Even before hearing about Yoko Ono’s request, expressed in a New York Times ad recently, to “make December 8th the day to ask for forgiveness from those who suffered the insufferable”, I’ve been thinking about the notion of letting go.
Yoko writes: “This year, though, on December 8th, while we remember John, I would also like us to focus on sending the following messages to the millions of people suffering around the world:
We pray for the wounds to heal.”
Two seemingly disparate articles I read this past week in the local weekly rag, Metroland, jumped out at me.
One was Reaching Out by Cathy Resmer. It describes Linda White, whose daughter was raped and murdered in Texas 20 years ago by a couple 15-year-olds. “In 2001, White and her granddaughter Ami traveled to a prison in Wichita Falls, Texas, where they met with [one of the murderers, Gary] Brown and a trained facilitator. The meeting, known as a ‘victim-offender mediation’ — or, more accurately, a ‘victim-offender dialogue’ — lasted eight hours.”
Conversely, a recent Wall Street Journal piece by Dorothy Rabinowitz really annoyed me. It read: “Most Americans, other than some fortunate few, have by now heard about the forgiveness movement, something of an industry whereby bereaved families seek out murderers of their …loved ones to deliver forgiveness.” She was describing a recent television program, Beyond Conviction – which I did not see – as a variation on the theme “where a woman at the age of 20 was raped by her older brother, now serving a 20-year prison sentence.” She seems to trivialize the notion of forgiveness.
Yet, I’m struck by a subtext of Yoko’s message, even as I read these words from her:
“As the widow of one who was killed by an act of violence, I don’t know if I am ready yet to forgive the one who pulled the trigger. I am sure all victims of violence crimes feel as I do. But healing is what is urgently needed now in the world.
Let’s heal the wounds together.”
I’m hoping that Yoko finds the healing she craves for others.
Oddly, the other Metroland article that hit me, seemingly more trivial, was “Giving Up ‘I Suck'” by Miriam Axel-Lute, which is here presently, and will eventually be here. Noting that she has burned the apple sauce she was making, she writes:
“I suck!” “I am so dumb.” “What a frigging idiot.”
I didn’t actually mean these things. I mean, I had done a dumb thing, but I didn’t actually believe it was any particular reflection on my inherent nature. I have my neuroses and insecurities like everyone else, but generalized lack of self-esteem has blessedly never been one of them.
But it certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve said such things. I pretty much only do it when I’m annoyed or frustrated at something specific I’ve done, especially something that’s mostly affecting me. I can generally manage a more adult and productive response to being constructively criticized or when circumstances call for an apology to someone else.
But sometimes these habitual self-deprecations are just like a pressure valve, like shaking my fist at a noninteractive God. Although my near and dear ones will sometimes chime in with “No you’re not” or “No you don’t,” I tended to react with mild exasperation. I didn’t actually need reassurance. It was just a way of letting off steam. It didn’t really worry me much.
But this time I paused and realized my baby daughter was sleeping in the next room. And I had to give it a little more thought.
My basic feeling is that there enough people OUT THERE who’ll tell you you’re an idiot; you needn’t be one of them, especially publicly. I’m hoping certain people will expunge it from their vocabularies.
Forgive others. Forgive yourself.