Called to forgive

It’s funny that while we feel the need to forgive or be forgiven by some, others we simply forget completely. In secondary school, I was tormented for nearly five years without pause by boys on the school bus, every single evening on the journey home. But today I can’t remember them at all: I don’t even recall their faces. I certainly don’t remember their names.

The same goes for the boys who would follow me along the corridors of the school every lunchtime for a year, mocking and deriding my face and form. I always dreamed of developing martial arts skills that would enable me to deliver a ninja kick right between their eyes, splitting their skulls in two. Though they were on my back for months on end, today all I have of them is the faintest of outlines.

Perhaps I just obliterated those memories when I left that school. For sure, I turned my back on everyone then, walking away from them for good. I didn’t say goodbye to anybody; I just left, determined never to look back. It was supposed to be a clean break and a fresh start. But it wasn’t. It couldn’t be, because I still carried my whole being with me everywhere, by which I was judged by all.

In life, there are some I have forgotten completely, all recollection except for their actions vanished from my mind for good. And yet there are others I have never forgotten, and have never been able to forget. I suppose each touched us in different ways, impacting our lives for good or bad. Some things heal, some things don’t.

A few months back, my family would witness that first hand. Our lad was messing about, just having fun, innocently copying his dad as kids do, intent on winding me up. Normally, I’m a calm man, happy to play along. Only, this time I responded badly, triggered by recollections of the behaviour of a classmate in my final year of secondary school, who more than anyone else cemented my determination to leave.

Thus, after several futile attempts at asking my son to stop, I would suddenly explode with rage, upsetting him and shocking my wife. “This house is my refuge,” I yelled at the top of my voice. “Nobody mocks me in my own home!” A strange reaction, so out of character. But there it was: a furore released from deep within. A stupid, foolish, inexplicable frenzy which would subside soon enough.

I’d have to apologise to my son then, finding him crying, upset by the actions of that unfamiliar character that had taken control of his jovial dad. “The strong man,” we have all been taught, “is not the one strong at wrestling, but the one who controls himself in anger.” In that, that day, I failed completely. Clearly, he was one of those I remembered whom I’m still not ready to forgive, even thirty years on.

Others have been more fortunate. Some I have reached out to. Some are remembered in my daily prayers, for whom I ask all good. I believe there must be some good reason why these folk were never forgotten: an opportunity for me, perhaps, to forgive another. Perhaps the same will one day be true of the fellow who sparked my fury. Perhaps one day I will find the courage to forgive him too, to acknowledge, yes, he was probably just a kid playing. If he’s not forgotten, maybe I’m called to forgive.

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