An ongoing family drama lasting almost two years now has come to a pretty firm conclusion the last two days. The details beyond that are private and not really important, but it's obviously got me asking all kinds of questions and wondering about all kinds of things.
What is closure? How do you forgive someone? What do those words and concepts even mean?
Over the past several years, I think the concept of forgiveness has changed in our culture from something involved in repairing a relationship with a person to being much more focused on doing it for yourself - a way to free yourself of past hurt. There's the simpler level of having a fight with someone, forgiving them, and truly being able to move forward with that relationship. That is a bit more cut and dry and easy to understand (though not necessarily easy to do!)
|Easier said than done, dude.|
That idea of forgiveness as being more "for yourself" is especially helpful, I imagine, if the person you're trying to forgive has passed away or is just no longer in your life. It's not about them validating you or forgiving you in return - it's about you. Or you also read about extraordinary people who have forgiven the murderer of a friend or family member, talking about a need to free themselves from living a life of bitterness and resentment. It makes sense, and sounds amazing. It also sounds deceptively easy - but of course there's no way it can be easy! Can it? I suppose it's different for everyone. The quote on the right I think typifies this type of thinking about forgiveness and working to let go of anger, however justified.
Closure is an even more open-ended concept to try to get my brain around. What gives something the power of being "closure?" How can you measure it? What does it feel like? If we're talking about something on a relationship level, you're dealing with at least two parties - what if one has closure and one doesn't?
I know these are really abstract questions. I think they're abstract mainly because I tend to be more literal and more tactile. It's probably why I've been more drawn to a spiritual practice that has such a physical component as opposed to a more traditional religion.
I realized last night, talking this through with Marc, that I've never been able to "achieve" forgiveness with anything beyond the most basic kind of working something out with a friend and moving forward in that relationship. I haven't been able to get to a point where I've just decided to forgive something I'd categorize as major in my life. Part of why I haven't is because I don't know what it feels like. I don't know what it means. It almost certainly doesn't take away feelings of sadness and anger and a feeling of being wronged or hurt. If it's "for me," what does that mean?
It's the same feeling of uncertainty that comes up when I address the question of God. I'm an agnostic because while I don't believe in God, I also know that I don't know for sure that there isn't a God. I just don't know, and I don't feel I can presume to commit fully to one side of the spectrum or the other.
Relating that to the concepts of forgiveness and closure, I know that they aren't magic buttons you can press to make anger and sadness go away. So what are they? What does it mean? What does it take to get there? How can forgiveness set you free if the pain is still there? And am I just being too damn literal about all this?
Any and all ideas are welcome.