Forgiveness


Live and let live, forget and forgive.

Seldom do people dispute that we should; but when someone wrongs us, we may find ourselves asking: how?

What is forgiveness?

Is it something you give to someone? “I forgive you.” with emphasis on you. To erase their guilt, to accept their apologies, to unburden their hearts, to clear their name? Forgiveness happens when someone asks for it.

Is it something within oneself, something you come to terms with in your own head? “I forgive you.” with emphasis on I. A mental act of letting go of anger, grievances, blame, independent of the party who wronged you? Forgiveness happens when you decide to forgive.

If someone does not admit to wrong doing, does it make sense to say you forgive them?
I’m imagining an unrepentant murderer; Who could say they forgive him?
Conversely, I imagine someone telling me that they ‘forgive me’ for something I did which I believed was the right thing to do; I’d feel like giving his holier-than-thou face a slap.

Yet this phrase comes to mind, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” and it does not seem incoherent either: You’d surely forgive a young child who colours on expensive wallpaper regardless of whether the child is remorseful.

Is the emphasis then on ‘knowing what they do’? Wrong-doing in ignorance is immediately forgiven, full blame cannot be assigned.

Does forgiving take away blame? what about responsibility? He is surely responsible for his actions, even if he did not mean them, or did not anticipate the outcome. Does forgiving leave taking responsibility where it is (he still needs to help clean up the mess and do right by the victim) while lifting blame? Or does it simultaneously lift both? For surely one will not take responsibility if they fail to acknowledge they were in the wrong, due to ignorance or otherwise.

Someone in an abusive relationship keeps forgiving, and going back. Can you forgive, but not go back? Can you forgive, but still hold him responsible, still hold him to blame?

What does it mean to forgive?

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