INTRODUCTION: Is Forgiveness a Threat to Society?
Of all the subjects about which I have written in the last few decades, the one on which I am embarking here is surely one of the sweetest, and maybe even one of the most important. Yet, strangely, human reconciliation (aka forgiveness) is also potentially one of the most contentious. Because of that, there will be some who will be triggered by what I am going to write here, especially by the more challenging parts. But I urge you to stay with me until I have concluded this little treatise. The only way to remove a blockage is to bulldoze your way right through it. So please hold my hand and step through this with me now. I say this with good reason: For although civilisation is currently in a process of degeneration under the disguise of its virtue-signalling “civilisation” (falsely styled as “evolution” and “progress”), the widespread practice of forgiveness can have an immensely ameliorating effect on societies and individuals, softening the way for even more long-term spiritual and emotional epiphanies. For when an outdated idea collapses, it is like a line of dominoes. Many others will collapse in its wake, as if an infinite door of possibilities has been opened.
The benefits of forgiveness (human reconciliation) in a society — despite being seen by some as a “soft option” which could potentially weaken communities — are immeasurable, increasing well-being and health, both communally and individually. Yet, one would think that forgiveness threatens the very fabric of society when one considers not only people’s refusal to relinquish their victim-posture through forgiveness but also the huge proliferation of gratuitously violent revenge movies in the last few years (e.g. John Wick, Peppermint, Kill Bill, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, Carrie, and many, many more). Many would now rather dream of being vigilantes than becoming forgivers. In fact, in a very real sense, forgiveness really does threaten the fabric of any society which is based on victim-indulgence, violence (including the wanton waging of war which mostpeople seem to support by voting for corrupt politicians who wage those wars!), the wreaking of vengeance, continually feeling offended, and the relentless holding of petty grudges against others.
The time has come to recognise the huge benefit of widespread reconciliation and forgiveness to society on a community level and an individual one. So let’s delve into this thorny subject (which, in a healthy society wouldn’t be thorny at all) and see what it has to offer us.
1. The Two Main Kinds of Human Forgiveness
I first want to open up the two main possibilities in the practice of forgiveness between one human being and another. The first possibility in forgiveness is what I call…
A. Absent Forgiveness
This is really only a half-solution to forgiveness, but it is of great personal effect, nevertheless. It involves the way that you can simply forgive in your heart someone who has wronged you, so that you are no longer being eaten up by resentment for him or her. They do not have to be present in any way, which is why I call it absent forgiveness. They do not even have to be alive. This means a measure of closure for you, so you can walk away from a problematic situation with a clean slate. This first possibility is an important step in the right direction. It doesn’t offer objective forgiveness for the wrongdoer, for there is no expression of contrition on the part of the wrongdoer or request for forgiveness to the one who has been wronged. But it does set free the one who was wronged. Clinging on to victimhood and resentment is a road to nowhere good and in the long-term it can lead to emotional and physical health issues, such as projection, chronic suspicion and paranoia, ageing, ulcers, heart problems and even cancer (depending on the depth of resentment). People literally get eaten up by their resentment and victimhood. Forgiving those who have wronged you (even if they show no sign of remorse) frees you from carrying what can be a lifetime burden of festering resentment.
However, this first possibility in the practice of forgiveness does not absolve the person who has wronged you of guilt, which is why I call it only a “half-solution”. Absolving of guilt the person who has wronged you would have to involve the second possibility of forgiveness, which is what I call…
B. Present Forgiveness
This means that the person who has wronged you must feel absolute contrition in their hearts and ask genuinely the one they have wronged for forgiveness. They are a present party in the forgiveness process. Then, when you forgive them (as I advise you to do if you are ready for that), then both parties will to a degree be cleansed. The wrongdoer receives absolution from the one who was wronged through his or her mercy and forgiveness; and the one who was wronged is delivered from being eaten up by a lifetime of resentment and victimhood. This second possibility of present forgiveness is the fullest and most perfect form of forgiveness. It is the reconciliatory ideal that one should work towards. But, in the absence of contrition and if the wrongdoer is no longer present, then the first form of forgiveness — absent forgiveness — cleanses away the resentment of the one who has been wronged and is a great starting-point.
However, what happens if the one who has been wronged refuses to forgive the wrongdoer? Let’s go into that a little…
2. The Consequences of Refusing to Forgive
Although through refusing to forgive, one can have the false self-satisfaction of perpetual victimhood, this will be anything but satisfactory and is not only enslaving but can even be threatening to one’s quality of life, as I outlined above in relation to possible physical/emotional disorders and diseases. However, this is assuming not only that the resentment is real but also that there has been serious wrongdoing to justify the hurt feelings and resentment.
There may be an understandable excuse for refusal to forgive major wrongdoings — at least to begin with, because of the depth of hurt which has been caused and the fact that there has been so much conditioning against forgiveness. But there can be no such excuse for refusal to forgive petty wrongdoings, as sadly many do. Sometimes, people cling to resentments over what are really trifles or petty matters. For example, I know a woman in her thirties who still harbours deep resentment against her father because when she was a truculent fifteen-year old, he searched her schoolbag for cigarettes (and found some) after she vehemently lied to him about not smoking. Whatever your view about the rights and wrongs of searching a child’s bag in order to establish the truth (rather than continuing to be a collaborator in a climate of family lies), it is surely an over-the-top sense of victimhood to still feel resentment about that more than fifteen years later as a mature adult! I have repeatedly come across such victimhood, based on relative trifles. When people cling onto exaggerated hurts so they can feel the illusory satisfaction of playing the victim, they are exhibiting a form of narcissism, whereby their own entitled victimhood is more important to them than reconciliation and the fulfilment of human relationships.
I know many people who harbour terrible resentments against their parents — even refusing ever to see them again. On one level, some of them could be said to be justified in doing so because of the nature of the wrongdoing (such as, for example, real and serious abuse of some kind). While one may feel a great deal of sympathy for the victim and understand well the reasons for the resentment, ultimately it serves no useful purpose (apart from building an artificial layer of armour), having no effect on the wrongdoer while crippling the one who has been wronged. At the very least, if possible, absent forgiveness should be practised, in order to cleanse the memory and move on as a liberated adult. For if one does not practise forgiveness, eventually the reason for the resentment fades into the background and then the trauma caused by the act of wrongdoing lives on in the victim, leading to personality disorders, the inability to forge or keep relationships, not to mention the way that these resentments can easily be passed on to his or her children subconsciously (an occurrence which is far more widespread than you may imagine).
One of the main reasons that people do not forgive others for their wrongdoing towards them is because they feel it means that the wrongdoer would be “getting away with it” — as if somehow the victim’s non-forgiveness deepens the wrongdoer’s guilt and culpability, preserving it for eternity. This is a false idea, for the reality and evil of the wrongdoing still remain, even after the process of absent forgiveness has occurred. As another thought, one must also consider the fact that there have been occasions when the victim’s forgiveness has actually convicted the wrongdoer with such shame that the miscreant then recognizes the magnitude of what s/he has done, leading to contrition and requests for forgiveness.
Refusal to forgive the wrongdoing of others towards us is actually condemned by the Christ in an addendum to what is known as the Lord’s Prayer, when he says: “If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your wrongdoings”. Quite apart from all the emotional, psychological and physical health issues, this is actually the most important of all the serious effects which happen to a person who will not forgive, although many will not recognize this. Now this little treatise is only really about human forgiveness. It was not my intention to enter the rich arena of Divine forgiveness, which is a separate issue deserving of its own treatise. But I cannot avoid mentioning it in the context of this present section. For to be in a state of resistance to forgiveness actually has extensive consequences of a spiritual nature as it creates an additional rupture in a universe which is already fatally riven as it is. Let’s go into this a little…
When the Christ says “your heavenly Father” in the text above, he is referring to the Divine being behind the whole creation — the Creator, the one who has ‘fathered’ the creation and all living creatures within it. The concept of being ‘forgiven’ by the Divine being refers to being reconciled to God, for the natural state of the human being in his or her present physical form is one of alienation from God due to rebellion against Divine law by angels and humans. This is what is known as “the Fall” — a concept of which mostpeople are entirely ignorant (or consider to be of no consequence), yet it is of paramount importance to understand if we are to grasp our place in this cosmos and how we are to live in it. I have gone into all this in much detail elsewhere but the upshot in the context of this little treatise is that (arguing from the smaller to the greater) if a human being refuses to be reconciled with another human being, how can he or she expect to be reconciled with the Divine being? Even common sense tells you that without the one, the other is an impossibility. Therefore, if we wish to progress spiritually by being reconciled with (and living in tune with) the Divine being — i.e. ‘forgiven’, restored into a relationship with God, thus overturning the state of alienation — one of the things we must do is first forgive those humans who have wronged us, either with absent forgiveness or, if requested, with present forgiveness.
So you see that this business of forgiveness is not merely a psychological, emotional or even solely a moral issue, but it is a deeply spiritual one and to refuse to practise it can have immensely fateful consequences for our existence. Do you see now why practising the art of forgiveness is not merely a casual option but an essential necessity?
3. Empathy With the Wrongdoer is a Powerful Catalyst for Forgiveness
Forgiveness becomes all the easier when one begins to understand the motivations behind the wrongdoer’s actions. This is not done in order to excuse the wrongdoer but to contextualize the act of wrongdoing. To commit any kind of wrongdoing, but especially that which is against another human being, should not be considered as ‘normal’ and it runs contrary to the well-being of both the wrongdoer and the one who has been wronged, not to mention the rupture in the cosmos caused by such actions. If one doesn’t make some attempt to understand the reasons behind it, then one is merely faced with illogical, irrational and senseless behaviour. However, if one begins to get a glimpse into what lies behind these acts of wrongdoing, then there will be more incentive to forgive — at the very least in an absent sense. In this same breath, it should also be said that wrongdoers (which is all of us at some level) also need to look into why we do the things we do. Self-awareness is paramount for all humans, if they want to understand the reasons for their destructive or anti-social behaviour towards others (or even that which we do to ourselves).
If someone wrongs you, always try to get to the bottom of why a person would do such a thing. Sometimes, even if on the surface it appears to be an act of jealousy, envy, projection, or some other kind of personal animosity, it can be due to them having been personally damaged by someone else. This could be in earlier life or even some recent event. Sibling rivalry, inadequate parenting, authoritarian schooling, being jilted by a lover, defensive aggression, undergoing some kind of insecurity such as facing financial disaster, and much more. Many different elements could be involved. The patterns from childhood just keep repeating themselves, generation after generation. You may also, tragically, have to conclude that some people are just plain evil through and through. I’m sorry to have to say that and you may find it shocking. But there are some characters who have been so given over to extreme self-centredness and a denial of the humanity of others that they have as good as ‘sold themselves to the devil’. Psychopathic ice runs in their veins, their hearts have been cauterized, and they should be avoided in the normal run of things (by which I mean do not enter into any kind of relationship with such people). Leave it to others who have no skin in the game to deal with them.
It is also important to realize that a heart which is no longer wedded to ego would have no need for jealousy, envy, or other personal animosity. The one who is no longer wedded to his or her ego has no need to be at loggerheads with anyone else or to “hold things against” someone. For s/he knows that any such artificial alienation from others creates a rupture in the cosmos and is not fitting for a child of God. Unfortunately, mostpeople are blown around like leaves in the wind by their own petty shibboleths, offendedness, and pseudo-sensitivities, resulting in a storm of self-induced estrangements and alienations from others. Relinquishing oneself of one’s ego-mindedness will also remove all need for ruptures with others and most especially with the Divine being. Reconciliation with others and with the Divine being go hand in hand together. One cannot truly have one without the other, and both are vitally necessary. Anyone who is a genuine full fosterer of reconciliation and forgiveness will naturally seek reconciliation in all its aspects on every level.
When one realizes the many reasons behind people’s wrongdoings against us, one cannot really continue to cling to the mould of victim. For their wrongdoings are not ultimately anything to do with the victims against which they commit their wrongdoings. They are the acting out of a crippled and ignorant soul which is wrapped up in its own story to such an extent that the stories of others become irrelevant to that soul. If one looks upon those who wrong us with a mixture of compassion and empathy seasoned with insight and discernment, then forgiveness — at the very least of the absent kind — becomes considerably easier.
4. The Demonic Element in Resentment & the Refusal to Forgive
We also have to acknowledge here that certain dark entities of a non-physical nature take an unhealthy interest in those who have resentment eating away at their hearts. This is a little understood phenomenon and one which will immediately be ridiculed by many. But anyone who has studied demonology deeply will know how these beings operate and that those people who harbour deep and chronic resentments against others are a prime target for demonic interference, oppression and even possession. The vast swathe of anger, offendedness and politically-motivated outrage over so many matters is providing a veritable playground for the demonic realm in this day. To break this force of evil is one of the reasons that the Christ came to earth (not on December 25th, I hasten to add, but far more likely in the month of September! The December 25th celebration of ‘Christmas’ is of pagan origin and was a false church compromise. But I won’t get into that now as my subject is forgiveness and its ramifications). Shortly before his execution, when the Christ said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out”, having said that this was the reason he came to earth, he was plainly referring to the ousting of the evil force of fallen angels under their mighty archangel which had been plaguing this planet from the earliest time. Unless we understand that there is and has been from the beginning of time a spiritual battle of cosmic proportions, we will flounder in our understanding of how good and evil, light and darkness, operate. The last couple of thousand years has been like a mopping-up operation after the war had technically been won but the vanquished enemy will not accept it. The deception and subterfuge on this planet are beyond the full comprehension of most people because they choose wilful ignorance rather than open education. The only way to have true and full protection from demonic interference is to become a disciple of Christ and get cleaned up inwardly. Part of that process must inevitably involve practising the art of forgiveness towards one’s fellow humans as a first step. In fact, the very act of reconciliation is a spit in the face of the demonic realm. In this way, reconciliation and forgiveness have a cleansing effect not only in our hearts but in our lives and the lives of our communities. To continue with harbouring resentments, hatreds and unresolved issues is to leave oneself wide open to physical, emotional and spiritual disorder.
5. Forgiveness Does not Absolve the Wrongdoer of Legal or Civil Guilt
However, we must bear in mind that just because you forgive someone — even if they have expressed contrition and so the whole gamut of forgiveness is practiced — this does not mean that the wrongdoer goes unpunished if s/he has broken civil or criminal law. Their contrition may be taken into account in terms of mitigation, and it may take away some of the burden of guilt in the forgiven heart of the wrongdoer, but it does not negate his or her standing before the law of the community. Of course, full and genuine contrition, forgiveness and reconciliation should always be taken into account in any judicial sentencing. Yet, the antisocial and destructive nature of wrongdoing must still remain as an objective reality. This is why forgiveness is not, as some believe, a soft option practised by do-gooders. For forgiveness does not take away criminal culpability. Due process must still be followed. But it must also surely be mitigated by it.
Another example would be if someone has borrowed a large amount of money from you and then refused to pay it back. You may choose to forgive the borrower his or her act of wrongdoing; but unless you wipe the money-slate clean, the debt still remains and the greatest way of demonstrating genuine remorse would be for the borrower to find a way of repaying the debt.
So, in this way, you can see that human reconciliation and forgiveness are practised within a framework of human responsibility and not as some kind of soppy soft option.
6. The Ways that People “Play” at Being the Victim
Sometimes, a person will claim to have been hurt by you and play at being the victim of your “nastiness”, when in reality they have only been hurt as a bi-product of their own wrongdoing. An example of this would be if you have had to leave a toxic relationship for the sake of your sanity (or even for your safety) and take yourself out of contact with that person because of their abusive behaviour or their lies about you and gaslighting of you. Then you suddenly find that they accuse you of being so horrible for deserting them! In this case, your conscience is clear. You have nothing to apologize for. You may feel sorry for them, but you do not need to say “sorry” to them. Such people — because of their wilful inability to see themselves as the wrongdoer — will always try to make you into the wrongdoer and themselves into the victim. This is a classic manoeuvre of the narcissist. And narcissism is at the root of so many of the issues in relation to wrongdoing and the need for forgiveness.
Another example of narcissism in relation to this area is the need to cling onto playing at being a “victim” instead of practising forgiveness. This need to play at the victim can even begin in childhood. We are all familiar with the child who falls over with no physical damage, but you would think from the ensuing extended bout of wailing that s/he has broken every bone in his or her body! Such a child learns early that playing the victim gets much personal attention and fuss made over him or her. Another child, in a similar situation, will simply get up and carry on as if nothing has happened; for really nothing has happened! Playing the victim is always an act of narcissism, whether one realizes it or not. I do not mean when a person simply is a victim; I mean when someone is playing at being a victim. A great deal of victimhood in this world is being “bigged up” publicly in order to garnish sympathy from others. From a human psychological and emotional point of view, this is a complete disaster. For when victimhood is relished and indulged in, it inevitably results in twisted relationships and a neverending sense of unfulfillable entitlement. Think of the emotionally-blackmailing grasping mother who sarcastically and bitterly says to members of her family, “That’s right, already. You all just go out and have a good time and leave me here all on my own”, as she wipes a tear away from her eye and makes a mock expression of self-reliance. She is setting herself up as the victim. (She should really have said with gladness and joy, “Hey, I’d love to come with you!” or “I’m delighted to have spent this time with you!” instead of turning it into an occasion for victim-playing and emotional blackmail). Playing the role of victim always gets free attention and sympathy. But instead of being humoured and indulged, it should be exposed for the sham that it is. For one cannot ever have any kind of real relationship with someone who has not even begun to attempt to master their own ego. In fact, the first duty of anyone in, or entering in, a relationship is to master their own ego and become self-aware of when they are acting out or indulging their own subtle insanities. For if they do not do so, the relationship will never blossom and is ultimately doomed to mediocrity and misfortune. This is the real reason behind the vast majority of relationship breakdowns: The failure to be self-aware enough to realise when one’s ego is indulging in its follies. There is no more beautiful relationship than that between two people who are committed to being self-aware enough to “police” themselves to purge their destructive behaviours before they cause problems rather than acting out robotically on the basis of ego-impulses and corrupted self-will. I could write a whole article in itself about this wonderful subject. In fact… I will! 🙂
7. The Failure of Revenge
There are many who think that no forgiveness and making the wrongdoer suffer will bring ‘closure’ for the victim. But surely that is just a subtle version of revenge. It is not a real closure but merely the fulfilment of vengeance. True closure comes with reconciliation rather than vengeance. Revenge merely simulates closure. We have strayed so far from essential tenets of morality into the false satisfaction of our warped egos that we wish evil to befall wrongdoers instead of their self-realization and contrition. I remember reading about the mother of a daughter who had been abused by her husband who, on hearing that he had been knocked down and killed in a traffic accident, exclaimed, “It serves him right!” But it didn’t really ‘serve him right’ at all. The only thing which would have ‘served him right’ would have been his realization of his wrongdoing and a sense of contrition for it. If one gains satisfaction from the suffering and death of another human being, then that is not ‘closure’ but a failure, an expression of malice and the manifestation of a severe lack of wisdom.
Here is the bottom line: The only real closure in any instance of wrongdoing is contrition and forgiveness. Every time. This is fundamental to the functioning of healthy relationships and the fulfilment of a healthy society.
8. Genuine Contrition Means Never Doing it Again
Here are some words for those who are feeling contrite in front of another concerning any wrongdoing committed: Saying sorry implies the promise that you will never commit that act of wrongdoing again, and that to the very best of your ability you will cease forthwith from doing it. There are many who ask for forgiveness, but no real cleansing has taken place and therefore there is no real commitment to avoiding the reenactment of the wrongdoing. Thus, they will stumble at the first hurdle. This is not true contrition. A person who is genuinely contrite will be so horrified at the thought of recommitting the wrongdoing that it would be unlikely to happen again. A weaker type may make the same foolish mistake once more but any more than that and it becomes a pathological problem in need of an even deeper balm than forgiveness. For the cycle of contrition and forgiveness is a learning experience for both the wrongdoer and the one wronged.
Unfortunately, some sociopathic types will take advantage of those who practise forgiveness, expecting to be forgiven at every turn but not respecting the one forgiving. Being a forgiver doesn’t mean being a doormat. For example, a woman who is being abused by her partner may, at his professed contrition, forgive him. But if she is being repeatedly abused after his repeated “contritions”, it would be folly to remain with him no matter how much she may keep on forgiving him. As I said above, being truly sorry means that one will not do it again. Okay, one may, through extreme folly, make a second mistake; but after that any further commissions of the wrongdoing is becoming a pathological pattern. If someone is relying on your good nature to keep forgiving him or her ad infinitum, then they are not only not genuinely contrite but they are not respecting you either and exploiting you as well. So by all means forgive under those circumstances but also make sure that you walk away. Do not become a forgiving doormat for someone else’s immaturity and exploitation of you, as that would take you into the murky realms of co-dependency. Forgive, depart and forget. Duty done.
9. Is There a Limit to Forgiveness?
Here we begin to get into a distinctly challenging section. What about extreme situations of wrongdoing? For example, what if someone has been raped? Should the victim forgive the attacker? Many assume that this will refer to the rape of women by men only. But not all rape victims are female. Males do get raped too, mostly by men but occasionally by women. Now, I fully realise that this is a very emotive issue with a lot of loaded trigger material. To be violated in this way by another human being is one of the most hideous things which can happen to someone. But, in a way, that makes it all the more of an occasion in which forgiveness can shine. The darker the wrongdoing, the brighter the possible shine of forgiveness! Just that thought makes me almost drunk with joy! The more degradation and dehumanization there is in an event, the more it presents itself as the territory for forgiveness. If you are starting to get hot under the collar as you read these words, I ask you to take a deep breath and stay with me, for there is much more to say here. On we go…
The resentment which one feels after being violated in an act of rape runs deeper than that which results from most other wrongdoings. For a human being to physically penetrate another human being in a non-consensual situation is the most intimate form of wrongdoing which one can experience. It is bad enough being violently mugged or burgled, for those are also forms of violation of one’s person or home. But somehow the actual act of physical penetration takes it into another realm — one which can leave the person on the receiving end filled with desperate emotions which can only truly be understood by those who have experienced it.
However, because the wound is so severe, this is all the more reason why the balm of forgiveness needs to be applied. For the wound caused by rape has the potential to adversely affect all future intimate relations. In a woman’s case (and women form the majority of rape victims), it can become the root of a deep misandry. When one has been raped, an acute lack of self-worth and feelings of uncleanness can permeate one’s life in a highly detrimental manner. One feels somehow marked and sullied. Because of the depth of this wound and the resultant emotional fallout, one becomes extra prone to the interest of discarnate entities to which I referred earlier. A festering, pus-filled wound like this creates an entrance point for these entities which then exacerbates the psychological and emotional issues so that they can become chronically part of the very structure of the person and highly resistant to any kind of resolution.
Thus, when a rape victim is ready — that is, as soon as it is emotionally possible — s/he needs to activate the first kind of forgiveness that I mentioned earlier. This doesn’t involve any kind of contrition on the part of the rapist; but it is a first step to the healing of the victim. For this to happen, there needs to be some kind of empathy with the character of the rapist. I know this sounds scary and weird but this is the only way for healing to begin. Nobody rapes another human being in a vacuum. There are dark reasons why a person becomes a rapist and they are many and varied. Maybe the rapist was himself abused as a child. Maybe a zillion wrongs have been done to someone so that their entire sense of desire has become warped into a system of control and oppression and rape is the outcome of that. Maybe (and here I tread on dark and icy ground) the element of conscience, through various influences and experiences, has become so cauterized in a person that they are effectively soulless and zombielike, so that rape is almost like the food on which the rapist feeds his dead emotions. None of these reasons are meant to offer any kind of excuse for what the rapist has done, but are merely being provided as a perspective, for rape does not happen in a vacuum. I know that hardline feminists claim that all men are by nature rapists; but such a view is often held by those who are themselves carrying the wound of rape or some kind of molestation around with them. To imagine that all men are by nature rapists is one of the ways that a woman’s view of men can be adversely affected after being raped. Many women who have suffered bad experiences at the hands of a man go on to become hardline feminists with a misandrist view of men. Their adoption of this extreme feminist mindset is one of the ways that she uses to try to deal with the trauma of rape. But it is not the pathway towards true healing. It is only an emotive reaction and defence mechanism. Oh, I know this is asking a lot, but nothing less than forgiveness and reconciliation will create a humane society and healthy relationships. The only true pathway to genuine healing is forgiveness. If you do not think that is possible in such a case as this, then you should watch this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMQoHEtBjRI and read this article: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/rapist-forgiven-by-his-victim/ . Prepare to be amazed!
CONCLUSION: Practise the Lost Art of Forgiveness!
In many ways, practising the art of forgiveness is a lonely road to tread. You will be pilloried by those who are triggered even by the very thought of it. You will be accused of being a “lily-livered liberal do-gooder” by all the “string em up” types. Professional victims will victimize you with their outrage. Vigilantes will castigate you for being a worthless idealist. The vast increasing pool of unforgiving anger which lies behind the veneer of civilized society today will be poured out on you relentlessly. Incidentally, this ‘vast increasing pool of unforgiving anger’ is a serious issue at this time. Merely brushing against someone in a crowded place can cause an outburst from them which is not at all commensurate with the ‘offence’. Inadvertently committing a faux pas in traffic could mean you will be chased, then dragged from your car and beaten or even stabbed in a fit of road-rage. This is happening increasingly today. If you advocate forgiveness in the Twittersphere, the demented pitchfork and torch brigade will no doubt instantly be massing at your digital front door with their arrogant, know-it-all, hate-filled soundbites.
The interesting thing about this playing-the-victim stance is that it is in complete opposition to the beautiful process of forgiveness. I have known people who have forgiven someone for what happened in the past (something which is not atrocious or evil), only to have others (often “besties” or those who themselves have a vested interest in not being forgiving and are threatened by their friend’s new-found forgiveness) remind them what a victim they *really* are and that by giving up their victim status through being forgiving they have allowed the other person to “get away with it”, even suggesting that they’ve been “gaslighted” into being forgiving. This resulted in the “victim” aggressively retracting their forgiveness of the “perpetrator” and renewing their role of playing the victim even more than ever before! It is no exaggeration to say that we live in a society which mostly not only encourages but actually URGES people to play the victim. If forgiveness is a beautiful constructive process, then playing-the-victim is an ugly destructive one.
However, in spite of this general resistance to forgiveness, many will express their profound admiration for someone who has forgiven a wrongdoer in terrible circumstances, such as a mother forgiving the killer of her child. Many will acknowledge hypothetically that forgiveness and reconciliation is a good thing… until they are called upon themselves to practise it. Clinging on to old ways and old hurts is the way of the fallen human. If one wants to rise to a higher level of existence, one will be imbued with the desire to practise the almost lost art of forgiveness.
In this increasingly hardened world, in which there is so much crime of persons against other persons — whether that involves actual community-recognized personal crimes such as theft, blackmail, physical or sexual assault and the taking of a life, or the more impersonal ones such as waging unnecessary wars, exploiting employees or engaging in virtual slavery, and refusing to help the genuinely weak and helpless — the qualities of mercy, forgiveness and love must unite to go hand-in-hand with each other. In our messed-up world, these seem so hard to practise. So many hide behind a wall of defensiveness. So many hurt or wounded people are out there. But there is a sense in which these qualities are the easiest to practise too. All that is needed to begin with is to lay our egos to one side and take the high road.
Let it finally be said that far from being evidence of weakness and vain appeasement, the practise of the lost art of forgiveness involves much courage, strength, integrity and authenticity.
© Alan Morrison, 2019
[The image above the article is a 1912 woodcut in black on Japan paper, entitled “Reconciliation”, by Franz Marc]