Archive for October, 2022
How would you define forgivable offenses? To be particular, can someone forgive another’s failure or deficiency in character (even if there was no wrongful act committed by the person)? For instance, someone might be indifferent to me without meaning to hurt me, but I might still feel offended while knowing he or she didn’t do anything wrong to me. Thank you.
Deficiency of character will come out as behavior, either as a bad act (an act of commission) or as a failure to act when one should (an act of omission). When a person treats you with indifference, this is an act of omission because you are a person of worth and others should not treat you as if you were invisible. This, of course, does not mean that we have to pour ourselves out for everyone we meet. Your example centers on actual interactions which make you feel ignored. We should not treat others as if they do not count or have no worth (an act of omission). When this occurs, those so ignored can, if they choose, forgive the other.
It seems to me that the first account of one person forgiving others is in Hebrew scripture, Genesis 37-45, in which Joseph forgives his 10 half-brothers for attempted murder and then selling him into slavery.
As a forgiver works to see the inherent worth in the one who acted unjustly, the forgiver slowly begins to see his own worth as a person. The paradox is that as the forgiver sees the full humanity of the other, then the forgiver begins to see his own full humanity.
So often, when people are unjustly treated by another person, they tend to focus only on those unjust actions, viewing the other only in terms of those behaviors. Upon entering the forgiveness process, the people tend to expand their story of the other, seeing this person now more broadly, seeing that there is much more to this other person than only those unjust actions against them.
May I follow up again? What do you mean when you say that I as a forgiver begin to view the other “more broadly”?
I mean this: There is more to the person who offended you than those unjust actions. Take your own case. Have you ever behaved unjustly toward others? If so, would you want those behaviors to be the final word on who you are as a person? After all, don’t you have the capacity to help others, to love others even when it is difficult for you to offer this kind of love to others? This is the broader perspective. We all have at least the potentiality to be people who help and who love others.