Growing up Mormon, there were a lot of stories about forgiveness. In many of the stories, the happy ending involved the wronged party forgiving the perpetrator, with everyone living happily ever after. As with many of the other moralistic stories I grew up with, these narratives now strike me as being highly contorted and artificial.
I should say that I do believe in forgiveness. However, I feel like the forgiveness narratives that I grew up with ended up putting too much pressure on the victim to forgive the perpetrator, in many situations at the cost of the victim. Nowadays, my views on forgiveness are very different. In an ideal world, people learn from mistakes. They grow up, move on, and in the process, become a better and wiser person. However, this world is far from ideal and the reality is that many people just don’t change. Either way, the past can never be undone. As a result, I am much more careful about who I forgive and who I choose to trust.
Two and a half years ago I was hit by a car while walking to school. The driver was an elderly man who hit three pedestrians. This accident was, in so many ways, the result of negligence on the part of the driver – I just had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, this twist of fate ended up derailing my life in ways both physical and emotional.
And so that brings me to an issue of forgiveness. In this particular case, what does forgiveness look like? The truth is, I don’t harbor a whole lot of ill-will towards the driver. I hope that he understands the impact of what he did. I also sincerely hope that he never drives again. But the attitude and actions of the driver is outside my control. I am no longer seeking an external form of forgiveness.
If I wanted, I could have reached out to the driver. After the accident, I was given the driver’s information, including his home address. I suppose, if I wanted to, I could have arranged to meet him. But the simple truth is: I don’t want to meet the driver. Perhaps he feels sorry for what he did. Perhaps he doesn’t. Perhaps he has stopped driving. Perhaps he hasn’t. Either way, I have had to struggle with the consequences of this driver’s mistake. As a result, I just don’t want to depend on someone else’s actions in order to move on.
I hope that the driver is doing well. I hope that he can forgive himself. But that is his own personal journey, not mine.