I've been thinking lately about forgiveness. Whether I understand it, and whether I'm truly capable of it. I'm pretty sure I don't and I'm not, except under the rarest of circumstances.

Forgiveness, to me, means being able to honestly say "I'm no longer angry or resentful about what you did that hurt me. I've moved past the pain of it. We're okay again--really."

I don't think I've ever been able to say that. Not in any situation that actually matters. Peccadillos don't count. I'm talking about the big stuff--real trespasses against the heart. Lies and betrayal, abuse and rejection. Choices made with wanton disregard of my well being. Conscious cruelty.

There are a handful of people in my life whom I think I could forgive anything. Like, four. They know who they are. And I know that I could forgive them anything, because they've already tested me - they've already hurt me deeply. I love them still, and always will.

But that is four to seven billion--a ratio I don't see growing any larger. Everyone else sits way, way below these untouchables in the Danger Zone of Unforgiveability.

And the thing is? I'm not even ashamed of this. It isn't as if I feel burdened by bricks of still-burning anger towards the ghosts of my past. I don't feel much of anything, other than distaste and dislike. And that's just it. What's the point of forgiveness unless it really does restore what was there before? I don't think it means anything unless you can genuinely say, "Yeah ok, that happened, but it doesn't matter. Our relationship is worth just as much to me. I feel about you the same as I did before."

Anything short of that seems at best an exercise in self-protection and at worst an assertion of smug superiority.

If when you say I forgive you what you really mean is, You are less to me than you were before, but I shall grant you the favor of my acceptance - don't say it at all. That's phony, patronizing, and pointless. Fuck that. Call it like it is. Say: It's not okay, and it never will be. It doesn't make you bitter or small-minded to withhold forgiveness. It makes you bold enough to stick unflinchingly to your values. It shows you know your self-worth.

Here's what I say. I say don't forgive someone unless your heart honestly still has room for them - and the same room they had before, with all their favorite posters and that ratty old bedspread they love. Don't give them some redecorated, renovated bullshit room they won't recognize and don't want. And if your heart doesn't have room for the one who hurt you? Put up a vacancy sign and wait. There are 6,999,999,999 others who could potentially move in.