Thursday, February 12, 2009

Where I Stand: Forgiveness

I was reading a random post earlier today. The person was worrying over their inability to "forgive and forget". They were linking it to a Christian belief structure which, in their interpretation, requires that "good Christians" (what does that even mean anyway?) completely forgive those who have wronged them and to put the deeds against them out of mind. In other words forgive and forget. I honestly think that's a load of malarky.

First, to deal with the forgiveness part. I do believe that humans can truly forgive one another. That said, I think that there are two "main" types of forgiveness: forgiveness after repentance, and repentance-less forgiveness. Now the first type is by far the easier of the two. When the person(s) who wronged us truly feels bad AND tries to make amends (remember, repentance is as much an ACTION as a frame of mind), then it is easier to forgive. It can still take a lot of time, and a lot of soul searching, but knowing that the other party truly regrets their actions/the hurt they caused you, helps. The second kind of forgiveness is a much more difficult and self-oriented thing. If the person(s) doing the harming don't repent--or even acknowledge that they did things to/that hurt you--it become much more difficult to feel forgiving towards them. I think this type of forgiving takes a lot longer, and is done more for a personal benefit than for any other reason. Not forgiving someone who hurt you means those hurt and angry feelings stay...which eventually will hurt your life and growth as a person. So at that point forgiveness is much more a self-oriented thing than an outward expression.

Now to my issues with "forgive and forget". Don't get me wrong. Christianity does put a great emphasis on forgiving others' "trespasses against us" as Christ/God forgive us for ours. But the only place in the Bible that I (in my admittedly non-extensive Biblical knowledge) remember dealing with trespasses (aka sins, wrongs) and memory is where it talks about God putting our sins as far as east is from west once we truly repent. I can only think that this is where people get the "forgive and forget" stuff from. And a bit understandably, because let's face it, East from West is just about as far a distance as you can get in the world of metaphor and conceptualized distances. However, nowhere in all of that is "forgetting" mentioned.

So, here's my issue with the expectation of "forgive and forget" as expressed by certain interpretation of Christian doctrine, argued from the point of view of one who is an atypical Christian. God is the ultimate, perfect being. And (according to the Bible) we were created in His image. Humans have memory, albeit imperfect. We do forget things...but generally not in the purposeful way. So, if we are imperfect mirrors of God, then it stands to reason that God is the perfect image we reflect. So, take our imperfect memory--presumably, God has a perfect memory (which He'd have to to accomplish a variety of other actions attributed to Him and His abilities). Which means, that He CANNOT forget. Even with the whole East from West thing, nowhere does it say "God accepts your repentance, forgives you, and forgets about it." He just puts it far away.

So transpose that onto humanity. God, with His infinite mind, has the ability to mentally push things as far as East is from West. Yeah, humans, we ain't got that (:-P). Which means, for the really big hurts and wrongs, we won't ever truly be able to forget them. We can not dwell on them, we can not think about the often, etc. But they never truly go away. Big hurts leave marks on our soul, pysche, heart, etc. They are a huge part of the process that makes us who we are (of course a bigger part of that process is how we react to those hurts, but that discussion is for another time). Which means that while we might be able to forgive the person(s) who cause these wrongs and hurts, we'll never forget that they hurt us.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why "forgive and forget" is such a load of crap. Forgive, definitely. Don't expect it to be an overnight process, and don't beat yourself up if it takes time. But forget? Don't expect to forget about the big hurts and don't beat yourself up about not being able to. Especially since no one is actually asking it of you.

Anyways, I was just thinking :-).


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