Forgiveness

Hi,

In the cosy, half awake period between the alarm and getting up, my mind drifted along. As often, two unconnected thoughts bumped into each other.

The first was the news headline about people who are both Conservative Party members and LGBTQ+. Apparently some are feeling distinctly uneasy given recent statements by the current would-bes. I do wonder if they’d been asleep over the past decade as rhetoric had ramped up. 😋 (Then there’s this masterclass in allyship ❤️)

As that thought floated by, an image of former and frequently cruel classmate followed. Someone who certainly wasn’t kind to a number of people in our class. They are both long dead and not someone I think about. I heard the words “can you forgive me?” echo in my mind, and that’s the crux of today’s post.

Kindness

Memories, trauma, grudges, and all the rest; well, it’s a complicated situation and dealing with the past is not always easy. That said, I wondered – and life, IMHO, is very much a sliding scale of X and Y – when do you forgive? Is there more to be found in the phrase, forgive, but don’t forget? Where might we, in terms of kindness to ourselves for past failings, fit into that?

L x

12 Comments

  1. Thought provoking post Lynn.

    They say ‘life is too short to hold grudges” but I’m in the camp of “forgive but don’t forget”.

    During the lockdown I got back in touch with an old cousin Ihat ‘d fallen out with. I could have quite easily of never spoken to her again but I reached out with an olive branch and made my peace.

    I forgave her for things that had been said back in our teen years. Probably trival thing really but still I found it within myself to forgive but not forget.

    1. Good to hear you and your cousin have patched things up. That’s very cool, IMO.

      I think I’m also in the not forgetting camp (ooo, camp, darhlink! 🍸😉). For me, not so much holding on to the hurt or hostility, but hoping to remember and be wary of how things might play out.

  2. Ask a thousand people to define “forgiveness” and you’ll get a thousand different answers. It’s a word with no effective meaning.

    In practice, forgiveness often boils down to “I’m too tired / distracted / ignorant / threatened / upset / unsure / poor / etc. to pursue justice against someone who has harmed me or others or the community so it’s best for my sanity to just let them get away with it. It’s not right but life is too short.” And so the abusive, criminal, dishonest, bullying, narcissistic, corrupt and vain get away without adequate challenges to their behaviour or compensating their victims for the harm they do. “C’est la vie,” people shrug – the world’s number one cop-out.

    When I grew up in what was, to all intents and purposes, a cult, it was a requisite that I give in to all demands whatsoever and any complaints or queries were necessarily a sign of my own depravity and not only must be dismissed but punished for their impertinence. I’m wiser now. Understand when someone may fail, falter or be imperfect because of factors outside their control but never let the malign and the exploitative get away with what they do.

    Just some examples: conversion therapists who cheerfully say, “well, we acknowledge that our therapy didn’t work so we won’t do it any more,” misses the need to make up for all the past harm they have done. “Let’s just draw a line under it,” was Boris Johnson’s endless mantra, enabling him to go on to the next item of abuse or corruption. “You must understand that …” Gertcha! You’re a crook, you know it, you want to get away with it so you add to your malignity by trying to persuade victims to ignore all you’ve done up to now. It works – just look at the state of the word with these people in change and running around scot free all the time.

    I don’t blame myself or others for past failings or misunderstandings or even past inappropriate forgiveness because I had no other frame of reference but threats and brutality. But with evil people one must be uncompromising. They don’t compomise with you, after all.

    Sue x

    1. Thanks for sharing, Sue. I think forgiveness means many things to different people. It may be one word, but there are so many stories behind it.

      If I may add to your comment about cult and evil, I feel that being told to forgive someone who’s hurting others; that feels akin to turning a blind eye and condoning the behaviour. “Oh, that’s just how he gets things done”. How might that feel when it’s done to you or someone you care about? What then?

      Also, forced forgiveness – where someone’s pain, treatment, etc – is invalidated because the other party is bigger, more powerful, more senior, etc. Well, that doesn’t feel like forgiveness to me.

      For some things in life, as you point out, forgiveness is very complex and in terms of justice, perhaps more so. “Oh, you should just move on…” or “It’s in the past…”; for some people, the impact of the event is such that they cannot. If it’s traumatic, perhaps forgiveness is a very long way off and may never arrive.

      Conversely, there’s the personal choice to either let something ride or decide to forgive. Perhaps the other party is incapable of change, so as personal survival, a person decides to walk away.

  3. The answer to “Can you forgive me?” has to be, “Can you show me you’ve changed and are no longer the person who would so or do those things? or better still, how you have tried to make made amends.”
    Without that, as Sue says, it’s merely an attempt by someone to brush past wrongs under the carpet as it they no longer mattered or even happened.
    You can forgive being hurt from ignorance, I think, but not when it’s designed as a pause to set up the next kick.

    1. When the other party is able to show compassion, remorse, and other positive behaviours, I think that makes it easier, yes.

      Repeat offenders may need to reflect on why they find themselves in this situation again 🙂

      1. But, like heffalumps, we don’t forget. At least we don’t forget hurts. I can forget why I just opened the fridge.

  4. I am a Christian. Forgiveness is a core tenet of my faith. I was taught to always forgive people. As I age, I realize that I don’t know what that means. If I don’t trust someone after they’ve wronged me, am I being shrewd or am I being unforgiving. If I still hurt, have I forgiven? When have a successfully forgiven?

    Forgiveness has high stakes for me. Jesus said at least two times that if I do not forgive others, that God will not forgive me. This has caused me a bit of stress…

    I mentioned this to a counselor/therapist. She said that universal forgiveness was very unhealthy (in her opinion). She said it would be abusive to tell a victim of rape that she had to forgive her attacker. The counselor took that in a direction that my experience did not consider!!

    I have heard it said rather recently (by a pastor) that you have achieved forgiveness when you can wish blessings on the one who wronged you.

    Lately, I have really been wondering if being judgmental is being unforgiving against people who have “done you wrong” by not doing what you want them to do. “Don’t judge each other” is another of those things that Christians are told to do. I think we (or at least I) have not been excellent at following that instruction!!

    Joey

    1. “…that if I do not forgive others…”

      That doesn’t seem very forgiving, IMO 🙂

      I terms of that forgiveness to others if that have hurt you. I think there’s a lot that’s contextual. There’s a scale from perhaps inadvertently causing upset or hurt, pigheaded ignorance, maliciousness, through to actively being dismissive.

      For example, my attempt at humour was to point out the possible double standard of the statement. Now, what’s the intent behind that? Was I hoping to offend, but I’ll play the innocence card? Did I know it would offend and hoped to troll you into responding, allowing me to play the oh-poor-me route that we see a lot these days. Or was it just a glib line between two bloggers and actually just conversation?

      Depending on the above, and if hypothetically someone had been hurt, then my secondary behaviour may well affect your want to forgive after my apology or not….

      I think the best advice I heard recently was from Stonewall and the phrase ‘to use kind eyes’. To view the situation from a position of kindness (obvs) but also with curiosity. Perhaps then, we don’t need to judge or forgive, because the situation was not meant to be hurtful. Or, if through ignorance, it was; is there an opportunity for learning and maybe a place to apologise.

  5. Powerful and thought-provoking. Like Joey, I have been a Christian as long as I can remember having thhought about it and have regarded the power of “forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me” carefully.

    I struggle to ‘forget’ the sins done to me by bullies (Andy and Lee, I am looking at you). When a former bully sought me out in 1998 (“we’re friends, aren’t we?” he opened, alone, on my doorstep, “No,” I countered, as I walked past him without looking back, “You were a bastard. Goodbye.” I never did find out why he was on my doorstep, now how he found where I lived) I found I could neither forgive nor forget. And, apparently still can’t. His name was Gavin. I have changed no names, they deserve the shame.

    Forgiveness is not being a doormat, it is not absolution – except of yourself. At the same time… I dunno, I suspect I am not a terribly good follower of Christ. I read what Jesus did, what his forgiveness meant and who he forgave, and I do not do that. I should want my apology to be enough to those I have wronged, for example, and to change my behaviour to them not out of obligation, but out of learning and desire to be a better friend. Thus I should wish them to forgive me so to allow me to repair the damage done – without their forgiveness I should be able to do naught to repair damage. Yet I struggle to offer that same break to others.

    A former boss and bully asked through an intermediary to get in contact, to ask for forgiveness. I responded that I had already forgiven them. The boss and former bully never got in contact. My act of forgiveness soured the gesture they were making, I suppose – I meant it though. If they were in trouble and it was in my power to help, I would. It does not allow me to forget all that they did, all the pain and suffering they caused me (and others through that). But that pain, that damage, is mine to deal with, I would not expect them to deal with it. I wouldn’t want them to.

    All of which is a long-winded way of saying: I do not know what forgiveness is either. I strive toward it, but as a gift I give rather than something I seek from others (though I would like it to be offered as I offer it). I recognise that I am imperfect in how I approach it and continue to work at being better at it – a personal quest that requires no input from others – and I try hard not to worry how others come to their own offers to me of the same beyond hoping that I offer what I would value in return.

    Water Babes: “Do as you would be done by.” And, my corrollary: “Be done by as I do.”

    A reflection on, more than a response to, your post, Lynn. 🙂

    1. A long and very interesting answer, Joanna. Thank you for being honest and sharing.

      That scale I mentioned earlier, I feel that’s relevant when the hurt caused is quite significant. It may be a one off thing, or – as with bullying – a prolonged campaign.

      Perhaps, some people do want to apologise fully, and with no want, other than the hope, that the recipient accepts on their terms.

      I feel their are times when it’s very hard to forgive. Not just others, but ourselves too. I would add that forgiveness may not be something we should do, but only when it might help.

      Life is complex and nuanced, where hard rules can struggle….. says she with a hard rule 😉

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