Monthly Archives: September 2011

Restorative Justice starts here……..

….with you and with me.

I have been following The Forgiveness project for a while now – it is a  a UK-based charitable organisation which explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution through real-life human experience. They work in prisons, schools, faith communities, and with any group who want to explore the nature of forgiveness whether in the wider political context or within their own lives.  The Forgiveness Project has no religious or political affiliations.

I work at the moment, and have done previously, with people with many reasons to forgive and be forgiven and little opportunity to do either as survival is the priority. When I read and hear the countless personal stories in my own sphere as well as through the Forgiveness Project the bitter defiance and hunger of the unforgiving almost pierces the skin. Those who are unforgiven are lacking in a human aspect, but those who are unable to forgive suffer more with each reminder of what they cannot forgive. 9/11 is opening some dreadful wounds and there is some toxic stuff coming out, poisoning the future for those who cannot forgive. It is not their fault.

One of the things I have reflected on is my own lack of forgiveness. Not towards others – I could not bear a grudge  for the winning lottery ticket – but towards myself. More than the usual perfectionist thing of  beating-oneself-up at work, I have also consistently failed to forgive myself for just about every possible wrong I have committed. An example: recently we adopted a greyhound and had everything in place to allow him to get used to our much loved cat before letting them loose together. But it went horribly wrong – as I describe it I can just about smile with a grimace – it all sounds a bit Brian Rix to me now – the dog killed the cat, but while it was all happening and we were trying to separate them I was hauling on the dog and found blood on my hands. I instantly knew what I had to do and I punched the dog to the ground to free the cat, but it was too late. All over in seconds. I took the cat to the vet at once but he was too badly mauled and we had to do the decent thing. I blame myself, of course. Not only that but a few days later I ran over a blasted rabbit while driving to work down one of those country roads where the small animals fling themselves suicidally under the wheels of passing cars in the early hours. I should add I am vegetarian. Picture that. I arrived at work feeling like Jack the sodding Ripper.

But more painful and more troubling than all the other transgressions rolled into one is the one I find most difficult to even think about forgiving myself for: my Mother died earlier this year after a stroke – my Father had died three years before after a stroke as well. She suffered the most degrading and neglectful nursing in hospital at first until I made a quiet fuss and things improved. But my own shock and pain and the need to be constantly on the alert – no time to take ones eye off the ball –  to ensure decent care for her made it difficult for me to do as much as I should have done. I played her favourite music for her through my headphones on my iPod as she died, sharing it with her with one earpiece in one of my ears and the other earpiece in one of her ears – I do not know if she heard, the stroke was so massive and so determined to take her that it was not possible to know if she knew I was there or not. But just in case, I held her hand, played her music, talked a bit and sat with her and waited, for such a long time. I did things like the crossword in the Telegraph and read a bit as well to keep a grip on my sanity – but I so regret that now. Why didn’t I keep talking and playing music all the time? Or would that have just been annoying for her – perhaps she preferred to have some peace, some quiet to contemplate and prepare? I know that whatever I did it was the wrong thing and the right thing, and as I can never know I am unsure about how to  forgive myself. Relationships are complex and we had a challenging relationship – she was a charming but difficult woman and I suppose I am a little assertive… All of which means I am left with the most tremendous guilt, which is unfair on the rest of the family who bear it with me.

But the people I have heard and read during my following of this project have caused me to reflect: they are humbling in their own humility and forgiveness and need to understand, and somehow, their forgiveness starts with themselves, their understanding is rooted within. I need to think that through, perhaps there is work to be done – perhaps I should remember that my Mother would probably forgive me, and if she can, maybe I should also forgive myself and free myself up to forgive others, let me and let my family off  the hook. I need to do that if I am to prepare my children for what may happen in the future too and reduce their pain in advance. Like the outstanding, human people you will read about if you follow this link    http://theforgivenessproject.com/about-us/

Please do – for your sake as well.

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