Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The art of forgiveness

I think it was Oscar Wilde who said something along the lines of "Forgive your enemies. There is nothing that annoys them more."

Forgiveness fascinates me, mainly, I think because I don't really know how to do it. I am not altogether sure what it is. My main confusion comes from the point of, what to do with forgiveness that isn't wanted. God forgives us all. He has paid a very, very heavy price for the privilege and yet we are not forced to accept this free and gracious gift. We can forgo the obligation and retire to the pit of hell if we so desire. While the Church does not tell us WHO is in hell, She is wary of saying no one is. While God loves every person He has made with infinite burning love and certainly wants us all in heaven with Him, we don't have to go, and I think it is fair to say a lot of people choose not to. When Our Blessed Mother showed the three children at Fatima what hell was like-it was not empty.

But we are all called to forgive; "Forgive us our trespasses," we pray, "As we forgive those who trespass against us."
So what do WE do with forgiveness that is not wanted?
I am assuming that forgiveness is as much a good for the forgiver as it is for the forgivee. It is about an act of will in which the wounded party decides they do not want revenge, nor even justice-but mercy for the other person.

I think part of my own confusion comes from being told that forgiveness included two things; forgetting and carrying on with the other person as though nothing had happened. Well okay, there are times when forgetting and carrying on are easy enough-those times are when the other person is sorry, or the offence was small or the offence was such that the other person couldn't possibly know how offensive it was.
But it's the BIG stuff I wonder about. Who can forget abuse? I mean for so many the abuse went on over a long period of time and was habitual in the abuser. How can you forget such a huge chunk of life? And HOW is it possible-well it isn't is it?- to carry on with an abuser as if nothing had happened even IF (and it seems to me to be as rare as hens teeth) the abuser is actually sorry.
What does a person do with forgiveness for that sort of thing?

I am of the opinion-and I am still not sure about this-that remembering what happened is not a sin. It is not possible to forget. Living as a victim, blaming it all on the abuse IS a sin. Perhaps it is through the offer of forgiveness not taken that grace to survive is received. But even for the person who accepts grace and works to overcome the abuse there are times when it all just seems to be there again.
Sometimes the anger comes back. I really can't see if that is a sin. Dwelling on it probably is-but there are times when something happens that causes frustration; places that can't be visited; people who can't be trusted-because of the situation.

Then in the end if the abused person wants mercy for the abuser does God give it-or must those who refuse mercy always receive justice?
It seems to me that many people who have abused others and think they can do this with impunity are so sure God will simply let them into heaven that they see neither the need for His mercy nor fear of His justice.

I am not sure what God expects of us-apart from prayer I suppose.


Kirk said...

Wow WSNS, that was an interesting and very thought-provoking post of yours.
I think that our memory is such that we cannot 'forget' readily. It is sometimes impossible. But to forgive is another thing.
I think of people who have injured me in the past.
Do I forgive them?
Yes. I have listened to what God tells us and I do forgive, heartily.
But do I forget?
No, I can't, because my memory is rather good; but when I remember it is in an abstract way. There is no animosity. How can there be when I told God I would forgive that person.
And what does dwelling in anger upon something that happened in the past do the person who caused it? Nothing. But what does it do to me? I nurture it and allow it to grow and fester inside of me. That is not a good thing.

My father always taught us not to go to bed before truly forgiving in your heart any real or perceived injustice. I try to live that rule even if it is hard sometimes!

I recall Mother Angelica saying that if we maintain our anger and refuse to forgive we may end up in Hell while the subject of our anger and non-forgiveness may truly repent and end up in Heaven!

Marie said...

Forgiveness has little to do with feeling 'fuzzy wuzzy' with a transgressor it IS about letting go.

One of the worst things we can do is to allow our memories to linger on past wrongs and pains..Dont rake over cold coals lest you find one still burning.

I speak from experience, I do not allow myself to be defined by an incident..Why should I? I was only 5 years old. But the memory of it has no fangs for I rarely think about it. Letting go means just that...letting go.....

I dont sit and nurture bad experiences nor feed them, I have let go....:) Which set me free.

Do I need to hug the man who abused my trust, NO! But, I do forgive him because I let go....God knows his heart best, not I.

Good reflection WhiteStoneNameSeeker:).

Peace, JOY & Love to you:)

Marie xooxoxo

Kit Brookside said...

Forgiveness is an art, and I am a poor student. :) But this is a very interesting topic and great post! It's interesting to me that the people in my life who advocate hardest for "letting go" and "forgetting the past" are the ones who've hurt me the most. They have no problem "forgetting the past" - whether it's because they don't see where they've wronged others OR exactly because they DO...and want you to bury their guilt - I am not quite sure. There's one, especially, who says it a lot, which tempts me to slap them across the face with all my might and then say "Oh, forget it....it's in the past!" (But then that "forgiving" person would have me arrested for battery and then sue me in civil court, I'm sure...)

I am a flawed, flawed person! :)

Anne (aussieannie) said...

Forgiveness is so fundamentally important to life...and for the next life too...and yet the one thing that is so contrary to human nature - "to forgive is Divine" -so it is good to read such excellent thoughts!