Sunday, May 24, 2009

"to pardon; to overlook"

As you know, I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness these days. "Someone-who-shall-not-be-named" (what, Harry Potter can do it?) and I have been disagreeing a little bit (well, actually a lottabit) about the act itself. So, I decided to look up the word in the good old "Webster's Standard Dictionary." And I quote, "forgiveness: to pardon; to overlook." Turns out we were both right, just falling on opposites sides of the semincolon. You see, I think that forgiveness entails an actual act of pardoning. I think that unless you tell the person that they have been forgiven, and act accordingly, then the forgiveness doesn't really exist. It isn't manifest... it's still just a thought.

On the other side of the semicolon is "to overlook." This doesn't entail any action on the part of the victim. She simply pretends like nothing happened... Now let me sketch out this scenario for you: A friend does something that hurts you. They know they did this. You know they did this. You are no longer speaking over this thing that was done. At some point you decide that you forgive them (this is in your head). You are feeling better, but the offending friend is still being eaten up with guilt because they don't know they have been forgiven. Is this forgiveness without an act of pardoning sincere?

I keep coming back to the words of Jesus Christ: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. It's the golden rule, and we see it in every religion across the world. It is the foundation for morality. If we all followed that rule, there would be peace in the universe right now (unless we have a larger population of masochists than I think we have). So I ask myself, "If I make a mistake, do I want to be forgiven?" Yes. Do I want to know that the person I hurt has forgiven me? Yes.

But now comes an important part of this blog entry: Does the act of forgiveness need to be preceded by an apology? My thought is, "Absolutely not." Very often the person who hurts you doesn't realize what they have done, or perhaps the extent to which it affected you. Even if they do, we ALL KNOW how difficult it is to apologize, ESPECIALLY if we think the recipient will not be forgiving. Furthermore, it is my experience that an aplogy will immediately follow the act of pardoning. The floodgates open and humanity gushes out from behind the dam.

I am not saying that the offender shouldn't be told that what they did was wrong, that it hurt, and that a relationship may change because of it. They should definitely know, so that they have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and lead a better life. What an amazing position you are in to be able to teach someone how to better themselves!

This is how I live my life. I believe that it's the only way to have peace. If you are unable to forgive (the kind to the left of the semicolon), not only will you carry around a lifetime of pain, you will leave tokens of guilt in the pockets of all who have hurt you. Those are not the bricks that build a foundation of peace.

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