The Clash between Modern Western Culture and the Moral Virtue of Forgiveness
When surfing the Internet I sometimes run into ads for quick weight loss. Those ads run something like this: A guy, who may be ramped up on steroids, has his shirt off and he eagerly bites into a high calorie meal. He then says that he has a physical workout regimen that allows him to exercise a few days a week and retain a muscular physique. The exercise routine, for example, consists of about 5 push-ups, 8 sit-ups, some front lunges, a few jumping jacks, and then hit the showers because you are……..done.
In other ads, there are “before” and “after” photos, with the message that pill X will burn excess stomach cells overnight as you sleep…….and then presto! You have a new body.
The messages from these ubiquitous ads are these: Physical fitness is easy. Buy my fitness program or the pills I sell, and you will have gain without the pain.
What makes these ads almost humorous is the contrast between reality and fantasy, between what is needed for physical fitness or weight loss and what is offered. It is as if the striving and effort and perseverance are no longer necessary.
Such messages of gain-without-pain now are pervading the Internet for forgiveness. Take a look for yourself on the Internet. As you search for ways to forgive you will be met with advice to forgive, for example, in four easy steps. Learn to forgive in seven easy steps. Take your pick. The advice tends to range from about 2 to 9 sessions of psychological techniques…….and then presto! You have a new outlook on life and toward the one who hurt you.
Now, there is nothing wrong with a few steps to start a physical fitness program, as you get familiar once again with what a push-up is. In a similar way, there is nothing wrong with a few brief psychological techniques to introduce you to what it may be like to forgive those who hurt you deeply.
Yet, if you want true physical fitness, if you want true and deep forgiving, you will need to have the strong and good will to start, the rationality to know what you are facing, then practice, then persevere, then develop a love of the workout (physical or forgiveness workout) so that you grow in maturity toward either kind of workout. Both the achievement of physical fitness and forgiveness fitness require the exercise gym and the forgiveness gym, respectively.
When you are deeply hurt by others, when your heart is hurting, there is no such thing as the forgiveness pill. There is no such thing as the easy way. When others make you suffer from their unjust treatment, the way out is a different kind of suffering, which is growth in the heroic moral virtue of forgiveness. This new suffering is very different from the original suffering from unjust treatment because the forgiveness treatment leads to deep healing so that you can move on well with your life. The suffering from the effects of grave injustice, if you do not address these effects, may never end. The suffering from working on forgiving eventually ends. I want you to see the big difference between the two kinds of suffering. Only one of these offers the challenge of a new start in life as you become forgivingly fit.
Let’s hit the forgiveness gym, when deeply hurt by others, and start becoming forgivingly fit.