As the content manager for ENDPAIN, Fraser Hammersly uses her background in philosophy, writing, media production, and comedy to produce and collaborate on stories with contributors. Originally from San Francisco and a decade-long resident of LA, she identifies with the sunny and revolutionary spirit of her home state. In her free time, she enjoys doing stand-up comedy, tending to her freshwater aquarium, and going on long walks around the city.
Forgiveness: 2017 Retrospective
We received Pablo’s Story as a response to an ENDPAIN newsletter on a Friday afternoon. Reading Pablo’s words on my Microsoft Outlook felt like an incongruous backdrop to the first-hand narrative about a young man who accidentally shot and killed his wife as she attempted to protect herself from his rage, and the years he has spent since, trying to make sense of it all.
I’d met Pablo a couple of times in person prior to reading his story through a program at the VA, where I, along with the ENDPAIN team, were allowed to sit in on a men’s group for previously incarcerated veterans. Throughout the meeting, I was struck by the emotional depth and kindness of each of the men, who, for having each committed a violent crime that resulted in spending the majority of their adult lives in prison, possessed a self-awareness and empathy that isn’t something you encounter on a regular basis.
Pablo’s Story is my favorite from 2017 because it asks our readers to consider a person outside of the labels that easily allow us to categorize them. Like most ENDPAIN stories, it highlighted the nuances of a complicated issue that went on to spark the narrative behind, On This Veteran’s Day about the connection between veteran PTSD and violence that laid the groundwork for how we hope ENDPAIN content will churn out in the future. Along with that, the piece also asks the reader to consider two important questions on forgiveness and change: does Pablo have the right to forgive himself for his actions? And does society have the space to allow someone like Pablo the freedom to change?
2017 for me has been a year of learning how to forgive and let go, something I have now come to understand as one and the same. I have hurt others and they have hurt me, and in all cases, it has only been in moments of self-righteousness that I have held onto the anger and resentment that surrounded those circumstances as a way to mask pain. Although I can’t imagine what the family of Pablo’s wife must have endured, I do believe that is it part of the beauty of the human experience: to forgive oneself and each other, and uses those moments as an opportunity to move closer to one another to instead of away.
In Pablo’s Story, Pablo articulates a sentiment I have long felt to be completely true:
“I have no way of proving this, but I believe that if we all made a conscious effort to use our words to educate and edify, and not to condemn and judge, we would go a long way in easing much of the pain and suffering prevalent in our world.”
Although I understand the hesitation and risk that comes with asking one another to listen to people who have gone through experiences like Pablo without judgement and condemnation, I also believe there is a risk to not. When we create the space to hear one another’s stories, I believe we are allowing the groundwork for change and for the idea that things can be different. When we do this, we decrease the power that isolation and hopelessness holds on a person—two feelings that I believe are the driving forces behind acts that perpetuate violence, anger, and hurt.
My hope is that in the sharing of these stories at ENDPAIN, we release the isolation and hopelessness that comes with holding onto them. My hope is that Pablo can and should forgive himself, and that we, as a society, can give him and others the space and freedom to change, and in doing so, we also allow that for ourselves.