Sunday, November 26, 2017

On forgiveness.

I'm just going to come right out and say it: I do not get this idea that we should all forgive the people who have wronged us.

Before I go any further, I guess I should remind y'all that my thoughts -- on this topic as well as on many others -- do not mirror the traditional Judeo-Christian mindset. I'm Pagan. Pagans don't believe in original sin, and we don't believe we have inherently fallen short of perfection. Or rather, we know we're not perfect -- we're all human, and humans aren't perfect. But we don't feel the need to beat ourselves up over it.

John Beckett, who blogs at Patheos Pagan, wrote a post this week about what redemption means to Pagans. He covers the points above (better than I could, to be honest), and goes on to talk about the Pagan concept of repentance and forgiveness. Basically, repentance involves not just apologizing, but being sincere about it -- no excuses and no qualifiers. You need to acknowledge that you've hurt the other person, whether intentionally or not, and that you're sorry for what you did. And then you need to fix it, to the extent possible. That's how you redeem yourself. That's how you regain your honor.

By the same token, if you've hurt someone, that person does not owe you forgiveness. They may choose to forgive you or they may not. They may never get over being hurt. And they don't have to forgive you, no matter how desperately you need it or how much you think you deserve it.

Contrast that with the popular idea that we should all forgive those who have transgressed against us, regardless of whether the transgressor is sorry, or has apologized, or intends to ever try to make it right. Refusing to forgive, we're told, cedes real estate in our heads to this person. We'd feel better, we're told, if we just let it go. We don't have to forget the transgression, but we do need to forgive the person who committed it. The transgressor doesn't even need to know what we're going through; for example, we can write them a letter and not send it.

I'm sorry, but what the actual fuck? How does this solve anything?

I agree that holding a grudge is unhealthy. Anger held for too long turns to bitterness, and bitterness will poison your outlook on life. And by the same token, seeking revenge is an exercise in stupidity.

But if some creep has hurt you, you're supposed to give him a pass? And that will make you feel better? How does that work, exactly?

I suspect this is resonating with me because of all the women, and some men, who have been coming forward lately to say they were sexually harassed and/or abused by powerful men. As some of you know, I've spent my life dealing with the fallout from emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of a family member. Should we all just forgive our abusers? Just to, you know, regain that real estate in our brains? How has that worked out for women in general over the past several centuries?

The rest of y'all can go on forgiving willy-nilly if you want. As for me, I forgive only the people who deserve it. That's how I keep my honor.

These moments of honorable blogginess havve been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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