Archive for April, 2012
‘I know what love is’ was the emphatic statement of the simple man, Forrest Gump. ‘I know what love is’ is now your goal. And the paradox is that you may begin to find love out of the ashes of all your resentments and disappointments from hundreds of injustices inflicted on you by others. Yes, forgiveness is a paradox–as you practice a sense of love toward people whom you might currently consider to be unloveable, you develop a certain wisdom about both love and forgiveness. It is in the struggle to forgive that you find wholeness. As you practice forgiveness, you discover love in such a way that it is more natural, more readily available, more deeply expressed, and more consistently expressed by you across the board.
The Forgiving Life, page 20.
San Francisco Chronicle. Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the Miami Marlins, allegedly stated in Time magazine that he respects the retired Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, for staying in power for so long. The statement deeply offended Cuban Americans, part of the solid fan base of the baseball team. In Little Havana yesterday, Guillen asked the people of Miami to forgive him for his statement. He said that he does not admire Castro. This controversy shows how statements from a community leader, not said directly to or about people in the community, can affect them deeply.
Getting rid of anger toward the person who acted unfairly is one part of the definition of forgiveness, but not the only part. We first should make a distinction between healthy and unhealthy anger. Healthy anger stays within proper boundaries and does not impose or threaten. Unhealthy anger is deep and abiding, sometimes referred to as resentment, and can be harmful to self or others. Forgiveness is intended to reduce or even eliminate unhealthy anger. At the same time, there is more to forgiveness than this. A person can reduce unhealthy anger and be rather dismissive of the other person (“She is not worth the effort. I will just put her aside.”) Forgiveness is never dismissive of others, but instead the forgiver tries to see the unconditional worth in the one being forgiven.
Sacramento Bee (California newspaper). A “life coach” and a “motivational speaker” offer some helpful tips in the newspaper today. Some of these include: realizing that forgiveness is a marathon not a sprint (the newspaper actually had a typo on that, stating that it is a sprint, but the context clearly shows that this was not meant). Start small and work up to the big issues; although we cannot go back in time and reverse what happened, we can reverse how we think and feel about the incident.
My son has been bullied in school and I have asked him to forgive and at the same time to report any bullying to the teacher. He is very angry with me about the idea of forgiving because he says the other students will laugh at him. He is in seventh grade. How can he forgive so that others do not see him as a weakling?
How your son understands forgiveness and how he manifests it are very important in this context. First, he needs to know that forgiveness starts with his internal response of reduced resentment. It can be a struggle to get rid of intense anger, but that is a first step. He might begin this by seeing what those who bully usually bring to that situation: a deep sense of their own insecurity, anger over something unrelated to the one being bullied (such as being abused in the home), and low self-esteem. This might help your son to see that the bully is emotionally wounded. From there, once your son is less angry, he can show forgiveness without actually using the words, “I forgive you.” Your son, for example, could become ready to help the other with a school assignment. He could respond with confidence–looking the other in the eye and to do so without malice– if the one who bullies asks a question. He must see that to forgive is not to give in to the other’s demands. To forgive is not to repudiate justice. As he sees that forgiveness comes from a position of strength, he may be more ready to try it. As we both know, it ultimately is his choice, although your encouraging him is part of his growth as a person.