I recently read an article by an abused person who seemed angry at forgiveness itself. The person talked of a cultural demand for forgiving an abusive person. This put pressure on the one abused. The culture of forgiving, as it was called, seemed to create a sense of superiority in those who forgive in contrast to those who refuse to forgive. Further, the person seemed angry because this cultural demand for forgiving was creating a sense of entitlement for the abuser, an entitlement that forgiveness be granted.
My heart goes out to this person who now must live with a horrible action perpetrated. No one deserves this.
At the same time, forgiveness itself deserves accuracy. If forgiveness is to be criticized, it is my fervent hope that the criticism comes from a place of truth about forgiveness’s flaws, and not from a position of error.
I think there are errors in the criticism of forgiveness which I would like to correct here and I do not want to be misunderstood. By this essay, I am not saying that the person should forgive. I am not saying that this person is inferior. I am saying that forgiveness should not be dishonored because someone does not want to avail themselves of that forgiveness.
So, please allow me three points:
1. People who forgive rarely feel superior based on my own experience talking with those who have forgiven. The path of forgiveness is strewn with struggle and tears. After walking such a path, a person can feel relief, but it is difficult to feel superior as the person wipes off the emotional stress and strain from that journey. If a person happens to feel superior, this is not the fault of forgiveness itself. Forgiveness itself is innocent.
2. Anyone who demands that others forgive is creating the pressure. It is not forgiveness itself that is creating it. Forgiveness is seen in philosophy as a supererogatory virtue, not demanded, but given if and only if the person wishes to do so. A supererogatory virtue does not make demands, even if people do demand.
3. Some who perpetrate injustice do play the forgiveness card and tell the victim that without forgiving, then the victim is a hypocrite. “Sure, you talk of forgiveness, but then you do not forgive me,” the story goes. This is a power-play by the one who perpetrated the injustice and should be recognized as such. Again, as in points 1 and 2, the fault is with particular people, in this case those who act unjustly. It is not the fault of forgiveness itself.
Forgiveness can be given a black eye by people, those who misunderstand. My client, forgiveness, is innocent and I ask the court to dismiss the charges against it.
I have a friend who has been deeply hurt in a family situation. She keeps telling me that she can lead a perfectly healthy and happy life even if she puts forgiveness aside. Is she correct?
She is correct if she truly can live a healthy and happy life without forgiving in the face of grave injustices. A problem with ascertaining a healthy life is this: Ill health does not necessarily come on quickly. Instead, in many cases, resentment can chip away at health such as poor eating habits that eventually take their toll on the body, or reduced energy that eventually leads to being out of shape physically. Thus, people saying that they are healthy without forgiving is not so easy to discern. With regard to happiness, she will see as she continues in life whether or not she has joy. If she does, and finds this without forgiving, then she is correct. If, on the other hand, she concludes that she is not joyous, then perhaps it is time to at least consider forgiving as an option.
Can you help me understand how to release a relationship as part of the forgiveness process? Choosing to erect an emotional boundary feels like a form of punishment, but there is logic in it too if the offender hasn’t taken responsibility for the hurt and is likely to offend again. When is releasing a relationship the best option, and how do you do it lovingly? Thank you.
The key here is to distinguish forgiving and reconciling. If the other refuses to change and is hurtful, then it may not be wise to continue a relationship. At the same time, you can see the person’s inherent worth and forgive. Sometimes, even when we offer our best to another, the person rejects our love. We still can forgive and then go in peace.
The Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO – An American survivor of two terrorist attacks has a message for the assailants: “I forgive you.”
Mason Wells, a 20-year-old missionary from Sandy, Utah, was a short distance from one of the two bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three spectators and wounding 260 others. Neither he nor his mother, who was running in the race, was injured.
Three years later, Wells was only 10 feet from the first bomb to explode at the Zaventem International Airport in Brussels, Belgium during a terrorist attack that killed 32 people and injured about 260 others. Wells suffered extensive burns to his face and hands, shrapnel wounds to his head, and blast wounds to his lower legs.
“What you did was evil. You killed innocent people and meaningful lives.
I still carry scars from that day, but I have chosen to forgive you. I have learned that the decision to forgive is ours and ours alone.
By forgiving you and getting past the events of that day, I’ve become a stronger person. It’s about letting go of yesterday and not letting the hardest moments of our lives define us. I want you to know that good has come in the wake of your evil acts.”
Wells recently wrote a book, Left Standing, about his ordeal. In it, he outlines how he learned to forgive the Brussels attackers for their atrocities. He’s now enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he’s studying engineering.
Mirror, London, United Kingdom – Actor Kelsey Grammer’s younger sister Karen was only 18-years-old when she was raped and murdered by a serial killer in 1976. Although Grammer has carried that tragic loss in his heart for more than 40 years, he says that forgiveness is the only thing that has kept the horrific crime from destroying his life.
The much-loved star, who is best known for playing Dr Frasier Crane in television sitcoms Frasier and its predecessor Cheers, was the one who had to identify Karen’s body after her death. He said that, while he will always remember the “joy” of knowing her, he would not “let it disrupt me or destroy me.”
Grammer added that forgiveness was a process that didn’t happen quickly for him and that it works together with justice.
The actor, now 62, is currently starring in Big Fish The Musical at The Other Palace Theatre in London’s West End. He played Dr Frasier Crane for 20 years across the two TV comedy shows for which he won four Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes as a lead actor.#