Archive for May, 2012
What Does Forgiveness Look Like Without Humility?
The philosopher and theologian, Augustine of Hippo, once said that humility is so important that it shapes all other virtues. Without humility, he reasoned, all other virtues only look like virtues, but are not.
If this is correct, then what might forgiveness look like without humility?
Four answers come to mind:
1) Without humility one could become afraid, fearing rejection from the other as one tries to offer the olive branch of forgiveness. Forgiveness then is silent.
2) Without humility one could become arrogant, thinking of oneself as better than others because, “Oh, what a good and virtuous person am I.” Forgiveness then is loud.
3) Without humility one could become condemning of the other. After all, he or she hurt you and you will not stand for that. Forgiveness then is dismissing.
4) Without humility one could become entitled. If I go to the trouble of forgiving, then the other had better pay me back in some way, with remorse, an apology, and affection. Forgiveness then is demanding.
Forgiveness with humility levels the moral playing field and so we can move ahead despite possible rejection, in a quiet way to honor the other, in a loving way as we see the other as possessing inherent worth, and with gratitude knowing that it is a privilege to offer such a gift to another.
AFP news – A horrendous bomb blast in a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia in 2002 killed over 200 people. The supposed mastermind behind the bomb attack, who could face the death penalty, asked, during his trial, forgiveness of victims’ families and of the Indonesian government. He said he played a small part in the plan and execution of the bomb. The forgiveness request calls into question the political use of forgiveness for gain. Full report here
…..many children in oppressive environments were able to learn about forgiveness, starting at age 4 and continuing to age 18;
…..prior to marriage, each one did the work of forgiving people from the family-of-origin, thus reducing or even eliminating significant sources of anger and angry interaction patterns;
…..schools could be places not only of learning obedience, cooperation, and fidelity to assignments (and other expressions of justice) but also were places infused with mercy;
…..justice systems imbedded restorative justice and themes of mercy into that system;
…..each person who chose to do so cultivated the “softer” virtues of forgiveness and love each day;
…..each person who chose to do so asked, “What will be my legacy? What will I leave behind when I die?” and the answer was, “Goodness”?
What if I told you that all of this is possible?
MSNBC.com – Melissa Oxley was asleep next to her husband when he was shot and killed. Melissa was the first suspect in the killing, but was subsequently released. The boyfriend of Mr. Oxley’s ex-wife has been convicted of the crime and is currently serving a prison term.
Mr. Oxley’s daughter, Alyssa, now being raised by Melissa, spoke with the murderer following his conviction. She told him that she forgives him for killing her father. This theme of forgiveness was initiated by Melissa in 2008, as she began teaching Alyssa, then 5-years-old, the importance of forgiveness so they do not have deep anger as a part of their lives.
Melissa calls Alyssa, age 5 at the time of the murder, a “strong little girl.” After the ex-wife’s boyfriend was convicted of the crime, Alyssa asked to speak to him. “I told him that I decided to forgive him and that I wanted him to have hope,” Alyssa said.
Melissa said that from the first, she told Alyssa that they would approach her father’s murderer with compassion, no matter who it turned out to be. “I always told her, pretty much from day one, whenever we found out who did this we’d have to be able to forgive them at some point in order to go on.”
The widowed stepmother emphasized the importance of forgiveness as a way forward in her grief, and said she wants Alyssa to be able to grow up without anger being a part of their lives.
Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, was honored recently with the 2012 Cecil Findley Distinguished Service Award. The award is in honor of Cecil Findley, a retired United Methodist pastor and Campus Minister Emeritus at The Crossing (formerly Madison Campus Ministry) in Madison, WI, who passed away in 2010. Rev. Findley’s ministry was marked by his passion for social justice, peacemaking, interfaith dialogues, and the prophetic teachings of Jesus.
The award was presented by Rev. Douglas Pierce, Executive Director of The Crossing, on April 13 at the ministry’s Spring Gala. In his remarks during the presentation of the 2012 Cecil Findley Distinguished Service Award, Rev. Douglas Pierce said,
Our honoree tonight (Dr. Robert Enright) is: a clinical psychologist, a sought-after speaker, and a popular Graduate Student Advisor.
And if that’s not enough, tonight’s honoree is also an accomplished author with over 100 publications and 5 books to his credit. His work has been featured in a major documentary film (The Power of Forgiveness) and in a variety of news outlets.
As a matter of fact, our recipient is often referred to as “the father of forgiveness education” because of his 25 year academic commitment to researching and implementing forgiveness programs.