I don't have any answers about forgiveness. It seems, though, that
there are a lot of questions. And doubts.
The only thing I think I know is that forgiveness can be a release
for the forgiver. That release is needed when the acts forgiven were
so great that our anger and resentment and frustration threaten to
debilitate us, perpetuating and exacerbating the injury done to us.
In these cases I don't think we want to, or perhaps morally ought to,
help the injurer to feel better. Let others do that. My sensibility
is rather Old Testament in these matters. I felt a lot better after I
forgave someone significant in my life, but I forgave in secret, in
my heart. I did not speak my forgiveness, I did not give it. I held
it for myself. This is not the spirit of reconciliation, which seeks
the good of the community, not necessarily our good as individuals.
Private forgiveness, like secret charity.
Forgiveness as part of community reconciliation seems to be an
integral part of a network of responses, along with admission of
wrong-doing, apology, asking forgiveness; along with forming a public
consensus about truth, guilt, just punishment, time elapsed, the
limits of enough.
There are other people in my life whom I have injured in one way or
another, and I would feel better if I knew I had their forgiveness,
but I don't really see how or why they could deeply forgive. Like me,
I think, they can only become reconciled in themselves to what
happened, can at most let go of anger or resentment. It may be a
wonderful ideal to imagine that we can transcend injuries done to us
and forgive, but it can also just be another way to try to regain a
feeling of control over something we had no control over but which
hurt us. I am skeptical of the reality of what I would call
'romantic' forgiveness, an illusion that we are more divine than we really are.
Maybe communities can forgive. They are greater, stronger, more
eternal than those who do injuries to them. Maybe communities with
spiritual ideals can, as communities, live up to those ideals in ways
their individual members can only try to do, helped (and maybe
pressured) by the community. Communities that try to help people live
in spiritual-symbolic realities can foster identities that aim to
transcend merely earthly injuries. But I think it's a rare individual
whose healthy immersion in such transcendental realities is not
broken by deep injury. There are saints, and there are also those
lost in self-delusion about their real feelings. Individuals can
transcend, but not at every moment of their lives. Over time the rest
of our Selves can let the injured self submerge, never expunged,
never forgetting, but re-integrated in a way that is not debilitating
for the whole. Whatever part of us forgives, I doubt that it is the
whole of us that does so.
Vengeance is mine, says the lord. And forgiveness, too?
At 12:06 AM 10/23/2006, you wrote:
>OK-- So here is another topic. Any help out there greatly appreciated.
>In my household the topic of forgiveness is a burning issue. There are a lot
>First, we have had a visit from a friend who has had a stroke and whose
>husband has left her
>and she is in deep pain.
>Second, we have been reading about the Amish parents in Pennsylvania who put
>aside, so far as
>we can tell, the unbelievable anger and pain they must have experienced, and
>have forgiven the man
>who killed their children, welcomed his wife into their community, and
>(again, so far as we can tell,
>for-given him his unforgivable (it would seem) trespasses.
>Third, there is fiction brewing locallly that involves a mother and daughter
>who are in conflict where the
>mother has transgressed the law seriously and the daughter is living with
>So what does anyone on this amazing list of people have to counsel us about
>forgiveness, No eye for
>a tooth. What makes it possible? Legitimate? Forgivable, to forgive someone
>for causing unspeakable
>This is all at the more or less personal/interpersonal level. I am well
>aware that there are macro versions of these
>questions that deserve all the attention we can give them, but up close and
>personal. --When is forgiveness possible
>xmca mailing list
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
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