coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Sunday, February 10, 2019

To forgive or not to forgive, is that the question?

  • At what point do we forgive people?
  • What must they do to earn forgiveness?
  • How does one atone for the wrongs they do?



30 comments:

  1. I struggle with this all the time. I have no answers.

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  2. "is that the question?" or
    "that is the question?"
    And which "one" has done the wrong.
    Leaving doors open, I believe one moves on. There is life to be lived.

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    1. I was deliberately unclear. I wonder about forgiveness, and when it is appropriate. I also wonder as a society, how do we want to deal with forgiveness of acts politicians did when we were young. How does one go about atoning for the sins of one's youth? Thinking about the Virginia governor right now and his stupid blackface scandal, and how badly he's handling it.

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    2. But I didn't want to be specific because forgiveness is such a huge topic, both politically and personally. I wonder what people think about it. Can we forgive? And under what circumstances can the transgressor atone?

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    3. And I love your last two sentences, Joanne.

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  3. It depends on the severity of the act, how much it hurt, and who did it. A small sliht can be quickly forgiven after an apology. If it is a big hurt it takes longer. The more the person professes to care for me, the harder it might be to forgive.

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    1. I think it is all about the apology from the transgressor, and there should be an attempt on his/her part to right the wrong, or make up for it, or something. Some act of penance.

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    1. I think so, too - for the victim. If the victim can find a way to do so. But I wonder what the offender must do to redeem him or herself? How does one atone for one's bad actions? Especially when one's actions have hurt another person or other people?

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  5. Penance is more a Catholic thing, I think. But I could be wrong because I don't forget or forgive easily. I have someone who just apologized to me but I don't think it is sincere. She plans to plagiarize other folks besides me and the three others I know about just as soon as I allow her access to a group of patsies. Which I will do when Hell freezes over. Because of the not forgive or forget thing and the fact that I am responsible for the group of potential patsies and I protect them from this sort of thing. In other words, I have no answers and I'm not the right person t ask. Because of the not forgive or forget thing. As for our Governor, he's a moron but does that mean he doesn't deserve forgiveness? How about our Lt. Governor who is accused of a crime? And the Attorney General who has been stupid in the past himself? It is a mess but the Democratic Party in the State (and the Republican, too) is full of idiots and folks who are just this side of criminal.

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    1. You are so right about the cast of characters in VA. I am wondering how this will be resolved. And doing penance to atone for one's sins is very much a Catholic thing. Having been raised that way, I guess I expect that people should do more than just say they are sorry. But what? I'm wondering out loud.

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  6. Good questions. I tend to move on, but really I never forget.

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    1. Moving on is actually a form of forgiveness - you leave the sin with the sinner. It frees you from being a victim. But one must never forget what certain people are capable of. Best to leave them behind. I know you understand what I mean.

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  7. Eventually, we all have to move on or we destroy ourselves. As far as the Governor of VA and his behavior and stupidity when he was young, there is much to be discussed.

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    1. I wonder if there is some way people can actually atone and seek redemption. But just saying one is sorry is not enough. In Florida we just passed an amendment to allow convicted felons to get back their voting rights after their sentences for their crimes has been served. Payment was made, so I'm good with giving them that second chance. So I wonder about how a racist or sexist person can atone. What must they do to prove they acknowledge the wrongness of their action and that they have actually changed? What might they do to prove they have changed?

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    2. Many people can grow and learn from their mistakes, but others, well, a leopard can’t change his spots. They might be able to camouflage things for their own advantage, but they are who they are. I am not sure where the governor falls in this situation.

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  8. At what point... Immediately or not at all. Forgiveness is an act of grace (often against the evidence) not a bought-in contract.

    Earn... Again it is not a contract.

    Atone... Some confusion here. The two pronouns "one" and "they" don't agree. I'm assuming it should be How does the offender atone for the offence? Ideally, with an immediate supplication for forgiveness. Things get more difficult if the offender does not realise -until later - he/she has offended. Then a heartfelt supplication plus a tiny virtually valueless gift which is, nevertheless, something the victim would approve of. The effort in finding such an item becomes part of the supplication. (Did you have me in mind for this latter act of atonement?)

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    1. No, I wasn't thinking of you, ha! Is forgiveness an act of grace? Interesting notion, because although it may seem like grace for the transgressor, it would be an actual process for the victim. What happens when an immediate apology is not offered because the bad guy doesn't figure out the severity or wrongness of his sin/crime/transgression for decades? How does the bad guy atone? How can s/he prove he is both sorry and has changed?

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    2. Thanks for pointing out the pronoun thing. I did notice that AFTER I posted this, but let it go out of sheer laziness.

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  9. Forgiveness is an act of grace because it is not an act of vengeance. It remains an act of grace even if the "forgiven" doesn't acknowledge it as such, and continues to act like an SOB.

    The need for forgiveness argues that the victim has been hurt in some way. And may still be hurting. Forgiveness helps the victim bear his/her hurt better; it also offers a similar opportunity for the offender. The act of grace is not diminished if the offender fails to grasp this opportunity. There are no scoreboards or accountancy in a truly adult world.

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    1. I agree with much of you've said up until the last sentence. We don't live in a truly adult world. That complicates things.

      What might you consider unforgivable?

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    2. I still wonder about #3, though. I think that an offender needs to atone in some way. Like Chilly Hollow tells me above, it's likely my Catholic upbringing that haunts me still. However, seeking forgiveness is a process, too. When one commits a major crime, it is considered a crime against the community as well as the individual victim. When people go to jail they are clearing a social debt, paying the price for that crime. It seems that atonement and redemption are, in fact, a social contract in that context. If we lived in a truly adult world, that offender would have had the opportunity to redeem him/herself by doing their time. Having fulfilled their "penance" they are then free to re-enter society as a citizen. Is that process universalizable from the smallest slight to the worst and most heinous sacrilege? I tend to think it is.

      As for the victim, I think if one can find some way to forgive it can separate the victim from the offender in a healthy and productive way. In a truly adult world, innocent victims should be able to move on and live a happy life, free and clear of that horrible moment. The sin should stay with the sinner. Sadly, our reality is often more complex than that.

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    3. The rest of the world may be infantile but that's irrelevant; we must strive to behave in an adult way because it enfranchises us to make generalised pronouncements about morality as we see it.

      The rationale for punishment is a hairball. What for instance is a major crime? For me it depends on intent not on the end result. Someone who gets into a brawl and kills another is less guilty of "a crime" than someone who defrauds innocents over a period and leaves many destitute. The intent may be non-existent in the first case and only too obvious in the second. Mind you if the intemperate brawler goes out and kills another then the goalposts are changed.

      I realise that not everyone will agree with this and, in any case, our respective justice systems are not really subtle enough to measure "intent" even though this is their claim. One reason is because emotions enter into the punishment philosophy. A man kills a single unattached man and that is seen as awful. But a man who kills a married man with a family is said to have committed a more awful crime. Yet both these killings may spring from a short burst of anger (to which many of us may be prone) which may depart as quickly as it arrives.

      The concepts of penance, atonement and redemption are too furry to define. The man who kills another may end up sorry for what he has done; but his sorrow would have to be examined by a professional to ensure it wasn't merely a reaction to the jail sentence he now faces. Even then the conclusion would be subjective.

      A society that merely requires a criminal to "pay the price" is not aware of the whole situation. What we want is for the criminal to become more adult, not least in his/her perceptions of morality. But jail is probably one of the least likely places for this to happen. True, jail protects us from killers and fraudsters alike but it is a compromise relative to our real wishes. Jail is mainly "Out of sight, out of mind."

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  10. I don't deny that it's a struggle, both ways, first with the person who in my eyes has done the unforgivable and usually later on with my myself for sitting on the moral high horse.

    What has helped me again and again is the concept of the unconditional positive regard, something I first encountered in the late 1970s while studying educational science and Carl Rogers in particular (very much THE person at the time).

    It basically boils down to that when we’re interacting with someone, we choose to accept and think the best of them regardless of what they say or do. At least initially and then take it from there.

    I don't think I'd go that way with hitler but I think you get the idea.

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    1. Will definitely look into unconditional positive regard for the forgiveness aspect. What do you think about what the offender must do to atone? For his or her sake.

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    2. I don't have a religous background, so atonement and redemption are not concepts I really understand.

      I could be cruel and say, it's really up to the offender to come up with an idea but obviously that could seem to easy to some. And I admit that I have enjoyed - secretly - observing an offender trying to make amends with much sweat and effort and me feeling, serves ou right.

      Rogers and other humanistic psychologists at the time always pointed out that forgiveness isn't necessary for us to be human, that atonement is an outdated christian concept that disconnects people, creating competitive relationships (judging people by the graveness of their sins, I am better than you etc.) and that we need to strive for connectedness instead.

      I am quite fond of the Buddhist concept of forgiveness which, in my interpretation (and again, somewhat rusty memory) means that the offended person simply must forgive and thus start the process out of metta (lving kindness) even before the offender may realise their offence. But this is done as a matter of fact, ideally without any outward action and not in a look-how-good-I-am way.

      And this by the Persian poet Rumi:

      Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
      and rightdoing there is a field.
      I'll meet you there.

      The idea of unconditional regard together with positive reinforcement was what struck me at the time when I wanted to be a teacher - something that in the end I never was. Instead, these concepts helped me being a mother. And so became part of my life.

      Sorry for this long comment, but just this last bit:
      I have a friend who was born in South Africa into a very wealthy white family. She left in the 1970s and tried to live a life of atonement for apartheid's cruelty, mostly by organising boycotts etc. She became very ill in the process. We watched the movie Cry Freedom together in Ireland when it was first released and when the lights came on we had to carry her outside, she was unable to stand and had clenched her fists so hard that her hands were bleeding. It was a terrible thing to watch.

      Many years later when Mandela's government set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) she returned and after an initial hard time, became actively involved (and still is) in a variety of projects initiated by the TRC.
      To me, the TRC and her involvement in justice moevements, are forms of atonement and forgiveness I can accept because they strive to connect people.

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    3. Sabine, Thank you for this thoughtful comment. I sincerely appreciate it. You (and Robbie) have given me much to sort through and consider. What a gift!

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  11. Such a good question, particularly now. In general I think our society has de-emphasized forgiveness and I would argue that we need more of it!

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    1. I generally agree, but it is such a loaded, complicated issue. Of course, I was inspired to ask these questions after reading your thoughtful post about Gov. Northam. Thanks for that.

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So, whadayathink?