Forgive or Forget?

November 20, 2008 at 5:53 am Leave a comment

Most of us concur that the concept of forgiveness is a good and noble one. But when we are significantly injured, emotionally or physically, we find the notion of forgiveness less appealing.

We find reasons why forgiveness would be counter productive. We decide that the offending person can not learn their lesson if we forgive them or we conclude that they do not deserve our forgiveness. Instead, we spend significant time and energy recounting the pain and suffering that we endured.

We may even give lip service to forgiving the offender. However, we frequently continue to relate the depth of our suffering to an attentive audience, enjoying the noble role of a martyr. Or we may use our painful experience to validate an opinion or generalization that we have about a particular group of people.  We can also use our unfortunate treatment as an excuse for our own behavior.

Sometimes we can use our suffering to gain pity in an attempt to manipulate someone into a course of action or simply to get attention. If the offender is a “loved one”, we may continuously remind them of the pain they caused us, triggering on going guilt in order to manipulate them to do our will.

And then we may publicly proclaim our forgiveness of the undeserving to gain respect and admiration of our high moral fiber, thus turning forgiveness into self righteousness.

What Is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget. But it does mean that I am no longer reliving the pain, hurt and anger. It doesn’t mean that I excuse the behavior. However It does mean that I don’t judge the person, only the behavior. It doesn’t mean that I don’t protect myself from further abuse. But it does mean that I treat the person with respect and that I do not actively pursue actions that would cause them harm or shame.

I recently saw a documentary that illustrated true forgiveness.

The documentary was about white supremacy groups or hate groups. Two former members were interviewed. They have changed their ways and their beliefs. And now they are speaking to youth groups in an effort to prevent them from being lured into this lifestyle of hate and  violence.

One of them, we’ll call him Doug,  worked for  a center dedicated to preventing hate crimes. While working there, Doug met another man who was also helping to spread a positive message. We’ll call him Dave. As they ate lunch together, a unpleasant realization slowly dawned on them.  Dave was one of Doug’s former victims. Doug had beat Dave mercilessly and  left him for dead, because he was gay.

Dave didn’t think that he could ever forgive Doug for the pain and humiliation that he had suffered at his hands.

However, several days later,  the center scheduled both of them to speak to a group of students together. During the presentation the Doug gave a heart felt apology to Dave in front of the class.

They are now friends and speak to many groups together to spread a message of tolerance and non judgment.

This poignant incident demonstrates two truths.

People can change.  Doug has made an incredible transformation from his former life.  To prevent a new generation of hate groups, he continues to speak publicly to young people, in spite of the death contract that has been put on his life by his former associates.

No offense is to great to forgive. Dave forgave a man who humiliated him and nearly beat him to death.

These men demonstrated what it really means to be noble.

Given this example, how can we claim that any individual is incapable of changing and what excuse could any of us have for refusing to forgive?

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Entry filed under: Feelings and Emotions. Tags: , , , , , , .

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Our life is an evolving creation, shaped by our choices, colored by our desires, and lightened or darkened by our intentions.
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