might be.