11 July 2008


Forgiving someone can be the hardest thing. How do you forgive someone who has caused permanent harm to yourself or others you care about? This is a question I am mulling over at the moment. It is too easy to shout and scream and plan all forms of retaliatory action against the perpetrators of your pain, but it is much harder and the wisest course of action to try and analyse why someone has behaved the way they have. 

You may know someone who deserves severe punishment for what they have done. The pain and harm they have inflicted on you or your loved ones - but my question is: How does that change things? So we inject them with lethal, toxic doses, hang them, pulse thousands of volts of electricity through their bodies, arrange for a vigilante group to sneak into their homes at night and violently assault them until they are almost dead...

Then what? The next person who commits a heinous crime, we then do the same thing to them. And then what? What has actually changed? Not much, if anything, would be my guess. 

It is easy to be angry at a person for their misdeeds but much more difficult to critically analyse our most basic structures, environments, social settings, etc. and attempt to understand how these conditions could have arisen.

If I consider which is truly the best route for me it would have to be the forgiveness route. A route which has longer term benefits for all and enables me to move forward with my life without being engulfed by someone else's behaviour. I want to be free to enable my heart to make space for all the wonderful experiences ahead. A space which could be filled be poison from pain, fear and loathing.

I am not a theist and so do not cling to a belief system which states 'they will be dealt with on judgement day' or some such. As a scientific naturalist my focus is on trying to understand why circumstances arise and what can we, as parts of our various societies and groups, do to understand and proactively make this world a better place.

I choose to free my mind - even when the chips are down. If I fall or falter in this goal I try my hardest to rise, dust myself off and try again. So true. So my choice is to forgive as I would like people to forgive me. In any case, in the whole scheme of things, when looking at the pale blue dot called earth we really are nothing special at all - so why waste time plotting and planning to inflict pain and suffering on others when our time here is fleeting?

What do you think?


Andrea said...

I think you are absolutely right. Vengeance only really serves to poison your own spirit. But letting go requires a sort of leap of faith that's much, much harder to make. I hope you find peace.

Jacqueline said...

To forgive means...to let go of something...hurt, pain, misdeeds of others, etc. We are afraid to let go -- to hang in midair so to speak, with no agenda to repay whomever.

We must feel as if we're in charge of someone or something, even if it's our own thoughts about how "they" should be punished. Letting go is too scary. If we let go, how will they ever receive the payment they deserve?

I often looked at "punishment" as the best way to set an example for others who may have a tiny seed of hatred, jealousy, criminal tendencies, or whatever. I believed it was a deterrent for future violations, but history has shown us that no punishment will stop a man or woman who is determined to do evil or cause harm.

Therefore, I must resign myself to the fact, and recommit myself to the truth or idea...in order to save our own soul, we must forgive.

guardian said...

I learned about forgiveness from my mom. Not because she was this wise,spiritual,light hearted woman who had a deep sense of the human condition. She held a grudge with seething resentment that consumed her from the inside out. I learned early that's not for me. Don't get me wrong I loved my mom deeply. In her generation forgiveness was viewed differently as it is today. Good topic, it makes ya think. Not enough people think..too much reacting..

Peter Answers said...

I would like to think I could forgive, but then I think of some situations my friends have been in (accidently killed a child, for example) and I know I don't have that kind of strength.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, and how has this come at the right time for me? My mother died in April. She spent a lot of her time in life dividing people, and two of those people were my sister and myself. We recently acknowledged that to each other and are building bridges. Just this week my mother's lawyer delivered a letter to me from my mother, written before she died, and it just reinforces the divisions. I know she had no idea she was doing these things. I try so hard to forgive her.