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I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

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MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Slightly Disorganized Thoughts on Forgiveness and Moving On

Warnings: References (no descriptions) of abuse, violence, people hurting each other.

I've been thinking about the ideas of moving on vs forgiving vs forgetting. These aren't the same things. Moving on is a prerequisite for forgetting/forgetting causes moving on if it hasn't happened yet, the way I look at it, but other than that, I'm pretty sure these can happen in any order.

First off, the definitions I'm using so that folks don't get super confused. I've seen a lot of disagreement about what forgiveness even means, so I think this is important.

Moving on: I don't spend particularly much time thinking about it. If something with a similar pattern comes up or I'm digging for examples, I might think of it. If someone brings it up, I know what they're talking about. Those last two are mostly to differentiate from forgetting. Moving on means thinking about the event isn't exactly taking up much time in my life. I probably don't think of it often.

Forgetting: I'm not going to come up the event as an example, not going to remember it if I see a pattern it fits in. If someone brings it up, my reaction is "wait, what?" or something along those lines. I may or may not have retained whatever I learned from the event itself, but I don't consciously remember the event. I think this is a pretty common idea of what forgetting is. Not something I can consciously decide to do, FYI.

Forgiving: I may or may not trust the person/organization, but I am not actively mad at them when I think about them/the event. I still recognize that it was a messed up thing to do, because if I didn't think it was messed up then I wouldn't think there was anything to forgive. There's some active relationship repair that's happening or has happened.

Now.
I'm actually going to use debts as a metaphor here. Yay metaphor time.

Forgetting means I lost the records. Forgiving means I cancelled the debts. Moving on means working under the assumption that the debt's not getting paid and not really worrying about this fact. If I run into the person and I've still got the records, I might make an attempt to get the debt repaid, or I might not, depending on a bunch of stuff. Even if I don't bother trying to collect, I still am aware that yes, it is a debt.

For me, forgiveness requires a real attempt to fix the problem and be better in the future. Moving on doesn't require that. Forgetting isn't something I decide to do, but it implies that I've moved on because I'm not thinking about it. When people talk about forgiveness as something that will lift a burden for the forgiver, I wonder if those people are equating forgiveness with moving on. Maybe they can't move on without forgiving. I don't know- I'm going to demonstrate "theory of mind" here and say that I recognize their mental states are different from mine. Yes, there is some sarcasm/satire at the idea of theory of mind that I'm intending in that statement. I'll continue said use of "theory of mind" and suppose that the people who insist I must be unduly burdened by the wrongs I've not forgiven don't understand how my mental state is different from theirs. That is, they are lacking this "theory of mind." But wait, I'm the one who's Autistic, so that can't be.

Too bad. So sad. If people are going to come up with ideas of the "root" of autism that are that silly, I'm going to poke fun at them when I get the chance.
Anyways.

I can move on without forgiving. A lot of people can. Related to the fact that I can do this, if I forgive someone who's wronged me, that's because they're attempting to fix the problem and do better. I'm not Jesus, folks. Not even Christian (though I am under the impression that they also want you to at least be sorry and try to change.) I'm kind of Jewish (went to Hebrew School, Bat Mitzvahed, family celebrations around Jewish holidays, but I don't really believe in any higher powers,) and I'm pretty OK with the way of handling forgiveness that I was taught in Hebrew school. See, while folks tended to not work that way in real life, the cycle went something like this, from the perspective of a person who did a wrong thing. "I'm sorry," was step one. "I won't do it again," and other statements of attempts to make it right were step two. Not doing it again was step three. I'm not a fan of the part where you're kind of expected to give forgiveness if the person who wronged you does all those things, but at least the expectation of being better is there.

(Hey, Neurodivergent K, I think your idea of what a person needs to do for a shot at forgiveness and the Jewish idea I was taught for what you need to do to be forgiven have some similarities.)
Anyways.

From my observations of the world, I'm going to assume there are also a lot of people who can't move on without forgiving. That's OK. Different mental states/mental processes for different people. I think potential problems arise when people assume that moving on requires forgiveness and give advice based on this assumption (or assume that potential bad effects of not moving on are automatically worse than potential bad effects of trusting someone who is making no attempt to be better.) I don't think those are the only places problems can come from, not by a long shot, but I think they're important.

Different people handle being wronged differently. Some folks need to use "never forgive, never forget" to keep themselves safe. That's especially true when the world actually isn't safe and people keep trying to do wrong things to you. Recognizing those patterns and staying the heck away from the folks who fall into those patterns, not letting them back in, can be important.

Sometimes the same people who need to do that might be people who actually can't move on without forgiving. I'm not in either of these categories of people, so I can't say what they absolutely think of this idea, but I've got an idea. It's that even if not being able to move on is a burden (and yes, I'm leaving that as an if,) sometimes taking on a burden is what you've got to do to stay safe. People make calculations of "which not-awesome thing is less bad?" all the time, and as much as it stinks to be making that kind of calculation... it's not the place of people who aren't making the calculation to say the people living that are doing it wrong. I'm not sure there's actually a contradiction in that sentence.

Long story short, moving on and forgiving aren't the same thing, and some people can do one without the other. I assume there are folks who can forgive without moving on as well, but I'm fairly sure that's not one of the combinations I can do.

And example time: I've moved on from a decent bit of the stuff that happened to be in 5-6th grade when the school somehow managed to attach another girl to me because she "behaved better around me." I've not forgiven them. If someone tried to defend what the school did as OK, especially if the school tried? They are in DEEP TROUBLE. But as long as no one/nothing else brings it up, I don't exactly spend my time worrying about it. I've got stuff I'd rather be doing.

Note that the problem sources I talked about here are just the ones where the person doing it actually means well. Demanding forgiveness because you're uncomfortable with another person's anger isn't meaning well, and there's a ton of other ways forgive/forget/move on/etc can get very ugly when people talking about it don't mean well. I'll go out on a limb and assume that I missed several ways it can go wrong even when people mean well, but I've not even tried to get into malicious stuff.

1 comment:

  1. I'm working on quite a bit of this myself right now. I'm still not sure where I am on it some days. Most of the time I don't think about the stuff that happened back in school, but with family, that can be more problematic. I blog about it because I hope other people will be aware that these things do happen and to be on the look out for them and sometimes I've sought others who have gone through similar things so I didn't feel alone or to see how they handled it. I like this post very much and it gives me more to work with. It's a difficult thing for me, to "move on" because I tend to remember things so well and have triggers and PTSD, which I'm working through with a therapist. It's a lot of work. I think that since I spend most of my days not living in the past that I must be doing better. The bad PTSD or flashback times are something that still do happen, but I am working on learning how to deal with those as well. Thank you for this post. It came at a very good time for me.

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