Issue #272 / February 2024
I’ve recently been hurt by a now ex-partner who acted in a way that completely altered how I viewed him, myself, and the last year of love we’ve shared. I’ve been sick with rage and physically exhausted, and my mind just keeps racing over the smallest details of our history and revising them under a new lens, or painting vivid scenes of his act of betrayal and torturing myself with them. Today, I realised that my anger and sadness have been poisoning everything for me, have left me bed-ridden and unmotivated, and it’s taking a toll. I figure that ultimately forgiveness will be the best thing for me to heal and move forward, but it seems like it will be a tough process and I still can’t help but to ruminate on the injustice of the situation. I also have been considering how my behaviour could have brought the situation on, but it seems difficult to reconcile that with the cruelty and, perhaps even worse, indifference that I have endured. So I want to ask you, what are your thoughts on forgiveness, and how do you go about forgiving?
BILL, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Once again I find myself drawn to a question which I have zero qualifying expertise to answer. It is an uncomfortable position to find myself in, but your beautifully written question offers itself to me nonetheless, calling me to answer in its torment.
So, we have a situation where the guy you were in love with has fucked you over and is doing fine, whilst you, the one who got fucked over, is not doing fine, not doing fine at all. Sadly, this is the perennial injustice of love and betrayal and you are right to feel angry.
Forgiveness may well be helpful as a form of self-ministering, and may go some way toward releasing you from the annihilating anguish you are in, but it would require a substantial amount of energy that could be better spent elsewhere. In my non-professional opinion, what you should do instead is harness the power of defiance, and refuse to comply with betrayal’s self-abasing rules. Get out of bed, tidy your room, do a bit of exercise, eat something and, as Leonard Cohen sang, in his characteristically world-weary way, ‘get ready for the struggle’.
It can sometimes feel like we spend much of our lives putting ourselves back together. Bad things happen, we are smashed apart, we rebuild ourselves, we are changed, we move onwards. More often than not, though, we find ourselves improved, we grow, we get stronger, deeper. Bill, this is your moment to do just that, to reconfigure yourself into something more resistant, more powerful, less easily broken. Don’t waste this precious opportunity lying around torturing yourself, pointlessly replaying the past, thinking about how things should have been. It may feel like the end of the world right now, but it is not. It may feel like the world is cruel and unkind, but it is not. Fuck this guy. Get up. Get strong. Come to my gig in Melbourne, have a good time! Send me your email address, I’ll arrange a couple of tickets. Time to get going, man. You’ll be all right. You’ll see. We always are.