Wednesday, January 28, 2009

People who forgive refuse to be defined by injustice


Stephen Gaskin says that forgiveness is getting straight with people. I think he is on to something. I also think there is something more to it that just getting straight.



Forgiveness is many things. True forgiveness is a decision on the part of the victim to put the unjust behavior of the offender into context. Forgiveness requires a perspective and attitude that humans have a hard time cultivating and rising to. Our primitive reptilian brain wants vengeance, retribution, to kill or eliminate the perpetrator of the injustice against us. To overcome these powerful, primal instincts takes tremendous self awareness, courage, patience, understanding, love, and in a positive way, self abnegation in the sense of being able to rise above the hurt, the pain, the indignity, the lack of respect which injustice entails.



Forgiveness does not give up accountability. Forgiveness is not the same thing as pardon or reconciliation. Unjust behavior has consequences, it sets loose a karma in the world which cannot be recalled but can be redeemed. Reconciliation may not be desired by the victim or the perpetrator and yet forgiveness, peace in one's heart, can still be attained.



The victim forgives first and foremost for the benefit of oneself and only secondarily for the perpetrator and others.



Forgiveness is a power we all have to live happy and free instead of bitter and depressed defined by the injustice perpetrated against us. People who forgive refuse to be defined by injustice and victimhood. They realize they are much more than that. They realize they are beloved children of God in spite of how they have been treated by ignorant and dysfunctional others.

8 comments:

  1. Hi David,
    Forgive me (sorry) for not commenting for awhile. Forgiveness is so central to spiritual and mental health. For me, at the heart of it is a willingness to look at my own part in every difficult situation. From there, it is not hard to forgive others...Of course, like all things spiritual, its easier said than done. And yet it is a beautiful road to walk. Blessings and thank you for the post, BU

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  2. Plus, if you don't do it, you run out of friends.


    CC
    who is totally stealing that line from a comment she overheard once after a sermon on forgiveness.

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  3. Hi CC:

    Great line. And hopefully our friends will forgive us.

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

    All the best,

    David Markham

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  4. Hi BU:

    Thank you for your comment. As you say it is much easier said than done. I am 63 and in some ways it seems easier as I get older although I think I have always been a forgiving person.

    There is so much bull shit, and so many idiots that it is easy to become bitter, angry, self righteous, negative. I find myself getting depressed and discouraged, but then seem to find a way to rise above it because, as I say in my post, I don't want my life to be defined by it. I truly believe God (life) wants me to be happy and so I laugh at the absurdity and incongruity and nonsense. You either laugh or cry and I do both and out of the laughing through my tears, forgiveness is born.

    All the best,

    David Markham

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  5. I already said a thing or two about forgiveness in your Why Do Hurtful Things Happen To Me? post David. I would be interested in your response to what I said there when you have the time.

    :Stephen Gaskin says that forgiveness is getting straight with people. I think he is on to something. I also think there is something more to it that just getting straight.

    So do I, and I refuse to forgive if I have very good reason to believe that my forgiveness would be wasted on the forgivee and they would remain "less than straight" aka crooked in their dealings with me and/or other people.

    :Forgiveness is many things. True forgiveness is a decision on the part of the victim to put the unjust behavior of the offender into context.

    The same might be said about a victim making a decision not to forgive. . . or at least not to forgive until the offender clearly and unequivocally acknowledges the wronging and harm that they are responsible for perpetrating and/or perpetuating and seeks forgiveness from the victim.

    :Forgiveness requires a perspective and attitude that humans have a hard time cultivating and rising to.

    I am not so sure about that. I forgive all kinds of things quite regularly. Of course I do take into perspective my own offenses of various when determining whether or not to forgive something if that is what you mean here David. There is that whole forgive and you will be forgiven dynamic. Interestingly enough that dynamic *may* be written into The Lord's Prayer. Some people interpret -

    "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us"

    as meaning that God's forgiveness of *our* trespasses is doled out in relation to how much we forgive those who trespass against us. I personally am not convinced that this is a correct interpretation of The Lord's Prayer but it is certainly one worth giving some further thought to.

    :Our primitive reptilian brain wants vengeance, retribution, to kill or eliminate the perpetrator of the injustice against us.

    I guess my brain isn't all *that* reptilian then because killing or eliminating the perpetrators of injustices against me rarely enters my brain even as a pure fantasy. OTOH If justice and equity is refused or unobtainable via normal there is always the temptation to get even as it were, I very much hold to a don't get angry, get even, philosophy although usually that simply means trying to set things right as much as one can. Sometimes when one offers forgiveness and reconciliation and these offers are ignored or rejected a certain amount of retribution might not be unreasonable.

    :To overcome these powerful, primal instincts takes tremendous self awareness, courage, patience, understanding, love, and in a positive way, self abnegation in the sense of being able to rise above the hurt, the pain, the indignity, the lack of respect which injustice entails.

    Or one can just have boatloads of fun wallowing in the depths of the deep dark pit of egotistical delU*Usion. . . :-)

    :Forgiveness does not give up accountability.

    Unfortunately sometimes it effectively does just that which is why one needs to determine which is more important and beneficial in terms of one's own good and the proverbial "greater good". Sometimes obtaining some genuine accountability wins out in that equation. Of course one can always blend a certain amount of forgiveness with accountability. I believe that the words mercy and/or clemency more or less cover that territory. Then again mercy and clemency are not always advisable if the offender is likely to reoffend as a result of his or her lenient treatment.

    :Forgiveness is not the same thing as pardon or reconciliation. Unjust behavior has consequences, it sets loose a karma in the world which cannot be recalled but can be redeemed.

    I guess that depends on what the meaning of the word redeemed is.

    :Reconciliation may not be desired by the victim or the perpetrator and yet forgiveness, peace in one's heart, can still be attained.

    True enough. Of course peace in one's heart may be obtained by other means such as getting even in one way or another. The peace in my heart, and even apparent genuine reconciliation with Rev. James Ishmael Ford, comes from a combination of getting even *and* genuinely forgiving his perceived or real past trespasses against me when he *owned* them. There is a lesson there for U*Us who have eyes to see. . . AFA*I*AC Rev. Ford and I are on good terms now and I harbor no ill will or resentment towards him.

    :The victim forgives first and foremost for the benefit of oneself and only secondarily for the perpetrator and others.

    This is a concept that I am wary of, especially when this concept is promoted my a person or institution that is guilty of fairly serious offenses. Forgive, forgive, *you* will feel so much better for it does not ring true when an offender is selling that message. . . Getting even in one way or another works for me, until such a time as the offender acknowledges his, her, or its offenses and seeks forgiveness from me.

    "Self-forgiveness" is another concept that I distrust as I see some overlap between "self-forgiveness" and just plain sociopathic consciencelessness. . . AFA*I*AC Nobody should forgive themselves before seeking and obtaining the forgiveness of those people they have offended and victimized in one way or another. Healthy levels of guilt and shame seem to be lacking in the U*U World from what I can see. . . I am on record as saying that I will not display a picket sign slogan saying -

    A "CHURCH" THAT HAS NO SHAME

    in front of the Unitarian Church of Montreal because I have reasonable grounds to believe that its members would take it as a compliment. . .

    :Forgiveness is a power we all have to live happy and free instead of bitter and depressed defined by the injustice perpetrated against us.

    Well I am not all that bitter nor all that depressed. In fact I quite enjoy my little hobby of getting even with hypocritical U*Us who not only obstinately refuse to "honor and uphold" U*U "covenants" calling for justice, equity and compassion in human relations but have also repeatedly rejected my offers of reconciliation following their responsible acknowledgment of the injustice and abuses that they are clearly and unequivocally guilty of either directly perpetrating or indirectly perpetuating.

    :People who forgive refuse to be defined by injustice and victimhood. They realize they are much more than that. They realize they are beloved children of God in spite of how they have been treated by ignorant and dysfunctional others.

    True enough but I dare say that people who get even *also* refuse to be defined by injustice and victimhood. They realize they are much more than that. They realize they are beloved children of God in spite of how they have been treated by ignorant and dysfunctional others. . .

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  6. Chalicechick said... Plus, if you don't do it, you run out of friends.

    You'd be surprised by just how many friends I have gained from being The Emerson Avenger CC. More than any true friends I ever had in the U*U World that's for sure. . .

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  7. I would be interested in knowing your take on my take on forgiveness when you have the time to respond to my comments David.

    Have a good weekend,

    Robin Edgar

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  8. To sum it up: Letting go is healthy. Wrong has been done to me many times, I haven't outwardly forgiven at times. Maybe the injurers wallow in their guilt. I don't believe that outwardly forgiving someone will eliminate their feelings of guilt, if any. There are other ways of showing love, other than forgiveness. For me, forgiving is a great force, like karma. It can enable or disable you if it isn't used properly and vice versa for the injurer as well. I am sure many don't ever feel guilty. For those who never feel guilt or remorse, forgiveness to them would make them feel empowered, knowing they hurt you and have no regret of their actions. I just say..........LET IT GO. If you can resolve the wrong done to you, go within to heal and empower yourself to move on and free yourself of negativity. No regrets, no fear.

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