The Arrogance of Forgiveness
by Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on April 18, 2016
I’ve read endless variations of the pro-forgiveness memes:
“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
I see Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant of Schindler’s List, raising his finger (and his nose) while muttering, “I pardon you.”
When someone unintentionally or even intentionally harms you, not only is forgiveness overrated, it’s arrogant.
Bestowing forgiveness is placing yourself in a position of verbal and moral superiority. When you can say you’ve forgiven someone, you feel better than the object of your scorn. You’re higher. You’re grander, loftier and wiser.
That’s not exactly one with all that is.
Rethink that now.
- Instead of forgiveness, seek understanding.
When someone has harmed through word or deed, first examine motivation. What was the intention? If the harm was unintentional, it’s easy to hold the perpetrator harmless and move beyond the fallout.
But what if someone intentionally hurt you? Psychopaths are relatively rare, so most people, when they hurt others, are protecting their injured hearts. People hurt others because they lack that sense of oneness. They live as free-floating fragments, energetically separate from the universe, lonely.
When anyone feels isolated, disconnected, it’s easy to inflict harm.
Any destructive behavior is a manifestation of fear, guilt, shame, grief, denial, illusion, attachment or addiction.
If you can’t see any of that in yourself, you do not Know Thyself.
2. See their actions in you.
Before you seek refuge in your petty virtues and bestow your haughty forgiveness, shatter your delusions. With the right desperation, coping with the same wounds and hungers of the soul and acting under the appropriate circumstances, you could do (or have done) the same damn thing.
3. Forgive yourself instead.
Shift your attention to you. When you are hurt by the deeds of another, sift your inventory. How does your behavior reveal your own fear, guilt, shame, grief, denial, illusion, attachment or addiction? Peel your own layers and practice knowing your own motivations and intentions like you would do with someone else.
Then, release yourself. Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Purse your lips, and inhale a long cooling breath. Then, close your ears with your thumbs, cover your eyes with your index fingers, and seal your nose with your remaining fingers. Forcefully exhale through the nose while your fingers block the exit of breath. Pressure will build in your ears and head. When you must let go, drop your hands and sigh. Repeat three times or until your mind is calm.
You can’t control anyone else, their actions or subsequent remorse. It’s not in your hands to change others, and striving to “teach ‘em a lesson” is folly.
You can, however, know yourself. The more you understand what drives you, the more you empathize with others – and you are free.