Should We Forgive? Why?


Some often well-meaning folks are calling for all sorts of attempts to forgive and make nice. Here are some of my controversial thoughts about forgiveness (I'm not a religious thinker but a historian of religion):
(1) Forgiving people who have not asked for your forgiveness is an assertion of a superior moral position over them. It's passive-aggressive.
(2) Forgiving people for what they have done that hurts and continues to hurt others is to assert I am god.
(3) Forgiveness is not a requirement for personal closure no matter how people say it is. It takes real counseling or the equivalent. It takes feeling one's feelings fully through them (like the 7 stages of grief), though not thinking, acting or deciding on them. I am with those therapists who say that rushing to forgive without doing previous personal work is actually emotionally harmful and an act of denial.
(4) Telling people they should forgive someone who hurt them is preaching at them and minimizing their pain. At the very least, it's insensitive. At the most, it's abusive and another assertion that one thinks oneself morally superior to those who haven't forgiven.
(5) People are ready to be forgiven when they say they were wrong (not just that they're sorry if you were hurt) and are ready to make amends or, in old fashioned terms, to repent (the Greek word for "repent" in the New Testament is metanoia, that is literally "turn around"). It's a basic principle of AA.

(6) Not forgiving until asked by the offender does not mean one is to be inhuman, bitter, or does not treat the offender as a full human being. It instead accepts that the reason why someone is not so asking for forgiveness is that they're not doing the work that will help them get beyond their own issues. So, forgiving them is enabling them to stay stuck in their own mire.

The current president elect and those who voted for him have asked for none of these things. They just want us to make nice, to not hear any anger and pain from any of us because it calls them to take responsibility for their decisions and what they've done to real people, and to make us feel guilty for our being angry at all.

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