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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Other · #1886818
Phoenix cannot get over the War because he cannot forgive himself...
"Phoenix, you have to forgive yourself," Phoenix's doctor said firmly.  "What do you think is holding you up?"  Phoenix truly did not know.  He knew how he felt, but he did not know why he could not stop feeling that way.  Phoenix felt that he could never be forgiven for the things he had done in the War, that he was going to Hell, and that he was broken and damaged permanently.  "You are convinced there IS a Hell, Phoenix."  Again, his doctor placed the emphasis on what Phoenix believed.  Phoenix could not bring himself to believe that people who did what he did in the War could go to Heaven, so there had to be a Hell, and he was destined for it.

The next day, Phoenix met with his case manager, who wanted to make sure everything was okay between Phoenix and his doctor, since she had not talked to Phoenix since he and his doctor had had their misunderstanding.  Phoenix assured her that everything was fine.  He told her that they were working very hard on forgiveness right now and Phoenix had no idea why he was so hung up and unable to forgive himself.  His case manager noted that Phoenix was probably better at forgiving others.  Phoenix agreed that he was great at forgiving others, but terrible at forgiving himself, and he did not know why.  His case manager suggested from her own experience that she always felt it was hard to forgive herself because she thought she was better than that and could not accept what she had done to begin with because she was supposed to be better than that.  "And where does that come from?  That we should be better than that?  Better than what?" she asked.

Phoenix's case manager had an excellent point.  We have to accept that the act has been committed in order to forgive someone for it, and if we cannot believe that we committed the act because we are somehow supposed to be better than that, then we cannot accept it, and we certainly cannot forgive it, no matter who committed the act!  Phoenix told her she had a good point.  Phoenix had been unprepared for what he had to do in battle during the War.  His psyche had not been trained in warfare.  It had only been trained in training - fake dummies, ringed targets, controlled fire exercises...  So why was Phoenix supposed to be "better than that"?  Better than what?  His case manager was right in a big way.  Phoenix was following orders and doing the best he could in the war zone, often having to give the orders himself because no one outranked him in the field.  His psychiatrist noted that that was the downfall right there.  No brass in the field.  No sergeants in the field.  Just Specialist Jones giving orders and trying not to get his guys killed.  But some of them did get killed.  Phoenix had to live with that.
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