Forgiveness. There was recently a discussion of the concept of forgiveness. Words are all we have, but they are partial. Require additional explanation so that referents are as clear as possible. I wanted to examine this controversy from my perspective. I encountered multiple definitions, INCLUDING the concept of abandoning calls for punishment or restitution.
This last is problematic. To forgive a predator once one has determined that said predator can and probably will repeat the behavior is not in my lexicon. This is not what I spoke of.
The definition: “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.” Is closer to what I meant.
The first allows whatever danger the person poses to the community to continue. The second simply suggests that you give up YOUR negative emotions toward them.
The reason to do this is that carrying the negative emotions are damaging to YOU. So Dan Moran, who suggested that forgiveness requires a transaction, was responding to the implications of the first definition: that without contrition, without being 99.999% convinced that this person will not repeat the behavior, no wish to punish them…or remove them from the community…is possible. And from that position, I agree.
However, a person who is genuinely sorry for what they have done will not, I believe, ask not to be punished. They would understand that it is possible to pretend remorse. If I hurt someone, I would want that person to be SAFE in the future. If punishing me sent an example, I would want that punishment. Would not ask for mercy. It would be part of my restitution.
This is complicated—as I said, we have nothing but words, and it is often necessary to go deeper: what sense of a word? In what context? In all instances? And so forth.
So: Forgiveness means releasing the negative. If the person is still a risk, you can enforce separation or punishment without negative emotions, as dispassionately as swatting a fly or wiping down a counter with anti-bacterial spray. Nothing personal. If they “got away with it”, if you’re going to use that negative emotion to accomplish something, and no other emotion will suffice, then go ahead and hold onto it…but release it as soon as possible.
BUT—if the person is incarcerated? Or dead? Or out of your life? Or you are no longer in relationship with them or they no longer have power over you? And you still hold onto the emotions even though you have no intent or opportunity of “punishing” or “communicating” with them, and those emotions are damaging your life? Then for your own sake, you should seek a way of releasing those emotions, or they will poison your life, and those who hurt you continue to do so.
Forgive…but take whatever steps you need to be safe, and keep your community safe. We hold onto negative emotions because we fear that without them, we will not be safe. But if you learn the lesson, you can release the emotion. If you can take action from an emotionally neutral position (admittedly more difficult, a higher level of action) you can act from duty, free of karma.
You deserve a happy life, with love, and warmth, and healing. The more we hang onto the damage of our pasts, the less we can have these things. If you are not experiencing dynamic loving partnership, a healthy body, and a joyous contributory career that expresses your essence, unless there is a PHYSICAL issue, the problem may well be in the emotions you carry from your past.
We all have damage. But I refuse to let my enemies win. I won’t let them continue beating me, even after they are dead.
(And thanks to Dan Moran and David Gerrold for their comments)
Friday, September 20, 2013
Posted by Steven Barnes at 4:55 AM