Friday, October 5, 2012

"forgiving" people who aren't sorry. Not gunna happen.

This has been the theme of this past week or so, and an intermittent theme of my entire life thus far: some person or group does something shitty to me, I am angry about it, that does not change because the shitty people don't care to make amends, some random, usually privileged asshat comes by on their high horse and tells me to forgive the original shitty person/group/whatever.

This sanctimonious asshat, again, always has privilege I don't have on at least one axis and always tells me to forgive for my own peace of mind. That it'd make me feel better, and don't I want to be the bigger person? Let bygones be bygones, et cetera.

And you know, at first I thought these people just didn't understand what they were asking me to forgive-that they didn't know the kind of abuse I went through as a child, that they didn't know that a board member of a big supposedly good autism charity assaulted me with flash for an entire weekend, that they didn't know, didn't know, didn't know.

They ran out of benefit of the doubt, though, when they started commenting immediately after I shared the story that I need to forgive "for myself." Then I started thinking, what's it to them if I am pissed off at my dead mother or at AutCom or whoever for the rest of my days?

Do you, forgiveness pushers, see my mother in yourself? Do you see any reason it was acceptable for a board member of AutCom to follow photosensitive people around with a flash camera? Do you see any reason it's acceptable for students to lock another student in a locker? Are you relating to the villains of the story? Is that what's going on here? Do you need me to forgive them in case you are accidentally just as toxic? How does that even work?

Maybe this for your religious reasons? I still don't get it, though: I'm an Atheist, but I was raised with "you sin (fuck up), you go to confession (apologize), you do your penance (make amends), then you go and sin no more (do your best to not fuck up again)." Only after that are you absolved (forgiven). That model works pretty well for us secular folks too. I highly recommend it.

The thing y'all are failing to understand from way up there is that you are asking me to go against every hard won survival instinct I have. You are demanding that I betray myself as deeply as possible so that you feel better. You say it's "for me". You lie. It isn't at all. It's for whatever convoluted reason you have.

Here's the thing: these people aren't sorry. Not one of the people or groups I've been sustainedly angry at has made even a perfunctory, much less sincere, apology. If someone isn't sorry, I sure as shit am not forgiving them. No. You work for that. If you done fucked up, and I assure you, these groups or people have all done fucked up in concrete ways and know what they are, you apologize and you try to fix it if you want forgiveness. That's how it works.

If you forgive someone who isn't sorry, then you are giving them license to hurt you again. It took me a long painful time to learn that "good people" aren't always good people and that people who others say are looking out for my best interests often are against my best interests. Every single iota of self preservation and self respect I have says "if there is even the slightest chance they will do it again or will escalate, never forgive." Forgiving would be deep self betrayal.

Not forgiving people or organizations who aren't sorry, no matter how great y'all sanctimonious privileged equestrians think they are, is self care for me. And it's not like it's a secret-they know where to find me if they're actually sorry and actually want to be forgiven. But they don't. Take it up with them if you think forgiveness is so important.


A Part or Apart? said...

AMEN. Have run into the same issue myself.

Elizabeth J. (Ibby) Grace said...


Heldenautie said...

What gets me is how gravely people misunderstand what forgiveness even means. We always think of "forgiveness" in the context of "sin", but there is an equally valid context to think of forgiveness: debt.

So in this debt metaphor, someone owes you $100,000. "Forgiveness" in this context means "You no longer owe me that money; I hold your debts fulfilled" with the general assumption that you would even be willing to lend that person money again. So who here wants to let go of $100k "for their own good"? Anyone?

Moreover, does anyone want to "forgive" $100k worth of debt to someone who WON'T EVEN ADMIT THEY OWE YOU THE MONEY? No? But why not? Because it's absolutely absurd. Imagine the financial strife you would be in if you truly forgave $100k worth of debt and then lent money to that person again. And right now, we're only talking about money; now let's imagine they owe you something really unreasonable, like a safe childhood or an Autistic safe space.

See, there is such a thing as resignation; "resignation" is when you say "well, I'm clearly not getting my money, can't force this person to give me my money, so I'm going to try not to obsess about it because there is truly no point in losing sleep over something that can't be helped, but they still do owe that money, I will not forget it, and I damn sure don't intend on loaning them money again." This, however, is a very VERY far cry from "forgiveness". If that's what everyone is talking about, then you need to make your definitions clear and reexamine your terms. Moreover, it is more than permissible for someone to say "fuck that, I want my fucking money" and go to their house with a baseball bat.

So notwithstanding a massive change in the definition of forgiveness, I think it's more than reasonable hold on to the belief that you're entitled that $100k, even if the person has no intention of repaying it.

Clay said...

I dunno, $100,000 is an unrealistic amount of money for most of us. We don't have Romney Bucks, and some of us are retired!

What if it were only $200? Suppose you sent someone $200 to do something they agreed to do for you, but they never got around to doing it, (or even letting you know they couldn't do it), for whatever reason. A year or two passes, and you finally hear from them that there was a reason they couldn't do the thing, but they don't offer to return the money. In all the years that have passed since, you never mention to anyone else what had happened, because you don't want to embarrass them, or look "petty" yourself.

Yeah, you're right, that would be "resignation" rather than "forgiveness". I just tell myself that that person must need it more than I do.

B.K. said...


I think the resignation model is what they have in mind when saying to forgive for yourself. It's not so much about letting the bad folks off the hook (a miscarriage of justice, I believe) but letting go of anger for your own peace of mind.

If it's a forgone conclusion that those who wronged you don't care about your well-being or making amends then staying angry isn't going to change anything. You compare it to a debt. You can keep waiting to collect but I doubt you'll get what you want.

Is it really worth chasing down deadbeats? You would spend more than you gain back. However, a possible exception is if you have some real power to force them to pay, e.g. seek legal redress.

Otherwise, why let people who care so little for you and you don't benefit from hold so much power over you? The best revenge is living well.

Joel Smith said...

It's your call if you want to forgive. Period.

That said, I've forgiven people who aren't sorry for my own health and needs. That's my call, not anyone else's, and it's not more or less noble than if I hadn't forgiven them. It's my call, not anyone else's. (I would say that my religious beliefs don't require an individual sin to be forgiven to be absolved, but, once again, that's my beliefs, not anyone else's).

Even when I do forgive someone, it doesn't mean I want anything to do with the situation that caused the hurt. That's common sense. I might forgive the debt of someone who owes me money. But that doesn't mean I'll loan them money again! Nor does forgiveness mean I won't tell others that this person is not a good person to loan money to (in fact, I'd personally find it unethical to lie and pretend that the wrong never happened). If however they show themselves as someone who has changed and has decent evidence to back that up, I'd consider loaning them money again. But that's not because I forgave them, it's because the circumstances that made it a bad decision to loan them money has changed.

For situations that aren't money, the problem is similar. I might forgive (but I would never tell someone else to do so!), but that doesn't mean I'm going to put myself in that situation again, nor does it mean I won't tell others about it. When the person changes, I'll probably be right there with them talking about their change. But not until then, and it will need to satisfy my "rules of evidence" which may be substantial if the wrong was significant (and I'm also not obligated to do this, nor is anyone else).

Jessica "Wolverine" Metaneira said...

I'm so with you. Forgiveness is not a responsibility on your part. It's something the person who did wrong should have to freaking earn, not yank at as if THEY are the victim.

I also agree that it's not other people's business in the first place. It's of no consequence to them if you, in the privacy of your own mind, have forgiven someone.

Kate Mia said...

I saw your story where you described yourself as being chased around by two people with a camera trying to induce a seizure in you at Autcom.

My spouse has epilepsy; that's seems like a potential attempt at an effective physical assault, if one has that conscious intention. It sounds like a really horrible thing you went through, and possibly something someone didn't take as seriously as they should have; if they were on or off the spectrum they might not have fully understood the serious nature of what they were doing, if they had not actually seen someone have a seizure.

I certainly hope between then and now, someone has been able to explain what they were doing was seriously dangerous to your health, if they didn't realize this at the time they were doing it.

As far as forgiveness goes, I don't like it when people try to impose emotions on me that I do not feel, and respect your emotions belong to you; I would instead hope that who ever did this to you, does not do it to someone else.

I thought that Autcom was supposed to be an autistic friendly environment; flashing cameras with or without the understanding someone has epilepsy and a problem with flashes doesn't seem to match the goal of the description of that type of event.

If behavior went unchecked by officials at the event, it appears there is a need for security to insure something like this doesn't happen in the future to someone else, as you provide an effective caution to others who might be considering attending in the future.

BiolArtist said...

How are people with disabilities supposed to self-advocate effectively if every time someone takes advantage of their disability to wrong them, they roll over and say it's OK? Worse yet, that would indicate to the wrongdoer that they don't have to change their ways towards other PWDs in the future.

Forgiving AutCom (and the Lindy group) for flash assault means telling them it's OK to flash people with photo-triggered seizures. This is even worse for AutCom, because they *advertise* as being autistic safe space, and don't even have a fake leg to stand on that it's so unusual that someone with this condition would attend.

Forgiving PCC means they don't have to provide proper support for autistic students, because that uppity girl finally realized they weren't doing anything wrong.

Where would the civil rights movement be if all the blacks had decided to forgive everyone who said they had to sit in the back of the bus and eat at the black lunch counter and drink at the colored-only water fountain?

sue evans said...

I very much enjoyed reading this. My mum allowed me to be abused and even took part in it. She cant admit to what she did fully and makes half apologies and excuses. I dont want or need to forgive her. I'm more mentally and emotionally healed from finally admitting to myself and everyone that she let me down when i most needed her.