Friday, July 1, 2011

On Hurt, Forgiveness, and Love

I watched a film last night titled Inheritance that I'm still pondering this morning. It may not be everybody's cup of tea: it's a documentary with, well, lots of scenes in which two women are doing nothing but crying together. It's about a daughter, Monika Hertwig, who is struggling to deal with the fact that her father, Amon Goeth, was a Nazi responsible for killing thousands of Jews. In the story, Monika reaches out to Helen Jonas-Rosezweig, her father's Jewish maid and slave during the war. (Helen was 14 years old at the time and witness to many atrocities committed at the hands of Monica's father, who was commandant of the camp outside Krakow, Poland--the camp portrayed in Spielberg's film Schindler's List.)

The entire film was moving, but what impacted me the most was how much Hertwig's family kept from their daughter. Her mother had been there, also witness to the appalling crimes committed by her husband, but she'd explained some of it away to her daughter with excuses like "the Jews had a contagious disease and your father was forced to kill them." Hertwig did not understand the actual nature of the slaughter until she saw Schindler's List being filmed, in which actor Ralph Fiennes portrayed her father as the monster he was.

She was horrified. And she says regretfully, in retrospect, "Spielberg told me the truth, and I attacked him. Spielberg told me the truth, and I didn't want to know the truth. So I attacked him."

Denial. Anger. Hate.

God bless this woman for her honesty, for her insight into human nature. And for owning that response.

And I think about things such as, for instance, how many mothers of sexually abused children refuse to believe their children because it somehow seems HARDER to think their husbands could do such a thing?

How many people who have been deeply hurt are so involved in their own pain that they're unable to see the hurt they cause others, or take any responsibility for what they do beyond "I didn't mean it?" Or, worse, they accuse the injured person of the very self-centeredness that engulfs them?

And how many times is their accusation also true?

Sometimes human interaction is a world of hurt. Sometimes I think the mere fact of being human means that you will hurt other people, despite all your efforts to do anything BUT.

Horribly empathic, I feel so very keenly other people's pain (it's gloriously empathic when I'm feeling their love). I feel their fear, their panic, their guilt, the howl they're holding down in their gut. It feels like being punched in the stomach.

Helpless to intervene (it's THEIR life, THEIR choices), I watch people I love act out foolishly, impulsively, without forethought of injury or consequence, unknowingly motivated by fear, hurt, guilt, or anger.

I see myself doing it sometimes, realizing it after the fact.

What can we do?

A wise person once said, "The only sin is selfishness." All other sins flow from selfishness--the impulse to put ourselves first, to rate our needs and wants as higher or better, at the expense of others. I see sin as being on a continuum: on one end is the "evil" person, 100% selfish all the time, justifying all actions, no matter how heinous, because they're self-serving. On the other end of the continuum is sainthood, pure selflessness. Most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes and occupy different places on it at different times in our lives.

How do we not get trapped in our own pain, how do we accept hard truths and heal anyway, rather than falling victim to our own selfish natures?

Forgive. The only peace is in forgiveness. Love in humankind is only to be found in forgiveness.

It is a struggle. But, forgive and love anyway. Love even if it hurts.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insight
Beyond beautiful.

Joyce said...

Thanks for visiting! :)