Traditionally, forgiveness is seen as a passive and almost negative quality and has, throughout history, often been portrayed as a last resort – albeit a noble one – when all hope of change and progress is forsaken.
It is, generally, seen as a position of the high moral ground. Forgiveness is where a victim makes a loud statement to ring in the ears of the person who has caused her or him pain.
This statement says, “You think you are better than me and that you have the power to hurt me but I have news for you, I am better than you because I forgive you and that means you can’t hurt me.”
Naturally that isn’t true – no matter how much we might like it to be the case.
If someone hurts us – it does hurt.
Often we seem to think that if we acknowledge the blow and the pain we feel, this leaves us with only two options –
a) Scream out in pain and nurse the wound and resentment against the perpetrator forever.
b) Try to render the perpetrator powerless by saying it didn’t hurt. The playground tactic – ‘Ha-ha – you are so insignificant that no matter what you do it doesn’t hurt me.’
These approaches are problematic as:
Option A leaves us nursing an open wound – forever.
Option B is – well, it’s simply not true – some things not only hurt, they hurt quite a lot. When Nietzsche remarked that anything that doesn’t kill us makes us strong, he was also implying (necessarily) that some things do kill us.
Is there an Option C when dealing with our pain?
And if there is, might this option be buried somewhere deep in the concept of forgiveness?
If there is an Option C, it is likely that we need to re-evaluate our understanding of the concept of forgiveness in order to recognise it. Scary as this might be, we’ll have to forget the traditional face of forgiveness – the wimpy, weak, long-suffering image it has cultivated in the past. But we’ll also need to forget the modern, formulaic ‘just do it’ face we now use for forgiveness. Instead we’ll need to reassess it entirely.
But maybe if we do that we might see something new in this concept that can really help us to heal our wounds? It strikes me that there must be something powerful in forgiveness as it is a principle in every religious tradition in the world since ancient times.
Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Alláh should forgive you? – Islam
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else but you are the one who gets burned. – Buddhism
Where there is forgiveness, there God resides. — Sikhism
Who takes vengeance or bears a grudge acts like one who, having cut one hand while handling a knife, avenges himself by stabbing the other hand. – Judaism
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. – Christianity
…let your adorning be forgiveness and mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. – Bahá’í Faith
Forgiveness subdues (all) in this world; what is there that forgiveness cannot achieve? What can a wicked person do unto him who carries the sabre of forgiveness in his hand? …Righteousness is the one highest good; and forgiveness is the one supreme peace; knowledge is one supreme contentment; and benevolence, one sole happiness. – Hinduism
The way of the master is fidelity and forgiveness – Confucianism
I don’t know how forgiveness actually works but I imagine if it has any chance of it being more than a superficial slick of niceness then the very first step has to be to acknowledge the pain – small, medium or large.
Don’t minimise it or explain it away or say it doesn’t matter.
This might be just personal to me but I can’t bear being told something painful doesn’t – or shouldn’t – hurt.
If it hurts it hurts.
It didn’t help me to be told that when I was a child. It doesn’t help me as an adult. The sole judge of how much something hurts me has to be me. Nobody else can feel it so they can’t definitively know.
As that is true for me, I assume it is true for others and so I try to let them be the judge of their own pain.
I probably don’t always succeed but I think I should always try.
After that, though – I’m not sure where to go next.
How is real forgiveness built?
Does it have essential components if it is to be substantial?
If I forgive can I actually forget?
Can you fake it ’til you make it?
Answers on a postcard…
- Sundae Sessions 031812 (theinvisibleshadow.wordpress.com)
- Forgiveness (thecarrotseeddotcom.wordpress.com)
- Forgive So You Can Move Forward (zenandtheartofborderlinemaintenance.com)
- Forgiveness: a Key to Unlock the Future (Updated) (beckybanaszak.wordpress.com)
- Forgiveness Is Not A Feeling But An Action (strengthrenewed.wordpress.com)