It is not a simple thing, and antipathy, anger, hatred and humiliation heavily outweigh forgiveness as a force for the good. In some parts of the world instead of forgiveness we have a stone box holding in the anger and shame, too often followed by the death of a daughter or sister who has been seen to have brought shame on the family. Never mind that her “crime” was often something where she was a victim, like rape.
I started this series talking about forgiveness of a particular person in my life. Since then another year has rolled around and mostly I don’t need to forgive. Not so much because all the problems are solved but because I simply find there’s nothing to be angry about. People who can’t deal with it need to go off. If they do that and reconsider, we can welcome them back, or not.
There are these related values of forgiveness, empathy, sympathy on one balance pan weighed against anger, pride, shame and hatred. Which wins today?
Some offenses truly seem unforgivable. We seek just retribution. We struggle between the desire for vengeance and practicing and demonstrating values we have long cherished.
It had started simply enough, a letter to someone I haven’t seen in years (not that guy). The letter was measured, thoughtful and allowed for rejection in a dignified fashion. I didn’t expect change, and it turned out I got less than I deserved as I received the letter, unopened returned with return to sender scrawled on it.
What are we to do if this happens? Do we forgive every slight, never rise to anger, never decry injustice against us? To do so is to become a doormat for uncaring others, happy to use our acquiescence against us. To do so denies our integrity and humanity. When the opponent has not demonstrated empathy, are you required to continue to forgive?
I wrote this to my Rabbi as I’ve struggled today:
I tried so hard and so long to be a forgiving decent human being. H for years has been disrespectful and belittling in small ways that she could get away with. When I transitioned I was banished, I’m not sure if it was only her or others as well, but I lost her family in one fell swoop. Nephews and a niece. At least one female spouse I felt close with too.
How do we take insult and turn it to strength, and offence turned to push it aside?
As this year 2016 comes to a close in a few days, after the Christmas lights grow dim, perhaps the answer that eludes me will appear.
One thing I know is that the wheel of karma turns inexorably and it sure sucks to be caught in it’s grinding grip.