My Life in the Middle Ages

Gayle Saks-Rodriguez

Gayle Saks-Rodriguez
Location
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Birthday
November 11
Bio
Gayle Saks-Rodriguez has been a writer since filling her fourth grade diary with such perfectly crafted sentences as: "Ricky is getting confirmed tommorrow. Since I'm Jewish, I'm not really sure what it does. I should congradulate [sic] him though." She has written about everything from her mother’s double-suicide, online dating, to her work with female inmates, with deep honesty, candor and humor. Saks-Rodriguez (when she wasn’t yet a hyphenate) grew up on Long Island in a town that most people have never heard of and lives in Greater Boston with her husband, daughter, two orange tabbies and one slightly insane Lab mix. Please follow me directly on my site at: mylifeinthemiddleages.blogspot.com

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Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
JUNE 7, 2012 12:42PM

Forgiveness

Rate: 14 Flag

 

I have had the idea of writing about forgiveness for several weeks. This morning, I started to google quotes to lead off this post that would reflect its content, but had to cut the search short to teach my bi-weekly writing workshop to female inmates at a Boston prison.

 

At the end of each class, I ask the women if they are willing to hand in what they have written. They always do. Today, only 2 hours after I began my internet search for quotes, I discovered this written in the margins of a young woman's exercise: "Please God help me to forgive myself."

 

I have no idea what this woman has done to make her turn to her God to absolve her of her guilt. Perhaps her transgression was not far off from one of the things I've felt guilty of in my life--shoplifting a candy bar in junior high school, not playing enough with my daughter, spinning a lie so complex that you can't even remember where it started. Clearly, the very obvious difference is that she is incarcerated, and according to another margin note, "in pain."

 

When I was in 6th grade, I mercilessly bullied one of my classmates, a socially awkward girl who tried desperately hard to befriend me. My best friend and I hurled insults at her on the playground. We called her "Dog Face." As an adult I look back on this and am mortified by my behavior. It is not in my nature to behave like this. I envisioned an episode of Oprah, before bullying became a national topic, bullies and those they bullied, coming together to facilitate an apology for what the bully had done. This fantasy opportunity pre-dated facebook by about 20 years, and then, one random day, I received a friend request from her on Facebook.

 

I panicked. I called a former classmate to ask his advice. Was she going to seek revenge in some way? Tell me I had ruined her life? On the other hand, the opportunity to apologize had just been handed to me, and I hit "accept." She quickly sent me a short message that began like this:

 

"It has been a very long time. Hope life has treated you well"

 

I took my time to construct a response that would convey the shame I carried for so many years over what I had done to her. I told her that I didn't recognize myself in that person who could've treated anyone that way. This was her response:

 

"Don't sweat it. Life is too short to worry about the past. Too many other things to keep you up at night. I don't hold grudges, especially for 30 years. But I truly appreciate you taking the time to apologize.

I always tell my girls to be nice to everyone, you never know what will be in the future and you don't want to burn any bridges."

 

I responded by telling her how much grace she showed in her response. I was forgiven, but, I don't think I will ever forgive myself.

 

 

"Forgiveness is the economy of the heart... forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits."
Hannah More

 

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Comments

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Okay, this one brings tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat...so many things that I wish I had never said or done, mostly to those closest to me, though. I really love this post, every bit of it, and the final quote, too--one can just feel that waste of energy dwindling away, just by reading it. Thanks!
Clay, you have been so incredibly kind to me with your words and I am very grateful. Thank you so much!!!
Clay, you have been so incredibly kind to me with your words and I am very grateful. Thank you so much!!!
I liked this post and I love the kindness with which your classmate responded. Thank you for sharing with such honesty.
A very brave post, Gayle. I don't know that I am ready to recount the time or two when I have been on the other side of this dynamic, but I applaud you for doing just that.

Thanks for calling my attention to your post.
Hey Gayle:

As before, I appreciate your honesty and your courage. Good for you in apologizing, and good for her in accepting your apology so graciously. Some keep grudges for 40 years, and some recognize that we were all young and foolish back in the past. Keep doing what you're doing, keep reflecting on life so honestly, and keep writing, Gaylegayle! You are a good person.

Ray
She would have made a fine friend, wouldn't she? I admire your courage for seeking her out and sharing this.
A magnificent post. Congratulations to you both for handling this so well. I think we all have someone in our past we need to apologize to, and others who need to apologize to us.
By making amends with your victim, you've already forgiven yourself. I was bullied for many years throughout my childhood and though most bullies don't know it, I forgive them because they are tormented with their own demons.
Wow, another great post. Thanks for posting this.
Great post! A very satisfying story of grace and redemption!
Thank you for sharing your story. It makes me wonder about the people who left emotional scars with me. I've forgiven, but will never forget.
Forgiveness is 'for the giver". When you can forgive anyone-especially yourself, you are an agent of healing. You asking for forgiveness from this person is actually a gift to her as you each handed each other a gem.
That's so admirable of you. I guess you need a few kudos for apologizing to this kid who did you no wrong. For what it is worth, forgiving yourself is no different than the excuses you told yourself when you thought your abuse was "funny". You don't know me and I doubt that you've read my blog so understand I am not a vengeful or mean person. I am a survivor of bullying and I want people to know right now that you may get forgiveness from some god or even a former victim but, I hope that what you did to this girl is never absolved. You need to carry that seed of guilt with you just like she will carry the scars you gave her. Sorry for the horrible comment too. Maybe you aren't "like that" now, you were then and really that is what matters, at least to me.
That is a very interesting story.. it made me feel you,the bully,have suffered more than she did...that is the key concept..by harming others we harm ourselves and by being good to others we are bringing good to ourselves,But in the heat of the moment of anger or pain it's hard to recall that into one's mind and heart.
I disagree with the gentleman who thinks you should, 'carry the seed of guilt', that's a very judgmental, small-minded approach to life in general- carrying the seed of any harm done long ago after penance is made, or trying to be made, keeps one in a dark box; and we all know nothing grows without light or oxygen.
Thanks for your words and honesty.
I liked this post and I love the kindness with which your classmate responded. Thank you for sharing with such honesty.

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