I was reflecting on all of the disorder within schools during 2013. It has been reported that there were 30 shootings at schools in the United States in this one year period. Think about that for a moment. The context of the shootings centers on innocent children, adolescents, and young adults (at universities) who are unarmed and innocent.
How many family break-ups were there in 2013 or acts of bullying that cut deeply into the very being of those bullied?
Forgiveness is a profound response to disorder. What do you think? Do you think any of those school shootings would have happened if the men responsible for the mayhem had practiced forgiveness and rightly ordered their emotions from rage to calm?
What do you think? Do you think all of the family break-ups would have happened if both sides of the conflict practiced forgiveness? And perhaps the forgiveness needed to be toward people from years before because our left-over anger from childhood can follow us into adulthood and strike the innocent.
Forgiveness likely could have averted some of those break-ups if forgiveness toward each other in the present and toward parents from the past had been practiced. Forgiveness could have restored order……..and prevented disorder.
The same theme applies to bullying. If those who bully could only forgive those who have abused them, would the bullying continue or would the behavior become more orderly, more civil?
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for restoring order within an injured self, within relationships, and within and between communities. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for preventing disorder.
What do you think? Do you think that forgiveness could save our planet from destruction by enraged people with the weaponry to destroy? Forgiveness is about order, protection, wholeness, and love.
It is time for individuals and communities to see this and to have the courage to bring forgiveness into the light….to restore and then enhance order while it prevents the destruction of disorder.
An observant reader asked me recently if our Forgiveness News section might be comprised of many stories in which people are “faking forgiveness” so that they get national and international recognition from the media. After all, the person reasoned, for a few moments their images, words, and actions are in front of thousands or even millions, depending on which media sources carry the story.
While quick pronouncements of forgiveness might lead some to doubt the sincerity of the act, we have three counter-arguments in the debate.
1) We must realize that some people are “forgivingly fit,” in that they practice forgiveness regularly in the smaller injustices of life. Such practice readies them for when the tragic injustices come. In other words, years of practice accumulate and aid the forgiver now in the new, gargantuan challenge to forgive, say, the murderer of a loved one. As we watch the person forgive, we do not see the years of practice underlying the act and so we wonder about the sincerity, which is very real because of the practice.
2) Sometimes, our psychological defenses come to our aid when tragedy strikes. These defenses shield us from the intense anger which could emerge now. Yet, after a while, as the defenses begin to weaken, the anger arises afresh and so the initial pronouncement of forgiveness, when the angers subside, is not the final word on the matter. In other words, there still is forgiveness work to do, and this is not dishonorable. Forgiveness is hard work and requires re-visiting from time to time regarding situations we thought we had long-ago forgiven.
3) For reasons that are unclear to the social scientific community, some people, despite not having practiced forgiveness over and over, do forgive seemingly spontaneously. Their psychological defenses are not masking deep anger. They forgive in a thorough way on the first try. This seems rare, but it does happen.
Phony forgiveness? No, not necessarily. What might appear on the surface as phony could be heroic forgiveness forged in the daily struggle to overcome the effects of injustice.
Suppose that each of us had a little red light on the top of our heads. Further suppose that whenever we are feeling beaten down by the injustice of another, that little red light started to blink.
We all kind of hide behind a veneer of civility—well dressed, well mannered….and sometimes dying even a little bit inside.
No one sees the “dying even a little bit inside” because it is hidden. Others really do not want to see it……It is an inconvenience to see it.
Yet, it is there…..for all of us at one time or another.
That little blinking red light would be a sign to us that we are all hurting. It would be a concrete sign that mercy is necessary….even more so than civility.
That little red light would be our teacher….and perhaps soften our hearts…..and help us to learn that offering mercy should be our first response, not our last one after we all dress up in our finery, with our impeccable manners…..that keep the hurting invisible to us.
Try to see that little blinking red light on the top of each person’s head today even if it is not there. Try to see it anyway.
How did the quest for power and money become the primary goals of Western societies? What thief in the night changed people’s hearts so that profit is to-die-for? Perhaps I exaggerate, but I doubt it. Do we admire those who work in soup kitchens or those who own the buildings across the city from the soup kitchen?
Do we admire the ones who care for the dying or those who can put a round ball into a round hoop and make a lot of money for doing that?
If we had the chance to be the boss or the servant, which would we choose? And do we ever think more broadly these days: that the boss ought to be the greatest servant?
Forgiveness includes a world view that clashes with contemporary culture. The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, anticipated this shift when he said that the weak forgive, the strong dominate.
Yet, forgiveness speaks truth to power. Forgiveness tells power that it will not last. Forgiveness will abide and be in this world long after the powerful meet their biological end.
Forgiveness as a counter-move to power can actually enhance well-being while power yearns for more, well, power.
Power’s ultimate goal is bankrupt. What will one do once one’s goal of power and money are fulfilled? What is the ultimate point of it all? Forgiveness’ ultimate goal is love, to put more love into the world and into hearts, including one’s own.
A clash of world views. Which would you like to see win?
“I hope you are beginning to see that forgiveness is not only something you do, nor is it just a feeling or a thought inside you. It pervades your very being. Forgiveness, in other words, might become a part of your identity, a part of who you are as a person. Try this thought on for size to see if it fits: I am a forgiving person. Did that hurt or feel strange? Try it again. Of course, to say something like this and then to live your life this way will take plenty of practice. Part of that practice is to get to know the entire process of forgiveness.”
Excerpt (page 79) from the book, The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love, by Dr. Robert Enright, Ph.D.