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I’ve been thinking – I could say almost endlessly – about forgiveness. Have I already talked to you about that here before? Am I getting tiresome to listen to? I know some people in my offline life must be.

Stigma is such an ugly thing, making otherwise perfectly good “normal” people consider those who are “different” less than they themselves are. These “normal” people would argue that they don’t. And yet, without realizing it, I believe many treat people who are “different” in a way they wouldn’t treat more “normal” people.

Thing is, when they meet someone like us, a person who they know has a mental illness, they become fearful. They have what could be called a phobia, the Greek word for fear. They don’t know how to respond to us and they are afraid of how we will respond to them. So they put up a wall, shunning us. Others might be disrespectful or insensitive when spending time with us. Because we’re “different” they might not consider that we have the same kind of feelings they themselves do. They consider us “less than” themselves and don’t give us the respect they would give to others. Many reject us in various ways, not allowing us to be part of things in the way they include more “normal” people.

I have only recently realized that I have been a victim of such treatment, hurt repeatedly, my life deeply affected. For a long time I didn’t realize that stigma was the cause. I had fought stigma for many years, but I did that on behalf of others. Why did I never think that it could affect me? Why did I think I was invincible? And so, not recognizing what was happening, I was constantly asking the questions: “Why?” Why is this happening to me? Why am I so disliked? What have I done? Eventually, with the help of counseling, I’ve learned the truth.

But you know, I’ve come to see that people who harbor stigma against others don’t even know what they’re doing. The way they think and behave is so natural for them, probably instilled during childhood. I came to realize that I need to forgive. After all, I too want to be forgiven for what was instilled in me during childhood, making me the way I am.

Being a follower of Christ, I use Him as an example for how I lead my life and how I look at things. And this year something stood out for me in the Easter story as I considered Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus suffered terribly from the pain of dying on the cross. But I believe that, much greater than his physical pain during the ordeal, the toughest thing He endured was probably the emotional pain. The greatest pain he suffered was knowing He had been betrayed, rejected, and sent to die by those He loved.

And yet…amazingly…the Bible reports that with what strength He had as He hung on that cross, He cried out to God, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

That makes me think: If I believe in Jesus and all He stood for, shouldn’t I also forgive? Shouldn’t I also accept that the people who don’t understand us, the people who fear us, just don’t know what they’re doing when they hurt us? I don’t think most people intend to cause us pain.

It’s very hard to forgive, especially while the pain still lingers. And yet I know that as God forgives, so must I forgive.

I have been told that I am engaged in far too much dark thinking. I’m sorry if I’ve been depressing you. I promise I will go elsewhere in my next post. Learn a little more about mindfulness perhaps?