Ever since the bankruptcy of Imagine, ideas and suggestions have been floating around amongst affected families about whether or not to pursue a civil law suit against the agency's former Executive Director and her husband. A criminal investigation is actively underway but no one knows how long that will take or what the result will be; the civil suit would obviously be something separate and apart from any criminal proceeding.
All of this has me thinking about what I want out of this process, if anything. We have been wronged, that much is clear - financially, emotionally, etc. Though it now appears that our adoption will proceed (it feels incredible to write that!), there is still no guarantee of that outcome, and for a long time after the bankruptcy was announced, it seemed like our adoption was an impossibility. So what do I want? Do I want financial restitution, assuming that I could get it? Do I want some type of revenge? Justice? What do I want from the people formerly in positions of oversight of Imagine? What do I want from the legal system? What do I need to do to put this situation to rest in my own heart and head? These are the questions I've been asking myself. I think I have an answer.
From an early age, I have had a fairly strong sense of justice. I believe in right and wrong...in addition to the existence of gray areas. I used to be an excellent debater and I can still mount a pretty good argument when I put forth an effort (ask my husband or parents or siblings!). I have always had a heart for righting wrongs, have jumped quickly to the defence of someone whom I believe to have been unjustly treated, etc etc. A chunk of my post secondary education also oriented me in this direction - I completed law school and, after articling, was called to the Manitoba bar in the early 90s. Even now, a couple of careers later, my mediation practice is premised on a foundational principal of justice and the concept of somehow equalizing or balancing power in relationships to work towards a negotiated resolution.
It was not a surprise to me, then, that for the first four or five days following the bankruptcy, the strength of my devastation/loss/grief was accompanied by equally powerful feelings of anger and bitterness and a desire for justice and restitution. I felt helplessly furious: at the situation; at Sue and Rick Hayhow; at the (former) board of directors...anyone I thought might be involved. I was pretty angry at the world.
But something happened to me pretty early on, soon after those initial few days, and long before I felt that there might be some hope left in our adoption process. In the midst of my despair, I decided that I needed to let the anger go, so that it wouldn't eat me up. I've known people who have let anger ruin their lives, who have let bitterness become the governing force driving their attitudes, actions, decisions. In the midst of my own anger, righteous though it was, I knew that I didn't want that to happen to me. And so I decided (as did Geoff) to forgive the people responsible for their wrongdoings. I forgive Sue and Rick Hayhow and anyone else involved in the events leading up to the July 13th bankruptcy; I forgive them for doing what they did; I forgive them for causing me such intense pain that I still can't go back to the dark days following July 13th; I forgive them for the possibility that I might never complete my adoption process (even though it now appears much more likely).
The fruit of forgiveness in my life was the disappearance of my anger; I felt almost immediately free of the burden of it. Even more profoundly for me, I noticed that I even began to feel a certain level of compassion for the two Hayhows and others involved in the whole mess. My thoughts turned more towards wondering how they would cope with this change in their lives. Surely, despite the defensiveness they must be feeling in anticipation of the coming legal wrangling, they knew in their hearts that they did wrong? If, on the other hand, they were so deceived as to convince themselves of faultlessness in the situation, then I would feel pity for them.
From personal experience, I know that it is hard to take responsibility for the wrongs I commit, for the hurt that I (intentionally...or unintentionally) cause another person. I have done things that have caused other people harm and I have struggled to 'come to terms' with my own responsibility for the impact I've caused. It is all too easy to justify or defend my actions with very good and clear reasons, or expressions of positive intent. It is much more difficult to grapple with how I impact other people; and, in some cases, to deal with the stuff in my life that is not as honourable as I'd like to think or present myself as being.
Here's the other side of the same coin. There have been a few times in my life when I have been forgiven by someone whom I have hurt badly... times when I truly did not deserve forgiveness. And yet...I was forgiven. That blows me away! That, in my experience, is the very definition, the very essence of grace. There has been nothing in my life that has been so humbling as when I have received unmerited grace in the form of being forgiven by someone I have hurt deeply. I have come to believe that one really has to screw up big time once or twice before one can really appreciate what it's like to receive the grace of forgiveness; it's related to my belief that we never truly learn anything unless we have walked through a painful experience. As a Christian, I have experienced that truth in my walk with God; as a person interacting in a world where I sometimes hurt other people deeply, I have profoundly experienced the power of forgiveness in a way that sometimes feels more real than my experience as a Christian...perhaps because when I hurt someone here on earth, my mortal brain/heart can see the impact directly as it is experienced by the other person.
So...where does that entire history of being leave me in connection with Imagine and the folks involved in the harm caused to me and my family...
I choose not to seek revenge; I also choose not to seek the justice that they likely deserve. It's not even as hard to think or write that as it would have been a couple of months ago. In fact, I wish that I could say this to them directly; maybe someday I will have that opportunity. But for now, it is enough to know it, believe it, decide it. Not having even spoken to Geoff about the lawsuit, my choice will be to forgo involvement. I don't want this to consume me, to pre-occupy me any more than it already has. Whether or not they ever take responsibility for the things they have done to contribute to the situation, I hope that they are able to experience the gift of grace in their lives and to move on.
I recognize that this perspective will not work for every family involved with Imagine. Some families are still very angry, and I really get that they will need to act in accordance with their concept of justice in order to be able to move forward. Other families will find it reasonable to both forgive and pursue legal action against the parties involved; I get that, too. I have no issue with families who choose differently than me and would go further to say that I think I understand why not everyone will feel the same as me. If a lawsuit proceeds at some point, I will wish those families well.
But for me, I feel at peace about my resolution...I am movin' on.