Friday, April 14, 2017

ENCORE POST: The Forgiveness Model....And When It Doesn't Work

"I stand forgiven at the cross."  

Yesterday, I sang a song at my church's Maundy Thursday service where the chorus concludes with that line: "I stand forgiven at the cross."

In the wake of my mother's death and my own subsequent health issues, my mind has frequently turned inward toward the subject of regrets: things I've regretted doing or not doing. These regrets turn one's thoughts to the topic of forgiveness: asking for it, offering it, deserving it. Forgiveness has been a topic of note on my mind of late.

Which is not the first time that's happened. Below is an encore post from Sunday, June 29, 2014 on...

The Forgiveness Model....And When It Doesn't Work 


I've been thinking quite a bit in the last few months on the subject of forgiveness. Forgiving others. Accepting forgiveness. 

 On one hand, forgiveness can be a very simple exercise. Consider the following forgiveness model.


I think for the most part, people have no problem with this sequence of events. After all, life is too full and too short to be burdened down with anger and hate, petty or large. Someone's sorry for doing the wrong thing, the person wronged believes the other person and offers forgiveness, forgiveness is accepted and we move on.   

 But what happens when any part of that breaks down.
  • Person A does not actually do a bad thing but Person B thinks it is. How can Person B forgive Person A when Person A doesn't think there's anything to be forgiven for? If Person A accepts the forgiveness of Person B, isn't that accepting a burden of guilt that may not be deserved?
  • Person A does a bad thing and does not care how Person B feels about it. How can Person B forgive Person A who hasn't learned anything from the transgression committed.
  • Person A does a bad thing and really does feel bad about it. But Person B doesn't believe Person A is truly sorry and will not offer forgiveness. How can Person A find forgiveness when the person wronged will not provide it?
  • What if the arrows go both ways? Person A and Person B are doing things to hurt the other at the same time.

    And so forth and so on and so on. 

    Suddenly your basic forgiveness model gets a bit messed up. 


Part of my problem with forgiveness is I truly don't understand it. To paraphrase a line from Citizen Kane, I want forgiveness on my terms. I really need to know you're hurting from the bad thing you did before I offer my forgiveness. If you're not hurting, am I being a schmuck for forgiving you? Am I letting you off the hook? 

And it goes the other way too, perhaps more so for me. How can I ask for forgiveness if I am the one who did the bad thing? I can't; I don't want to be seen using forgiveness as a "get off the hook for the bad thing" card. I need you to know I feel bad for doing the bad thing so you'll offer forgiveness. Forgiveness on my terms then becomes you offering it; I can't ask.

And of course there's the idea of forgiving yourself. I did this bad thing, I'm sorry and I forgive me? No, I don't think so.  

Which is of course missing the point of forgiveness. It's not about getting out of something, it's not being let off the hook for doing the bad thing. But it is about getting a weight off the shoulders, a weight of guilt for doing the bad thing or the weight of anger at being the victim of the bad thing.  

Because that weight cannot be borne forever.  The weight becomes encrusted with more rage or guilt and grows heavier, the soul that carries it bends and cracks before completely breaking.  

Forgiveness is not easy but the alternative, living with the weight, is harder still. 

Forgiveness: one day, maybe I'll figure it out.


Tomorrow, the blog turns to happier, lighter topics: get ready for a two day dose of Doctor Who related posts.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 

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