More Thoughts About Forgiveness

I saw the reminder that today is “Global Forgiveness Day” and wondered about the peculiarity of such a concept. Do people come together in their churches, mosques, and temples and listen to homilies and sermons about the value of forgiveness? After the speeches, do they just tell each other that all is forgiven?

The idea of a worldwide day to forgive others or to commemorate the idea is laudable. On the other hand, forgiveness is a very personal act that people do after much thought and contemplation. We don’t just pick a date on the calendar then declare that everybody is going to forgive everyone else when that day arrives. Such a notion seems glib and superficial. It puts forgiveness on the same level as the anniversary that sliced bread was sold for the first time (July 7, 1928).

Unless it regards a monetary or material debt, forgiveness is something that is more of a process than a final declaration. Personal forgiveness is rarely easy. There is great consternation and suffering involved in forgiveness. Eventually we conclude that there can be no peace without forgiveness.

The deal is, that forgiveness has to be authentic and not merely a statement. True forgiveness doesn’t occur out of some sort of obligation or requirement that we must forgive in order to avoid ultimate punishment of some sort.

Is forgiveness of an act by a person permanent? Certainly forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. I was wronged and betrayed by a friend 30 years ago. When he passed away a couple of years later, I attended his funeral and solemnly vowed to forgive him. There have been several instances of his wrongdoing appearing in nightmares. Each time, this entails needing to forgive this ex-friend in order to retain peace of mind.

A person need not have nightmares about a wrong in order to remember the trespass. The mind being what it is, often dredges up such memories at random and drags them back as worries and regrets. Sometimes the trauma is mentally relived. Then the process of forgiveness must take place all over again. Such a process might take a few minutes. Then again, sometimes the re-forgiveness process might take days, weeks, or months.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”–Martin Luther King, Jr.

King’s wise words notwithstanding, there are instances of ongoing malevolence. There remains the problem of when a person or an organized group of people continually harms or wishes to inflict pain upon others. There are the insidious wrongs of xenophobia, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, and other mass hatreds. What are the targets of such inauspicious movements supposed to do or think?

Is it truly possible to continually forgive and forget repeated verbal and physical assaults? Perhaps it can be done in some sort of Utopian existence, but our brains are not wired that way. We have evolved to survive by not ignoring threats to our lives and well-being. We might be able to intellectually understand and empathize with our adversaries, but can most of us sincerely repeatedly forgive them? Is this even a wise thing to do?

Clerics tell their followers that love and forgiveness arises from imperfection. We are imperfect beings and constantly need forgiveness by a deity and religious authorities. The religions and myths teach that forgiveness completes us. Such beliefs are subjective and personal. Those concepts are the fodder for much theological discussion and debate. I do not have the scholastic background to engage in such conversations.

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”–Thomas Szasz

For now, the quote from the psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and teacher Szasz seems like pithy advise for me today–Global Forgiveness Day.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from Hillary Clinton. “Forgiveness is a way of opening up the doors again and moving forward, whether it’s a personal life or a national life.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, cultural highlights, Meanderings, philosophy, religion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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