Compassion is a virtue — one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism — foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and person-hood.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I asked a good friend of mine, on Google+ if he would like to be a Guest Blogger on my blog *Filtered Sunlight*.

He loved the idea. This is his post to the blog.  He would like feedback.  Many of you know and love this person.  

*On Forgiveness*

I read somewhere that anger and resentment are poisons for the one who holds them (not an exact quote). This statement resonates with me quite strongly, since I have stuff to forgive. I understand, on a logical level, that the statement is true, and yet it's hard to put into practice, it seems, at least for me.

Why is it that I find it difficult to "forgive"? It is related to the
other part of forgiveness, often mentioned in the same context, and that's forgetting. Forgive and forget. One is supposed to also forget, if he/she is to truly forgive, but the people I have to truly forgive, I cannot let my guard down. I will forever, no matter how naive I am (and I am, very naive), be vigilant, and direct my vigilant attention and suspicion towards the people that have wronged me. I can never truly forget, and that's why I am not sure I actually forgave, either, though I don't feel the resentment anymore. Is that forgiveness?  Shouldn't forgiveness arise from a conscious decision, rather than come as a simple consequence of the passing of time, coupled with physical separation? I don't know, because I can only see inside my own head, so when people talk about forgiveness, they have their own ideas of what that really entails.

Most of the things I need to forget stem from my childhood, and the person I would have to forgive is my father. I have absorbed abuse that changed me, forever. I have lived through terror and humiliation. Now that I am an adult, can take care of myself and don't depend on my father in any way (and am aware of this, of me being independent), I don't even feel any need for forgiving him. I feel nothing towards him - it's an equanimous state, most definitely not characterized by oblivion (fading from memory). Should this forgiveness be absolution (exoneration) of his actions?  I can't do that, either; I feel that it would be unfair towards that little boy, frightened and small, a boy that was deeply changed by the abuse perpetuated towards him.  I cannot absolve my father in his name. That's something only he can do, but it's too late for that, I am afraid.

What does forgiveness really mean for you? I would like to know. Not the stereotypical, feel-good definitions of it, but what you truly think forgiveness should be.    GS


  1. The past four years have given me much time to think about forgiveness. I found that I had to forgive myself first of all the transgressions I made against others. To do that, I had to relive my transgressions; it was a painful process. I then found I could forgive others. Their transgressions were no worse than mine, I found. The trust will never be the same though, as it was broken and can never be completely repaired. I don't harbor bitter feelings toward them. That is the best I can do.

    The big BUT though was that to this day, at the age of 60, I still cannot completely let go of feelings of betrayal toward my mother. The person who should have been my protector was instead my tormentor.

    So, what should forgiveness be? I think you are right. It is to forget and I can't do that in all cases.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings with us. I deeply appreciate it.

  2. They say that unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.

    I'm not sure how well this will go down. You are right in that forgiveness is a choice. It is the choice to not expect recompense from the person who harmed you. To take your foot of his/her neck.

    I also don't think that means that you have to forget. It is just that the memory shouldn't contain the pain it did before. It also doesn't mean that you have to walk with that person again. Just that you don't expect recompense.

    This is not easy to do and often takes time. It also helps if you have understanding people around you that can walk with you through this.

    This is the difficult part - mostly because of misreprensatation by those that should know better. In my life the above wouldn't have been possible without a relationship with Jesus - allowing him to love me out of my dysfunction due to pain (and this is not at all meant in a religious way). This has to do with a relationship - just like the ones you need to support you - and not the religious crap you've probably been exposed to.

  3. you don't have to TELL the person that you have forgiven them. That would certainly be something to be earned. But internally, it makes sense to me to forgive, as part of your own healing process, dissolving the negativity and letting go of some of the more damagine aspects of holding a grudge, such as the desire to strike back. We can't change the past, but we have some power, with time and care, to at least mitigate the damage, and in some cases blossom from difficulties. Am I wrong?

    *THIS IS NOT MY COMMENT DEDE CRAIG POSTED THE SAME QUESTION AFTER SEEING MY POST* I'm trying to give you some of the more intelligent answers and I'll leave them anonymous..

  4. i think that forgiveness is imperative in absolutely every situation. while i follow a more judeo christian type belief structure, psychologically refusing to forgive someone for a wrong means you are forever the victim.

    when you absolve everyone of the wrongs they do it is more healthy for both you and them regardless of the depth of betrayal. 


  5. Forgetting happens by itself, unless something interferes with it. Anyway, few things in life are all or nothing. It is possible to "forgive" a person for even great abuse in the sense that you overcome as much of the negativity as possible and take full responsibility for your happiness from this point forward. It is more a matter of learning not to further propogate the negativity than it is a matter of changing or removing memories. After all, if a wood stove burns me, I don't hate the stove... but I won't touch it again, either.


  6. And the post: no, forgiveness cannot be always applied! And abuse?? Definitely not a case of forgiveness!


  7. Tell me that when you've been systematically abused for years. Forgiveness has to be earned, and for some crimes, there's no amount of work that can earn it.


  8. Entirely up to the individual child (later adult). There should be no expectation, pressure or need to forgive but in some cases (not all) they might eventually come to some sort of understanding and (partial) forgiveness. Much more important is that the child forgive themselves - many feel blame despite no fault.


  9. I think it's a matter of how one defines forgiveness and further that that it's an individual choice. I don't think anyone can really say whether or not another person should or shouldn't forgive a wrong one way or the other, no matter how grievous.

    Though you raise an interesting question, +Dede Craig. If you can't forget, can you really forgive? And it seems to me that if you could forget the thing, it's probably not even something that rises to the level of having to forgive.

    That said, I think I could forgive most wrongs if I personally felt the perpetrator were sincerely contrite, and asked for forgiveness. For me, a request for forgiveness is absolutely necessary. I may choose to take the lesson and move on, and time may make it easier for me to think less often of the transgression, but in my mind, it would be foolishness to absolve the perpetrator in a one-way vacuum when they show no remorse or contrition for the thing they did.

    One more thing to my tl:dr... :P

    I personally find that a lot of people I know who are big on forgiveness tend to make the assumption that those who don't look to forgive all transgressions, all the time are somehow being eaten alive by their anger or bitterness, and in my experience, this simply isn't necessarily so. There are people who are able to recognize and accept the experience, wisdom, and lesson to be gotten from a negative experience caused by someone else's negligence or even malice without necessarily forgiving that person.


  10. I think it's very difficult to make a judgement on whether to forgive or not forgive abuse like the one the writer shares if you have never suffered it. Which I haven't. I do agree that forgiving can be liberating and can enable one to get closure and move on. And I would really like to be able to claim that I would be capable of forgiving a dreadful act like child abuse. But if I'm honest, I don't think I would. I certainly would never ever forgive anyone who hurt my kids. Maybe I would if I was the subject of the abuse. But I really don't know.

  11. Just busting in here from the sideline and haven't read all the comments above so apologize in advance if what I'm about to say has been stated already:
    IMO it's imperative to not confuse the forgiveness the actual victim of a crime/deed can proffer and the forgiveness any third person (i.e. not the perpetrator, not the victim) can proffer. I think that for a victim of a deed to be able to find the rocky path to forgiveness is absolutely not to absolve the perp of his/her deeds but only to allow the victim's spirit and heart to heal again; that typically can only be done once forgiveness has spread its soothing balm.

    Society or any third person for that matter is in no position to "forgive". I can not forgive some guy stabbing some person on a street for fifty bucks. I hope for the victim's sake that he/she will eventually find forgiveness but not to make the perp feel better, as I said above. But often it seems that these two concepts are being somewhat mingled together: when the victim forgives, the perp is absolved: wrong. The perp is absolved when just (<-- there you go with another thread entirely: what is just ) punishment has been served. The forgiving-aspect is not part of the punishment-aspect. Two entirely independent concepts, in my opinion.

    So to loop to your question: Should a child abused by a trusted adult forgive him?

    Yes, but not "because it's the right thing to do". Only because it's the only way to start healing from the abuse. 


  12. I have not read all the posts but just wanted to chime in and say that depending on your overall outlook, not giving forgiveness can be just as liberating to someone as giving it. It differs from person to person and situation to situation. In an instance, like the one being discussed, no one should judge that persons decision. I am tempted to say--but don't hold me on it, no matter the situation--if a person chooses not to forgive, you can disagree but cannot say if they are right or wrong by making that choice.

    NOT MINE From Dede's post...

  13. Old wrongs left unresolved can produce layers of resentment that accumulate to the point where forgiveness seems impossible.
    When you forgive, the debt is canceled. You do not try to reclaim it.
    NO one can make you do it. So do it for you.
    You may never forget the incident(s) but you can work at not rekindling hateful thoughts or a vengeful attitude.
    Use your brainspace for something or someone else or risk remaining emotionally attached a former abuser.