Transgressions are committed against us on a daily basis; varying in scale and severity. This is no surprise. Humans are flawed; we hurt each other by mistake via miscommunication typically or on purpose, because some people are just so miserable that hurting others is the only way they can feel alive.
As we all know, one of the best and simplest ways to rectify a wrong doing is with an apology. Sometimes a heartfelt and sincere “I’m sorry” can make everything water under the bridge. But there lies the rub. Saying I’m sorry has become a mechanical, knee-jerk response for a lot of people. Some say it for everything and others would rather have teeth removed than to say it; and lastly, there are those who use it as a ‘get out of jail free card’ to get over on their victim, when they don’t mean one word of their apology.
The true definition of sorry is to feel sorrow or regret. And it seems that more and more, people spew this line of contrition, but it’s nothing but empty rhetoric. We get it from loved ones, friends, politicians, and celebrities. They only apologize because they were caught doing, whatever it is they were doing. Had they not been caught, they would never have been compelled to apologize in the first place.
Now that leaves the offended parties in a precarious position. They have to dredge up forgiveness for their transgressors. Well, truthfully, they don’t have to do anything. And many people don’t. Rather than forgive, they will hold on to a grudge, adamantly, vehemently. Some people can hold on to a grudge so strong that they transform from the victim to the perpetrator. By the time this happens the grudge is so far gone, it’s a sure thing that neither party even remembers the subject of the original confrontation.
So where does that leave you? Forgiveness; not to be confused with forgetting. Forgetting is what all transgressors long for; the intentional ones, that is. If they can do their dastardly deeds, and the victim just sucks it up and forgets about it; then they never have to answer for their wrong doing; and they are further enabled by the victim. Forgiveness is a different animal altogether. It tells the perpetrator, this is what you did and this is what it caused; and even though I am deeply hurt, I can absolve you of your wrong doing and we can move on. Most perpetrators want to skip right to the absolution; but the road to absolution must be avoided at all costs, because that road leads to accountability and being accountable for one’s actions, can lead to painful, earth shattering introspection.
Forgiveness can be as elusive as accountability. Some people just can’t forgive or the criterion for their forgiveness is too high. So when a grudge holder meets up with the truly repentant or when a forgiver meets up with a perpetrator of false apologies, it leads to one thing: baggage. Baggage is all the fear, apprehension and bad feelings we collect from life-long human interactions. The baggage of one relationship always affects the next, whether it’s intimate, platonic or familial. And the thing is, there is no bell or whistle that sounds when you acquire a new piece of baggage. You never know what baggage you have acquired until a situation similar to the one that created the baggage rears its head, even if the outcome is drastically different.
Baggage is generated by life changing, perception altering encounters; that can deeply root itself in the human psyche. So what do you do? How do you sort through your own baggage? How do you help someone else sort through theirs? And better still, how do you set it down? Unfortunately, getting rid of baggage is far harder than picking it up. And even worse, the fear that led you to pick up, is the same fear that won’t let you put it down.
So, what’s the solution? The solution is something that we, as humans; that we, as a society; that we, as a planet do not have enough of: patience and love.
Sounds trite? It really isn’t. A show of patience and an expression of love can disarm the most enraging situation, but it takes a measure of understanding for it to work. People should engage in real conversations about their baggage and their fears to garner an understanding.
Person A: Look, this is my issue, and I know that it’s an issue and I’m trying to work through it, so please be tolerant of what I’m going through.
Person B: I hear what you’re saying and I understand that you’re wounded from the past. I can’t say that I’ll never hurt you, but I will try fervently to avoid doing so, and if I do, it will never be intentional.
This exchange establishes that both parties recognize their inadequacies, and therefore, it can mend fences ahead of time and establish a rapport of understanding that two people can build on; but one must take down their protective walls and let deserving others in, and that’s not easy to do. It requires an openness that can be difficult to achieve; but honestly, if love is involved than opening oneself up is more than worth it. The problem is that in order for this to work, it requires a willing donor and a willing recipient, who are also willing to step off of the proverbial field of battle.
Constant fear and shame are a drain on the spirit. They hamper you, they age you and they push others away from you. If you can unclench your fist, relinquish the perpetual battle, and take down your walls, in order to allow someone’s love inside, you may be able to put down the heavy baggage and never pick it up again.