I wanted to subtitle this one: “How NOT to forgive somebody.” I got this crazy idea that if somebody whom I have resented would only answer a few questions for me, I would finally “understand” the situation, and therefore finally “forgive” the guy. After all, isn’t there a French proverb that reads: “To understand all is to forgive all?” Sure there is! Therefore, if I could only understand this fellow’s baffling behavior toward me, then naturally I would finally arrive at a moment like this:
“Oh! I get it! That’s why you said all those weird and totally hurtful things! I understand now! It all makes sense!! Finally, I forgive you, man!!!”
Believe me, this is not the way to approach the matter. However, it did result in my compiling a rather amusing questionnaire. (Names of people, places, and things have been changed.)
Hey Tom –
As you know, I’ve been having a very difficult time forgiving you for nearly two years now. Largely, this is due to a single conversation in which you suddenly decided, among other things, that you were not really my good, close friend, but only a “casual acquaintance.”
Being as we have had many close conversations over a twenty year period of time, this demotion seemed a bit unfair. Come to think of it, however, it was only I who kept revealing all kinds of personal information to you, thinking you were one of my very best friends. Perhaps this explains why you would often take the information I conveyed to you in confidence and freely distribute among your many associates. Had I been your friend, and not just some random guy, you might have been more loyal.
It appears that either you are one of the most malicious people I’ve ever met, or one of the stupidest. I sure hope the latter is the case. If you are stupid, then you simply don’t realize the implications of your statements, and therefore it is more difficult for me to find fault with you.
All right. Here are the questions. Please help me to forgive you. It’s true that I hate you now, but if we work together, and you adjust your behavior accordingly, we will eventually reach the place where you are no longer hated. I will then bid you adieu.
1. The reason why I demoted you from being a very close friend to only a “casual acquaintance” is:
(a) You became homeless right around the time when I was starting to become a millionaire, and it embarrassed me as a millionaire to have a homeless friend.
(b) Friendship implies an even exchange, but because of your problems, we have not been able to have that exchange.
(c) You have always only been a casual acquaintance of mine. I felt I finally had to inform you of this, because it appeared you were treating me as though I were your very best friend.
(d) I meant to say something like “close acquaintance” or “frequent associate” but it came out wrong. I was nervous at the time.
2. The reason why I identified my upbringing as “lower middle class” is:
(a) I did not know the definition of lower middle class, and did not realize that being brought up in an affluent area, having a dad who owned an automotive business, a mother who was a successful piano teacher, and an opportunity to attend one of the highest tuition schools in the nation spells “upper middle class,” not “lower middle class.”
(b) I do know the definition of lower middle class, but I still insist that we were actually lower middle class, despite the aforementioned factors.
(c) I saw people when I was growing up who clearly had bigger houses, better jobs, etc., and naturally figured they were the ones in the higher classes.
(d) I was afraid to admit I was upper middle class because I see that you hang out only with other poor people. So I was afraid of being left out.
3. The reason I had to notify you that you are only a “casual acquaintance” of mine, and not a “close friend,” as you seemed to believe, is:
(a) You were digging too deeply into my personal doodoo, and I felt I needed to finally let you know that you weren’t one of my closer friends.
(b) I did not know the definition of “casual acquaintance” I had meant to say something more along the lines of “close acquaintance” or “frequent associate.”
(c) I believe that people who have made money in this world, especially those who have done so by hard work as I have, are innately superior to lazy bums like you, Andy. When you became homeless and I became a millionaire, well — it just didn’t look good. I was afraid you might show up at the golf club looking like a hobo and hitting me up for a five dollar bill.
(d) I sincerely believe that your problems — whatever they are — disqualify you from being friends with a guy like me who clearly has far fewer problems.
4. The reason why I apologized to you for “thinking you were bipolar” is:
(a) I figured out on my own that you couldn’t be bipolar because all the mood swings and so forth could easily be explained through severe drug abuse.
(b) I am unaware of psychiatric diagnoses in general, and the words “dual diagnosis” have no particular meaning for me.
(c) I remembered that you had repeatedly asked me not to tell total strangers that you were “bipolar” and I confused this for your insisting you were *not* bipolar. Just a brain fart, my bad.
(d) I figured that since I consistently broke your confidence and told everybody you were bipolar, you would now conclude that I would now begin to tell everybody that you were a drug addict. I did this because I figured it would freak you out so much that I would finally be able to get rid of you, you worthless hum-bum, you.
5. The reason why I used the pronoun “one” instead of “I” when I said: “One hesitates to answer your question for fear of your reaction,” is:
(a) I sincerely believe that everybody else responds to you, Andy, the same way that I do.
(b) I do not know the correct usage of personal pronouns.
(c) I intentionally wanted to put you down and make you feel worse about yourself.
(d) I earnestly believe that I am an innately superior being to you, Andy, and that you and I are not equals in the eyes of God.
6. The reason why I changed your classification from “bipolar” to “drug addict” is because:
(a) I have never personally smoked marijuana and I did not know that not every person who occasionally takes a hit of weed is a drug addict. Sorry about that.
(b) All homeless people are drug addicts. How else could somebody become homeless?
(c) Not having used any illicit drugs, I don’t really see how a person can possibly resort to such substances and not be a drug addict, even though I drink like a fish and insist that I am not an alcoholic.
(d) I was intentionally trying to make you totally paranoid that I would now tell everybody you were a drug addict just like I used to tell everybody you were bipolar.
7. The reason why I helped me with a few bucks to get out of the Bay Area and start a new life in Idaho was:
(a) I figured you were so talented you will probably become famous and then later I can take some credit for it.
(b) I just wanted to do something good for somebody, and you seemed like someone I could help.
(c) I actually liked you and thought of you as a friend at the time, before your many problems converted you into only an acquaintance. I did not like to see my friend suffering. Now that you’re only an acquaintance, of course, you may suffer all you wish.
(d) I was trying to get rid of you. Figured the best way at this point was to ship you out of State.
8. The reason why I suggested you seek funding from a religious organization to produce your non-religious musical was:
(a) I didn’t know what your musical was about, but I assumed it was a Christian or religious musical, because you have those leanings.
(b) I didn’t put together the obvious fact that if I didn’t know what your musical was about, it made no sense to suggest it be funded by a religious organization, because it might not have been a religious musical. Sorry Andy, I hate to admit it, but I’m really not very bright.
(c) I simply like to give advice, and this just happened to be a rare instance in which the advice I like to give didn’t make sense. You know, when you’re a chronic advice-giver, it’s hit and miss.
(d) I was only trying to help!
9. The reason why I called you on New Years Eve driving home from a gig, even though I had already notified me that you are only a casual acquaintance of mine is:
(a) I do not know the correct definition of “casual acquaintance.”
(b) I like to call my casual acquaintances on long drives, to kill time. I usually make over 100 such calls on a particularly long drive.
(c) I was bored.
(d) I actually like you, Andy. I don’t mind talking to you for hours on end every now and then, but please Andy — you’re a Poor Boy. I’m a Rich Man. Stay in your place from now on, please!
10. The reason why I haven’t talked to you for over two years now is:
(a) You freaked me out.
(b) You are an asshole.
(c) As I said before, I’ve been trying to get rid of you.
(d) I earnestly believe that I am a superior being to you due to my innate superiority, and I only wish to retain contact with my equals.
11. The reason why I don’t read the Bible much and am not familiar with Scripture, though I claim to be a Christian, is:
(a) The Bible is hard to understand and I don’t believe I’m smart enough to grasp its contents.
(b) I don’t think a person needs to read the Bible in order to be a good Christian.
(c) I don’t really think of myself as a Christian. In my world, you have to be both a Christian and a Republican to gain acceptance among those in my social class. It’s just a game I play in order to find friends.
(d) I have seen what a lot of Bible reading has done to guys like you, Andy, and I don’t want to become that way.
12. The reasons why I kept lecturing you on how to live your life is:
(a) You kept taking my lectures seriously and following most of the advice I was giving you. Most people don’t do that, because most people don’t like to receive advice they haven’t asked for. You were different, and I appreciate it, because I really enjoy helping people out with all my (unsolicited) advice.
(b) I sincerely know how you should live your life in order to get past all these many issues of yours and become a guy like me who obviously has no issues.
(c) I was only trying to help!
(d) I hate to break it to both of us, but the bottom line is that I am simply too stupid to realize that I shouldn’t be giving a constant stream of unsolicited advice to every Tom, Dick and Harry on the block, especially when most of them are about five times as intelligent as I am.
Mercifully, I did not send the questionnaire. In fact, by the time I finished it, I no longer wanted to. I looked at the bulk of the evidence, and decided that Hanlon’s Razor is right:
Of course, this begs the question: “Why on earth did I listen to all these uninvited lectures in the first place?
The answer is this. When you’re homeless, and you’re out on the streets, and you’re not sleeping very well, and you’re being treated left and right as though you are a totally worthless scum bag with no clue how to live your life, you eventually begin to believe it.
So you turn to those who appear to be doing well, and you eat up their worthless advice as though it were manna from heaven. Somehow, you don’t realize until you finally get inside that their advice pertains only to the world of the wealthy. It has no relevance whatsoever to the world of the underprivileged — the world in which you actually live.
As far as forgiveness is concerned, as Bryan Wagner has pointed out, it has nothing to do with the other person at all. The idea of requesting that someone alter their behavior in order that you might forgive them is absurd. Had they been willing to do something like that, you’d have never resented them in the first place.
Forgiveness is an inside job. It can only be accomplished in that place inside you where you meet your True and Highest Self. It can only be accomplished in the heart.
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