Many years ago I worked with a leading man in a production sometime in the mid 1990s. He was handsome and extremely talented. However, we had an incredible falling out during the run of the show due to his bad behavior and a tapestry of deception and lies that hurt a lot of people, yours truly included. There was a point when, at the height of all this, I refused to speak to him backstage; our only conversations and interactions took place on stage during the show. By the end of the run, all truths were revealed... a lot of hurt dished out... and that was that.
Fast forward to today. I received a note of apology from him... he's since cleaned up his act, is working in a hit show, has found a wonderful life partner and is busy doing charity work as well with underprivileged children. He wrote of how there were no excuses for his behavior during the production, and hoped that I would forgive him.
I conveniently forgot about him for a long time, but whenever I was reminded of those days past (thanks to many mutual friends and colleagues), a lot of those painful feelings would then rise up. It took me a long time to finally be able to say that I forgive him (I wrote him back to tell him so), but yeah. We'll hopefully find some time to actually catch up... I have a feeling that we'll revisit those painful times as well, but that's all right... if it happens, then it happens. No, I don't like what he did, but there's no point in living in the past. I won't forget what happened, but I can at least give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he's learned from his mistakes. I have a feeling he has, which makes me happy.
The act of forgiveness isn't in forgetting past hurts, but in overcoming them.
Pain tends to leave an indelible mark on the heart... we can learn to bypass the scar, but it'll always be around. I know that I've meted out my share of pain to people that were at some point in my life very dear to me, and I can only hope and pray that this grace be given to me too. I cannot expect however... I can only hope.
Forgiveness requires two things: a sincere and heartfelt recitation of contrition and apology, and time. Especially time. I've found that it takes me a long time in order to truly process the hurt and find myself in the right state to forgive someone. I take it to be similar with everyone else, excepting that the time factor varies from person to person. For some it takes an instant... for others, almost a full lifetime.
No, I can't always excuse my own examples of less than ideal behavior... there are things that I have done that are worthy of a good old-fashioned cuss out by the wronged party... there are things I regret saying... there are things I regret doing... but I'd like to think that from those past misdeeds I've grown up, learned from my own mistakes and moved onward and upward. I can only hope that whoever I've wronged will give me the benefit of the doubt.
And if forgiveness never comes, that's fine too.