As this week marks the 11th anniversary of September 11, 2001, and the 11th week of the Today Voice, I find myself lost in the memories of history; in the meaning of those days, those weeks, that tragedy.
Eleven years ago, everything in my life changed. It was far easier to stay fixated on the devastation and loss of this country, than to face the indefinite amount of pain that was enveloping the people I loved the most.
The thing is, though, that when I look back, it’s not the feelings of heartache or strife that wound me. It’s not the images of smoke billowing across the New York skyline that have been engraved in all of our minds. It’s the overwhelming concept of forgiveness.
How different would the world we grew up in be, had forgiveness smoothed the waters between us and those who felt wronged by us? Had two adults agreed to disagree, and to start again; rather than end everything they had once known to be true. If friends could admit they were troubled, and instead of traveling the dark and twisty road alone, had they just held your hand; everything would’ve been different.
In the past few days, I’ve stumbled upon a collection of photos from my childhood. Beautiful, graceful, hilarious photos that I’m in love with, and quite possibly will be choosing to share soon. The thing that makes my head spin, that makes my heart skip beats and my eyes well up, is that photography is honestly, something else. Real, hard copy photographs nestled along beautiful strips of negatives is a hundred percent different than digital images stored electronically, messaged via cell, and posted to the internet.
These photos – they fall somewhere between hard proof and soft memories; and for one moment, or even several moments, it’s entirely possible to be back in that photo, to remember life as it was when the flash went off, and the piece of history was locked into place.
Photos of my parents. Of my family. Of me, carefree and giggly. Photos of friends, who are no longer. Of adults I thought would be part of my forever. Photos of people who have chosen darkness over forgiveness. Anger over compassion. Black and white, instead of gray.
Staring at the segments of negatives, I thought about just how simple photography is. You take the negative, and you develop it again. You can add more light, you can change the balance; over and over again you can re-create the moment, just as you choose to. The moment, frozen in time, is still yours to unravel, to develop, to decide.
In photography, forgiveness is simple. You snap the shot again. You develop it differently. You click a whole roll of film of the same scene. For you, each photo is different. There’s magic, and memories, and sentiment in every single one. But to the innocent bystander, it is just you, hitting your head against the same wall over and over again.
I think that’s the way opposite parties view forgiveness in life. It’s something you’re anchored in, or something you cannot understand.
Choosing to forgive someone else, to forgive yourself is healing; it’s powerful. Choosing not to forgive someone else, not to forgive yourself is limiting; it’s devastating.
Whichever side of the coin we see – we decide how it plays out. Forgiveness is a choice. Most often, it’s not the easy one. It’s one that instigates heart-piercing conversations; moments in which we know we will never be the same again, for good or for bad.
What I’ve learned in the last 11 years is that not forgiving – it can end a life. It can end a forever friendship. A marriage. A childhood. The security of an entire country.
Not forgiving – it’s detrimental.
But that doesn’t mean it’s always wrong.
Somewhere, in the vast confines of grey, there is but a feeling lost in a room full of logic. Forgiving comes from the heart, not the head. And sometimes, there’s just no way we can do it. It’s too hard. It compromises our beliefs. It changes who we are.
Sometimes, forgiving is Impossible. Unkind.
Sometimes, forgiving is everything we didn’t know we needed.
Amanda Kasper is a writer, reader, quote lover, CASA advocate, and non-profit believer, seeking space as a lifelong learner, passionate lover, and irreplaceable friend. Amanda tweets at @AKasper513 and blogs over at “& this I believe”