Forgiveness is about living in the present.
The idea of forgiveness has been in my head for a while – guess age will do that to you.
I’ve always wanted to know how marriages survive infidelity or betrayal and it’s taken my getting to my 70th decade to glimpse at how that process may work.
1. – I claim that one of the many reasons Hillary Clinton lost was because she couldn’t or wouldn’t teach us anything about the process she went through after her husband’s spectacularly public and cringingly sordid infidelity. Hillary never explained how a partner gets to the other side of betrayal.
If our leaders are supposed to help us unravel the complexities of life, then Hillary failed us; she refused to share the information; she was silent about a very human experience.
Infidelity as betrayal is a theme in all literature. The novel of adultery is one of the leading literary tradition in Europe and in the United States – Anna Karenina, Ulysses, Madame Bovary, Othello, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Great Gatsby, The World According to Garp, What Is Remembered, The Days of Abandonment.
2. – In the summaries of many e-books, the writer points out that there is no cheating in the story – an amazing strategy to lure readers. And that heads-up is something I appreciate, because I’m tired of the old trope as plot device or character study. It’s as if there’s not enough drama in everyday human life; it’s as if infidelity happen to everyone; it’s as if modern writers have to default to sexual infidelity the sell books.
Sorry, I forget we’re in the ‘priapic-period’ in America and everything is about the phallus. It began with Bill Clinton and continued on with Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein and the current occupant of the White House.
Now, I come from a culture where infidelity as betrayal is seen as abhorrent. Southern Italians despise the unfaithful spouse especially the unfaithful wife – she’s a putana. The Italian curse-word for women isn’t bitch – a derogatory that designates attitude – no the Italian curse-word is whore and it comments on behavior that betrays the marriage vow.
So, it’s betrayal, not sexual adventurism, that is the ultimate sin.
Let’s not forget that Dante puts the adulterer in the second circle of hell, just past the vestibule, but the betrayers – Judas Iscariot, Marcus Brutus, Gaius Cassius – he places in the depths of the inferno, at its epicenter – in Satan’s jaws.
And secondly, nowhere in the New Testament is Judas forgiven for his betrayal. As a matter of fact, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “it would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Can’t think of a much more condemning verdict. And this is coming from the god-human and he is refusing to forgive his betrayer. What does that tell us about the gravity of the act? And what do Christ’s words tell us about our own response to betrayal? They seem to suggest, that when it comes to this transgression, we don’t have to forgive.
3. – The image is a sketch of El beso de Judas by Antoni Gaudí – Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.
If betrayal is such an extreme infraction that even The Messiah couldn’t forgive it (let’s remember that Christ asks his Father to forgive those who put him to death); and if this biblical protagonist is supposed to be our role-model, then how do we, mere humans, break the pattern and forgive the betrayer?