When I was young, I was taught to say, “I’m sorry.” Reluctantly, perhaps, I was brought face-to-face and forced to say the words. I learned to acknowledge that what I’d done was wrong and ask forgiveness. Most times it was granted, but as I grew older, I learned that asking for forgiveness does not ensure you will be forgiven. We don’t always get what we ask for.
The desert wasteland that is Droughtlander has given me the opportunity to explore the circumstances in Claire and Jamie’s relationship that focus on this unsettling, emotional aspect of atoning for one’s mistakes.
In “The Reckoning,” Claire and Jamie get into a heated argument when they stop to water the horses after Claire’s rescue from Jack Randall at Ft. William. Jamie is coming to terms with his role as a husband, and Claire is grappling with 18th century life. They let their fiery personalities get the best of them, fueled by the stress of what they’ve just endured.
Jamie has an emotional collapse, which Claire is totally unprepared for. When she sees Jamie and hears him say, “You’re tearing my guts out, Claire,” she rushes to him and apologizes. “I’m sorry. Jamie, forgive me.” Claire sounds desperate and demands, not asks, for Jamie’s forgiveness. Perhaps she realizes how cutting her words were and how emotionally sensitive Jamie is under that tough, Highlander exterior. She knows Jamie is the only one she can count on to keep her safe. If she loses his commitment to her, she will be adrift with no way to get back to the stones, back to Frank. Claire’s apology serves her own needs. She’s on a mission, and she needs Jamie. I think she has some affection for him at this point, but not enough to stop her from trying to return to her own time.
Jamie, on the other hand, is head-over-heels in love with Claire. He fell in love the first time he set eyes on her, the moment she wept in his arms at Castle Leoch. He knows nothing of Claire’s time-traveling at this point, or why she wandered off when he told her to stay put. He apologizes for what he said to her during their argument. Contrary to Claire’s demand to be forgiven, Jamie’s is more genuine, more heartfelt. “I’m sorry, too. I must ask your pardon for what I said. I was sore. I said more than I meant. Will you forgive me, too?”
Jamie asks for forgiveness, and that’s key. You can’t demand that someone forgive you. Well, you can, but it doesn’t usually end well. (Claire’s demand was soft and pleading, so it worked.) You can ask and hope that they are willing to forgive you for what you’ve done. There are no guarantees, and you have to be willing to accept the fact that they may not forgive you. What do you do if/when that happens?
The reason behind Jamie’s willingness to forgive Claire is shared through the narrative, which (if you remember this bit), reveals itself over and over in future episodes. It goes like this: “She asked forgiveness, and I gave it. The truth is, I’d forgiven everything she’d done and everything she could do long before that day. For me, that was no choice. That was falling in love.”
Fast-forward to one of the most painful and heart-wrenching tests of their relationship, revealed in “Faith.” Promises were made and promises broken, on both sides. Jamie breaks his promise to Claire to wait a year before killing Jack Randall. Claire hated Jamie for it. But Claire had her own agenda (not a specific promise) that contributed to what happened. They’re both at fault.
Is there ever a good reason, a justification in breaking a promise? To focus on your own wants/needs at the expense of others? To ignore the consequences surely to follow? Let’s take a look at what happened to Jamie and Claire.
Jamie broke his promise to Claire. Plain and clear. In his mind, and in his 18th century world, he had no choice. The attack on Fergus was something that had to be avenged. Did it give Jamie the chance to kill Jack Randall, which is something he’d wanted to do since Wentworth Prison? Of course. Jack’s attack on Fergus gave Jamie the opportunity he’d been waiting for.
Claire wanted Jamie to wait one year so that Frank’s ancestor would be conceived, his lineage assured. She asked more of Jamie than she had a right to (she admits). She took advantage of him being a man of honor after all he’d endured at the hands of Jack Randall. She also put Frank ahead of her relationship with Jamie and their unborn child. She put the baby at risk when she followed Jamie to the woods in an attempt to stop the duel. She had her own agenda, and it did not end well. Claire admits that she was at fault for what happened to Faith. Not Jamie, Frank, or Jack Randall.
A person may forgive, but what has happened can’t be undone, erased from memory. You may forgive, but you never forget. What has happened becomes a part of who you are. How does that affect a relationship – whether or not it survives? How do you accept that as part of who you are now?
Claire and Jamie work through the heartbreak together – they can’t move forward until they resolve the events of the past. I think that’s key to forgiveness. They listen to each other’s side of the story, accept it as their truth, and share their reasons for doing what they did. Again, Jamie’s commitment to Claire and his ability to forgive comes through. “I asked your forgiveness once – you said there’s nothing to forgive. Truth is, I already forgive you long before today for this and anything else you could ever do.”
“There is something else,” Claire says. She tells Jamie she slept with the king to buy his freedom. Jamie reconciles this by telling Claire she did it to save his life, just as he gave himself to Randall to save her. And, just then, two painful memories become an unbreakable bond.
Claire asks how can they ever be the same…truth is, they can’t. Jamie tells her what has happened is too much of a burden for one person to carry, and the only way they can live with it is to carry it together.
Perhaps, as time passes, they’ll share more of the details of what happened to each of them. It may help them heal as a couple. Then again, they may choose to put it behind them and never speak of it again. That’s for them to work out as a couple going forward.
Asking for, and granting forgiveness, is a powerful thing. It can heal or destroy a relationship with a simple “yes” or “no.” It can be as joyous as a hug or as devastating as silence. Jamie and Claire have faith in their relationship and know it is worth saving. Do you ever wonder why Mother Hildegard chose the name “Faith?”