Archive for December, 2012
The late Lewis Smedes used this expression: to see with new eyes. He meant this: When we forgive we no longer see in the same way those who have hurt us. We see them from a wider perspective than just their offenses against us. We see them as worthwhile people, not because of what they did, but in spite of this.
So, in this tradition of Dr. Smedes, let us do a little homework today. As you interact with or even pass by five different people, please think these thoughts about him or her:
2. This person is special, unique, and irreplaceable. When this person is no longer living, there will not be another person exactly like him/her.
3. In all likelihood, this person is carrying around emotional wounds received because of other’s mistreatment of him/her.
Then, once this thinking exercise is complete, try to apply the statements to one person who has been unfair to you, who has hurt you. Try to “see with new eyes” as you reflect on this person.
Belfast Telegraph, Belfast, Northern Ireland – The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, delivered his final Christmas Day sermon from Canterbury Cathedral (Canterbury, Kent, UK) and spoke of how he has been inspired by meeting people who have experienced great suffering yet are able to forgive. “The parents who have lost a child to gang violence, the wife who has seen her husband killed in front of her by an anti-Christian mob in India, the woman who has struggled for years to comprehend and accept the rape and murder of her sister, the Israeli and Palestinian friends who have been brought together by the fact that they have lost family members in the conflict and injustice that still racks the Holy Land – all these are specific people I have had the privilege of meeting as Archbishop over these ten years,” Dr. Williams said, “and in their willingness to explore the new humanity of forgiveness and rebuilding relations, without for a moment making light of their own or other people’s nightmare suffering, or trying to explain it away, these are the ones who make us see, who oblige us to turn aside and look, as if at a bush burning but not consumed.”
Dr. Williams steps down at the end of the month after a decade as head of the Church of England to become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, UK, and chairman of the board of trustees of Christian Aid, an international development charity.
Read the full story: “Williams inspired by forgiveness.”
“Give love away as your legacy of 2012.
How can you start? I recommend starting by looking backward at one incident of 2011. Please think of one incident with one person in which you were loved unconditionally, perhaps even surprised by a partner or a parent or a caring colleague. Think of your reaction when you felt love coming from the other and you felt love in your heart and the other saw it in your eyes. What was said? How were you affirmed for whom you are, not necessarily for something you did? What was the other’s heart like, and yours?”
Our current year, 2012, is about to end. Can you list some specific, concrete ways in which you have chosen love over indifference? Love over annoyance? If so, what are those specifics and how are they loving? We ask because we have only about a week-and-a-half left in the year.
If you have not yet deliberately left love (or enough love) in the world this year, there still is time.
CBC News, Novia Scotia, Canada – Free groceries and Christmas gifts are piling up for a Nova Scotia man who forgave the thief who ran off with his turkey dinner and presents.
Frank (Mike) Foley went shopping on Wednesday but a thief broke into his car and stole the groceries and gifts he had just bought.
Instead of calling the police, Foley posted a message on his Facebook page offering the thief a chance to return everything:
“I want you to know that I forgive you for this as it seems that you needed these things more than I do. The turkey and groceries will not ruin our Christmas dinner for we will still have something for dinner that day and the gifts you stole were material things that we can do without.
“But I want you to understand that there is no way for me to replace these things because I used the last of the money we had to purchase these things.
“If you can’t find it in your heart to return them then I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and may God bless you and your family. I do forgive you and wish no bad things on you.”
Foley said he has not heard from the thief, but he has received more than 1,000 emails, phone calls and visits from generous people bearing groceries and gift cards. Foley closed his small business two years ago to look after his wife, who has multiple sclerosis and is terminally ill. He has a nine-year-old son with autism and a 16-year-old daughter.
Read the full story: “Tale of forgiveness for theft triggers flood of gift-giving.”
Last week in my doctoral seminar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the students was making a presentation to the class. As part of that presentation he discussed a published work by a neuroscientist-psychologist who made the following claim: Forgiveness is not about getting rid of resentment and offering goodness to another person (or other persons). Instead, it is only about getting rid of resentment. The author of the article referenced one of our works, in which we unequivocally state that the essence of forgiveness also includes the offering of goodness. The journal article’s author asserted, without defending the point, that we are incorrect.
I would like to suggest the following as a way to resolve the contradiction. If we can show that either of our definitions could also be the definition of another term (unrelated to or at least substantially different from the term “to forgive”), then that definer needs to refine the definition to a greater extent than currently is the case.
So, with that ground-rule in place, let the games begin, as they say in the Olympics. First, let us turn to our neuroscientist colleague’s definition of “to forgive.” which is the reduction in or elimination of negative emotions (resentment) following a transgression from another (or others). Can we think of other terms that would fit this definition? Yes: indifference. I can be indifferent toward another to such an extent that I become emotionally neutral toward him or her. Indifference is not an act of goodness. It cannot possibly be equated with forgiveness, but by the neuroscientist’s definition, forgiveness and indifference share the same definition. Therefore, the neuroscientist must change his definition of the term “to forgive” or be faced with an ambiguous term.
Now, to our definition. “To forgive” is in the context of another’s transgression (the neuroscientist and I agree). “To forgive” includes the cessation of resentment toward the offending person (the neuroscientist and I agree). “To forgive” must–must–include in its essence the offer of goodness toward the offender for two important reasons:
1) If forgiveness is a moral virtue (as are justice, patience, kindness, and love), then it has to include an element of goodness, as all moral virtues do.
2) Without adding this element of goodness to the definition of “to forgive,” we are left with a host of undifferentiated terms (indifference, mild annoyance, moving on, “writing someone off”, forgiveness).
As a final point, just because, in its essence, the term “to forgive” includes elements of offered goodness toward an offender, this does not imply that all who forgive show this or even understand it. There is a difference between how one both understands and expresses forgiveness and what it is in its essence.