Thursday, October 23, 2008

Forgiveness

"Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of ceasing to feel resentment, indignation or anger for a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and ceasing to demand punishment or restitution" (Wikipedia).

I don't get forgiveness. I understand what it is to forgive a monetary debt - you no longer owe the money, but forgiveness in any other sense, I don't get.

Someone does a shitty thing, depending on the level of shittiness, you either shrug your shoulders and say "Oh, well" or you walk away and say "I do not want to have anything to do with such a person".

If the process is defined as ceasing to feel resentment, indignation or anger, then this has nothing to do with the person who offended and everything to do with the person who was offended.

If I act in a negative way and hurt someone, and regret it wholeheartedly, then I have to come to terms with myself. Analyze the whys and wherefores of my actions and make a conscious decision never to act that way again. Should I apologize? Of course. If there is a material way to to mitigate the results of my action, certainly that should be done. But do I need the person I hurt to say "I forgive you". No, I don't. They are responsible for their feelings and I am responsible for mine.

If they want to continue to feel hurt, that is their prerogative. They are not responsible for my actions, I am.

And conversely, if someone has hurt or wronged me in some way, I have to deal with how I feel towards them; they have no control over how I feel. It is up to me to deal with my negative feelings towards them. My actions are my responsibility; my feelings are my responsibility. Carrying around negative feelings is truly burdensome, but only I can relieve myself of that burden, no one else can.

Do I say to the person who hurt me "It's okay, I forgive you"? Well, you know what, it is NOT okay. It is not okay to harm someone, and 3 words do not change the situation.

What's done is done. If it was some silly thing, well, stuff happens, I don't know about you, but personally, the last time I looked there were no wings on my back or a halo over my head. I like to think I have never hurt someone on purpose, but I'm sure I have done or said things that caused others pain. And if I was sorry, I hoped I apologized. If I felt bad, I hope I learned a lesson and never repeated that action again.

So before this gets any more convoluted and I really start repeating myself - what is forgiveness?

Have I ever been hurt or wronged? Yes, majorly. How I feel about it, and how I feel towards that person, is my responsibility to deal with. It is their responsibility to deal with how they feel about what they did.

It is up to me to let go of the anger because long-held anger is so damaging. Only I can stop myself from being angry. I am responsible for my soul, and the person who acted badly is responsible for theirs.

So perhaps then we can only forgive ourselves.

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