CLOSE SHOTS: Can Forgiveness Be Entertaining?
by Michele Deradune
"Forgiveness is the sweetest revenge." - Isaac Friedmann
I was having the darnedest time deciding what to write about in my column this month, so like I always do when that is the case, I do like an actor and just signal the Muse, take what is thrown into me to feel, and go with it. Technically I should have already written this column and submitted it 7 hours ago to squeeze into deadline, 7 hours ago being the midnight before the 1st of the month, so it's definitely time to put off any further procrastination. I was hoping I would wake up this morning with my Topic.
Oh, I have a few topics I can use if I am ever really dry, but this morning I did wake up with a strong topic. Only thing is, I found myself wondering: But is it entertaining? (That's one of the guidelines for writing a column here - for the subject matter to be, if not about acting or film, that is okay as long as it is entertaining.) With the particular topic I find myself wanting to write about today, I had to ask myself, "What is entertainment?" Maybe if I can understand that, then I will know for sure if this is a good topic to write about.
On the one hand, it is easy to think, "Oh yeah, I know what entertainment is. Everybody knows what it is. Movies are entertainment, and dancing, plays, singing, comedy." But that didn't seem to answer my question, so I turned to one of my very favorite resources for such questions - an etymology dictionary. Etymologies of words are the root meanings from which words come, and they can be rather fascinating and revealing about what a word really means at the heart of it, at the core. One of my favorite examples is the etymology for sarcasm. Touted as the lowest form of humor, because it is biting and often hurtful, the etymology of sarcasm is one I find very interesting: "from L.L. sarcasmos, from Gk. sarkasmos 'a sneer', from sarkazein 'to speak bitterly, sneer', lit. 'to strip off the flesh', from sarx (gen. sarkos) "flesh." Wow. We have heard of stripping off the flesh as a gruesome form of torture. Makes it pretty clear why sarcasm is not a very friendly form of humor.
So, I looked up the etymology of "entertain" and got: "'to keep up, maintain', from M.Fr. entretenir, from O.Fr. entretenir 'hold together, support', from entre- 'among' (from L. inter) + tenir 'to hold' (from L. tenere). Sense of 'have a guest' is 1490; that of 'amuse' is 1626'. Entertainer [as] 'public performer' is from c.1535. Hmm. Interesting. Initially, to entertain meant simple support and maintenance and holding together, then came to include being a host, and later took on the meanings of "amusement" and "public performance." Perhaps the wisdom being given by the root meaning here is that at the core of amusement and public performance is the act of giving support to the audience, a sort of maintenance, "holding together." Well, I would say that my chosen topic this morning is definitely along the lines of all that, so that decides it. I will write about what may at first glance seem too sober to be entertaining. I will write about Forgiveness. Because yes, it is a way of holding together, because that is just the vein in which I was going to be writing about forgiveness and its ability, yeah, to hold together or, to use a more modern vernacular, to "hang tough."
Forgiveness is a funny thing. Sometimes it can be hard to forgive a person. In my own life, I have found that the very hardest times to forgive is when there has been no apology, and when the offending party or parties did not seem to feel that s/he or they did anything wrong at all. When I am hurting from feeling somehow wronged by another, it can be a long-lingering effect. Days, weeks, months and even years can go by with no real lessening of the pain of such hurt.
And what if the person that hurt me doesn't seem to feel s/he even did anything wrong and is totally unapologetic? In my younger years, the answer seemed clear. How could I forgive someone who expressed no remorse? Impossible. Or so I thought.
Then one day I woke up from a nightmare. This nightmare occurred a full three years after a (previously) close friend had betrayed me in a way that felt too cruel to comprehend. What she did was, by my own definition, unforgivable. It's pretty personal, so I won't go into what happened here in such a public format, but suffice it to say it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that she "done me wrong." In my nightmare, she was standing before me and I was screaming and crying at her with all of my hurt and pain and screaming at her, "How could you DO that to me?!!!" As in real life, she gave no answer. And I woke up, feeling that pain just as intensely had the whole hurtful event happened just yesterday.
And that was the rub. It just didn't seem fair. I was the one that was wronged, so how come I was being tortured by this pain, and for so long? Why did it not diminish and fade within me as I had expected it to do? This is what I asked myself, and for this I came up with no answers. It simply did not make sense. All I knew was that I didn't want to go on for another three years - or God forbid, even longer - with this grief and hurt in my heart. Three years had passed and still no apology had come from her. In fact, she acted as if she were angry with me for any blame I attributed to her. She was no closer to apologizing to me than she had been before. What could I do?
I thought about it and I felt about it, determined to find a way to release myself from this torment. However wrong it was what she did to me, it was enough that it had happened and that I had suffered it. I did not want to suffer it, however, for the rest of my life! I thunk and thunk, and the only answer I could find that was in my power to execute seemed the impossible - and that was to forgive her.
I had never really thought about it before, but to me it seemed to just be "a given" that you cannot forgive someone until and unless they apologize to you. Right? I mean, how could you? What would be the point, if they didn't even admit, or perhaps even realize, that they had done something wrong or hurtful? It just didn't make sense to forgive someone like that. No sense at all.
But then I realized that I was on a mission here, and it was not about her: it was about me. It was about me wanting and needing to feel better, and wanting and needing to feel released from this pain. More and more, I came to realize that it was the pain in MY heart that was the issue here, and less and less was she the focal point of my "problem." My non-ending torment was the problem, and that was what I needed to exorcise, not her. She was already out of my life. I had not seen her or talked to her for three years. It was this pain that was living with me, not her.
And then I knew what I must do. I must release the pain. I realized that was held the pain close to me and in me was my own sense of hurt, anger and outrage, the outrage itself being the worst to suffer. I was ready to do anything it took to be free of this unfair torment. I was ready to do something outrageous. Something radical.
I would forgive her. That was it. I knew if I could forgive her, then I would be released. Oh my, this felt very awkward. What an alien idea it was to forgive someone who wasn't even sorry. I sat there and tried to will myself to forgive her and then sat there and tried to discern if it worked yet. I couldn't tell. It seemed so impossible somehow. How could I make it real?
Okay. I had to make it real. How could I do that? Just sitting there and willing it didn't seem to be doing the trick. So, I decided that to forgive someone, even someone who was unapologetic, it must be necessary to let them know I am forgiving them. So I called her on the phone. I got her voicemail and I left her a message. I told her, "I am just calling you up because I needed to let you know that I forgive you. I know it must feel kind of strange for me to call and forgive you when you may feel that you never did anything wrong, but I just need to do it anyway, for my own peace of heart. So, I just want you to know that even if you told think you did anything for me to forgive you for, that I forgive you anyway."
I had suffered so much inner pain for three years about that situation until that day. But guess what? It did the trick! No more finding myself in bleak hours struggling with the hurt of what had happened with her. No more nightmares. I forgave her, and I made it real by telling her so. It didn't have to mean I thought it was okay what she did. I didn't and I don't. And it didn't have to mean I would ever trust her again. I probably won't. But it meant the hurt could leave to make room in the savaged space for what the heart was meant to feel - some love and gladness. She and I even saw one another a few times after that, and sometime later she even apologized in her way. Well, it was more like an explanation, but I understood that it was the closest she knew how to come to an apology. And that was okay. What was important was that I used the power of forgiveness, and that gave me a freedom I fail to be able to describe.
Forgiveness. It's a freeing experience. Try it, you'll like it. And you'll find that it's true:
"Forgiveness does not mean that what happened was okay. It simply means that we are no longer willing to allow that experience to adversely affect our lives. Forgiveness is something we do, ultimately, for ourselves." - Christine Northrup
And hopefully, this column is helping hold somebody together. If so, then I've done my job and have been entertaining. Until next time, y'all take care!
Michele Déradune is a single mom, film actress and voice talent represented by CIAO! TALENTS. Michele played Mel, the cheating wife of the judge, in the Texas-based SNAKE TALES, directed by Francesca Talenti, and which was awarded "Best Independent Film Comedy" at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Summer 2001. You can check learn more about Michele and check out her online video and voice demos by following links at www.Deradune.com.