Getting out of the way

It took me twelve years to forgive someone who ought to have known better. This was someone in authority who, when notified of the wrongful actions of someone under his chain of command, turned on me instead. I was the problem, not the person who failed to follow proper procedure and who lied and badgered us about something that shouldn’t even have been an issue.

I’m keeping the details covered up here to protect the guilty. I wrote a letter of complaint, and the person in charge called me to say that I needed therapy and that my perception of the event was totally wrong. (Note: it was not wrong. I had this pesky thing called facts to back me up.) Eventually I agreed with the guy just to get him to shut up, and then my Patient Husband wrote a stronger-worded letter, stating that a) the higher-up had been rude to me, and b) that the organization hadn’t addressed the problem. The higher-up then called me back again and was really rude, condescending, abrasive, and just-short of verbally abusive on the phone.

And I took twelve years to forgive him because if you’re entrusted with authority, you damn well should exercise it to take care of the people you’re supposed to be taking care of. I tried any number of times, but I kept thinking things like, “God, well, I guess if you want me to forgive that stupid jerk for his self-centered and nasty…” which pretty much indicates that forgiveness isn’t happening. I brought it to Confession and eventually I just asked the Holy Spirit to forgive the person in my name, and I’d catch up later. Like, lots later.

Sometime this spring  I finally was able to say, Look, just take it off the books. If he did that to me, then he did it to other people too, so nail him for them, but not because of me. And if he never did it to anyone else, then he probably doesn’t deserve to be nailed to the wall for me either. So I’m asking you to wipe out that entry in the record books. It’s done.

A couple of days ago, when someone else was in a similar situation, I googled the authority-person out of curiosity, just to see if it was the same man. And I found him.

Last May, say the news reports, the person was reported to his organization for a  small infraction. When the organization conducted an internal investigation,  they discovered something far worse. Like an actual crime. Something dating back to 2002. Something they then turned over to the attorney general’s office.

This person is no longer in his autority position.

This happened after I forgave him.

Forgiveness is scary. It’s one of the most amazing powers we have, right along with receiving forgiveness. But justice is scarier, and this is not the first time I’ve forgiven someone for something huge only to have everything come down around the person’s ears a week or so later.

I’m sure God doesn’t really work that way, holding His wrath in abeyance as long as we’re feeling the anger for Him. That’s a Stupid Human Trick (per Harriet Lerner’s “Dance of Anger” books.)  Refusing to forgive someone isn’t going to protect them from God taking steps to right the scales. It’s far more likely that God knew I’d need to forgive this dude before I found out about the other stuff so I didn’t walk around chuckling because now everyone knew this guy was a snot.

And yet…I wonder. I wonder if all along, God was waiting for me to get out of the way.


  1. Pat

    Twelve years, eh? That means I still have a few to go . . .

    But your idea of asking the Holy Spirit to do it for you, because you can’t (yet) is an idea worth trying.

    1. Jane

      It wasn’t my idea. When I brought it to Confession, the priest suggested I do it that way, that way the forgiveness box was technically checked off even though I wasn’t ready to do it. WHich was kind of how I felt: I wanted it to be done, but I just wasn’t able to see how I could.

      1. cricketB

        A lot of therapy has to do with forgiving yourself for not being ready to heal.

        You have to start where you are, not where you think you should be.

  2. cricketB

    I’m usually faster to forgive people for harm done to me than for harm done to others, especially those who advise people in authority.

    The person I had the hardest time forgiving was in that position. His advice would protect me, but at the expense of my compassion for those who hurt me. All I could think of were the ripples if that advice were carried down the chain. I agonized over it for four years.

    I finally asked God to look after him, and those he advised, and on down the chain. To help them see the short-sightedness of the advice, and to find a better way to help people in their care.

    Asking Him helped me a lot. I think it was after one of your posts on “Let Go and Let God.”

    If God does exist, He’s a great guy, because He helps even though knows I don’t believe in Him. If He doesn’t exist, He’s even more awesome.

  3. nantubre

    thank you. This was like reading the instruction book. I have a lot of forgiving to do, mostly forgiving myself. I’ve hurt a lot of people over the years. Unintentionally of course, but there is no excuse for ignorance.

  4. Michelle Willms

    I am having some issues I’m having trouble dealing with. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve tried everything else. I’ve tried forgiveness on my own, but it only partially works (which doesn’t count). I think your route make work wonders. Thank you.

  5. Tex Thompson (@tex_maam)

    What a fantastic notion. I’m not sure I would have enough emotional maturity to see it that way (though I guess it’s something you have to come around to, after you get past the initial anger and resentment), but that is an absolutely perfect idea – “waiting for me to get out of the way”. We should probably all do some thinking from time to time about what cross-hairs we might still be standing in.

    (And hey, if I haven’t said it yet, thank you so much for being my sparring partner at Write Club – you are a FANTASTIC writer, from first to last, and I can’t wait to see where you will go with it!)

  6. J.Q. Rose

    I was entranced by your writing about forgiveness and following your thinking. Your last line was perfect. This is a very thoughtful, mature post. Thanks for sharing because forgiving either someone else or yourself is very, very difficult, but oh so freeing when it’s done.