Monday, August 22, 2011

Lisa Hickey - Forgiveness Is Macho

Lisa Hickey offers up a first-person account of her own feelings toward Germany - her inability to forgive the nation for its Nazi past - and then visits a country that does not reflect her beliefs. From The Good Men Project.

I might add that "macho" is the wrong word, but I get her intention - I'd prefer "mature," or "compassionate," but she's trying to sell forgiveness to men who often want to be seen as macho, so, yeah, okay.
Forgiveness Is Macho

Lisa Hickey travels from Germany to the comments on a blog post to discover that forgiveness is an action word.


I didn’t expect to like Germany. It wasn’t on my itinerary, just an accidental stop on my way to better places. But I love that I can rent a bicycle right there at the train station; and even though the words on the signs are long and look unpronounceable, at least they have letters I recognize. I am immediately at home among the clatter of cycles on the city street. Everyone bikes. The buildings are sweeping expanses of stone, large archways, and red roofs.

I pedal out of Munich, over rolling hills, and past clock towers. I’m looking for a lake 20 miles south, and when I arrive I’m surprised to note everyone is topless.

The only reason I am in Stamberg, the German city-by-the-lake, is that I was in Italy the night before. I had a rail pass and no place to sleep, and a train with a sleeper car was Munich-bound. The lake water is delightful. The people are cheerful and talkative. I feel like I’ve stepped inside an 18th century European painting and I don’t want to leave.

I thought I’d hate Germany. I didn’t want to go because it was a country I couldn’t forgive. I couldn’t forgive the fact that much of the Holocaust happened in Germany. I couldn’t forgive all the nightmares that caused me. The sick feeling in my stomach every time I thought about it. I couldn’t forgive the fact that I would pray in school that teachers wouldn’t make me learn about what happened in concentration camps. Please don’t let that really have happened. I would crinkle my eyes shut in an effort to block out the images formed in my head from the stories I read.


Clouds roll in; there is the smell of thunder. The lake people and I disperse to a shanty that sells waffles and ice cream. People are laughing and running. A couple kisses, their wet t-shirts wrinkling around their skin. A few hailstones fall.

The logical part of my brain knows that I can’t hate an entire country because of some unspeakable acts by a small faction of people some 60 years ago. I am a logical person. Most days I am open-minded and non-judgmental. But when I try to think my way into forgiveness, I can never do it.

Yet, of course forgiveness is possible. And the key for me came from a mantra that makes its way around recovery rooms: “Act first, feelings will follow.”
Read the whole post.

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