Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Reciprocity needs to be tempered with compassion and forgiveness, otherwise it can descend into barbarism, a cycle of destruction.  An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leads to a land of blind toothless people.  It’s all too easy to end up with “a big mess that didn’t need to happen”.  

It is often a waste of energy to seek revenge or want to get even.  

If someone is bad towards you, you don’t have to retaliate or react; you don't have to respond in kind.  To do so would make you as bad as them and you would generate negative consequences in a similar way.  To return bad for bad can easily cause the situation to spiral out of control, leading to long-lasting trouble.  It is better to remain calm, peaceful and compassionate, so that you can deal with the situation in an intelligent way and bring about a compassionate outcome for all concerned.  

 

 

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Proverb

 

 

Nobody is perfect.  

 

 

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;  

Jesus – Matthew 5:44

 

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Jesus – Luke 23:34  :- (

 

Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love.  This is an eternal truth.  Overcome anger by love.  Overcome evil by good.  Overcome the miser by giving, overcome the liar by truth.

Buddha

 

3  ‘He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me.’  Those who think such thoughts will not be free from hate.  

4  ‘He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me.’  Those who think not such thoughts will be free from hate.  

173  He who overcomes the evil he has done with the good he afterwards does, he sheds a light over the world like that of the moon when free from clouds.  

The Dhammapada

 

All pious deeds, all gifts, are nothing compared to a loving heart.  

P. Lakshmi Narasu – “The Essence of Buddhism”

 

 

If we forgive under the appropriate circumstances then we can move on past the difficulty and resume a mutually beneficial working relationship.  If we refuse to forgive then we may lose the chance to rehabilitate and educate the wrongdoer.  

There is no need to keep account of every little grievance.  This is a pointless waste of life that makes people unhappy and corrodes relationships.  

 

 

You can tell the size of a man by the size of the thing that makes him mad.

Adlai Stevenson II

 

... when others provoke you, perhaps for no reason or unjustly, instead of reacting in a negative way, as a true practitioner of altruism you should be able to be tolerant towards them.  You should remain unperturbed by such treatment.  ... not only should we be tolerant of such people, but in fact we should view them as our spiritual teachers.  

When someone whom I have helped,

Or in whom I have placed great hopes,

Mistreats me in extremely hurtful ways,

May I regard him still as my precious teacher.  

His Holiness the Dalai Lama – “Transforming the Mind – Eight verses on generating compassion and transforming your life”

 

 

The process of forgiveness

To forgive is not to forget, condone or excuse the events that happened.  But it means to release the bad feelings you hold towards a person or yourself.  It may not come quickly or easily.  You might not seek reconciliation with the person you have forgiven.  

Forgiveness is conditional, not obligatory.  You are under no obligation to forgive someone who has wronged you.  But there are often benefits to you if the conditions are right and so you do feel able to forgive.  The benefits may include a better relationship with that person and more self-respect and happiness for you.  

 

Conditions for seeking forgiveness:

•  If you can see the wrong that you have done

•  Demonstrating you can see it (e.g. by apologising, properly)

•  Demonstrating you are sorry

•  Demonstrating an intention to put things right

•  Changing your behaviour (or obviously trying to)

 

 

More resources on forgiveness:  

Steve Taylor on forgiveness

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/forgiveness/definition

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_is_forgiveness

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/nine_steps_to_forgiveness/

 

 

Bitter Root

Here is a link to the Al-Jazeera documentary “Bitter Root”.

Two former Lord's Resistance Army commanders seek tribal justice in order to be granted atonement for their crimes.

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2011/10/20111012152024670219.ht ml

 

 

My Life After Hate  

Extracts from an interview with Arno Michaelis, a former White Supremacist leader, and author of "My Life After Hate", on BBC Radio 4, The Today Programme, Thursday 9th March 2017

R4:  Tell us first about your former self.  

AM:  I was involved in hate groups for seven years, I was a leader of a skinhead gang and an organiser, I was also lead screamer in a white power metal band that's created some music that's still doing harm today twenty years later.  

R4:  And what changed you?  

AM:  It was really a growing exhaustion that was happening during that seven years.  The biggest source of that exhaustion was when people who I claimed to hate treated me with kindness.  I had a Jewish boss, a lesbian supervisor, black and latino co-workers, who treated me with kindness really when I least deserved it, and that really drove home how wrong I was to hate people.  And every day I'm grateful for their bravery and the forgiveness that they had to practice in order to show me that kindness.  

...

R4:  Do you have a sense in a practical way of what it is, what could be done to bring more people on the same journey that you've been on?  

AM:  Honestly I believe that people lash out at other people because they're hurting.  I think that all violence and hatred is rooted in suffering, so the more of us who practice kindness and practice forgiveness on a daily basis, the greater the odds that the next person out there on the verge of hurting themselves or hurting others is reached and diverted from that path.  

...

AM:  We need to challenge the fear and ignorance behind the far right narrative, but we need to keep it in mind that the people practising that narrative are human beings as well.  

 

 

Westboro Baptist Church

Overcoming hatred and intolerance through peaceful means:  

“Megan Phelps-Roper: I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here's why I left”

(TED Talk video)  

 

 

Partner control

When we are in a cooperative relationship with somebody, there is a need to keep them behaving cooperatively:  to keep them committed to the endeavour, and playing their part competently.  

So from time to time, from our point of view, their behaviour may need to be corrected.  Teaching them about the problem, extracting a convincing promise from them to change their ways, and forgiveness, may be a powerful way to do this.  If they do not change their ways, then we have the option of terminating the relationship, which may be the most sensible idea.  

 

Gratitude

Sometimes, the fact of being forgiven makes somebody feel grateful, and this gratitude provides a motivation to change.  

 

Moral high ground

To forgive someone can demonstrate and exemplify to them a better way to behave, which they may then want to emulate.  Their gratitude, together with the Golden Rule, may motivate them to do this.  

 

Unconditional forgiveness

In mathematical models, it can be seen that unconditional forgiveness – forgiving all the time, no matter what – is a bad idea.  It’s the interpersonal equivalent of having no police force or law and order.  There is no incentive for erring people to change, it leaves us open to being exploited, and it makes the world a worse place.  In mathematical models, for the sake of long term cooperation, the results say it is best to forgive most of the time, but not all the time.  

 

Forgiveness protects mental health against the effects of stress

Forgiveness, as a general habit, has been shown to be a good coping mechanism for stress, especially in the worst cases.  

 

... we demonstrated for the first time that forgivingness does buffer the negative effects of lifetime stress severity on mental health, and that this moderation occurs in a graded fashion.  Specifically, we found that lifetime stress severity was unrelated to mental health for persons who were highest in forgivingness, significantly associated with poorer mental health for persons exhibiting moderate levels of forgivingness, and most strongly related to poorer mental health for participants exhibiting the lowest levels of forgivingness.  

The present data do not reveal how forgivingness buffers the effects of lifetime stress severity on mental health, but several explanations are possible.  First, more forgiving individuals may have a more adaptive or extensive repertoire of coping strategies that mitigate the negative effects of stress on health.  Consistent with this possibility, research has shown that people with higher levels of forgivingness also have a greater tendency to use problem-focused coping and cognitive restructuring, and are less likely to use rumination, emotional expression, and wishful thinking.  Second, forgivingness may dampen emotional, physiologic, or genomic components of the stress response that lead to poor health.  Finally, forgivingness may facilitate healthier behaviors in the aftermath of major life stress or may prompt a more active approach to dealing with stress that involves addressing the aspects of stress that are controllable.  Additional research is needed to evaluate how these different factors influence the effects of stress and forgivingness on health.

Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health” – Loren Toussaint, Grant S Shields, Gabriel Dorn, George M Slavich – Journal of Health Psychology, Vol 21, Issue 6, 2016

 

Forgiveness and justice  

Forgiveness can be seen as related to justice.  The process that leads to forgiveness is a process of making good the wrongdoing.  

The normal procedure is that we can forgive somebody if they at least: 1) recognise their wrongdoing; 2) demonstrate that they are going to change their behaviour.  Even saying “sorry” is not strictly necessary.  

These two steps constitute a form of justice.  If this is not forthcoming, and we are not prepared to let go, then justice has to be found by other means, otherwise we will remain sore.  Even just preventing that person from doing it again can achieve satisfaction.

There are a number of possible factors that can influence whether we forgive somebody, and these must be a matter of personal taste and circumstance.  They could include: somebody’s previous character; mitigating circumstances; the intention behind the offence; the way they deal with being called out; or our own personal history.  

Each situation, and person, is different.  

Auschwitz survivor, Eva Kor, publicly forgave the Nazis:  

 

“My forgiveness ... has nothing to do with the perpetrator, has nothing to do with any religion, it is my act of self-healing, self-liberation and self-empowerment,” she says.  “I had no power over my life up to the time that I discovered that I could forgive, and I still do not understand why people think it's wrong.”  

Kor says that when a victim chooses to forgive, they take the power back from their tormentors.  But that it is their choice to make.  

‘It’s For You To Know That You Forgive,’ Says Holocaust Survivor – npr.org, 24 May 2015

 

 

You Have to Be Bigger

 

You have to be bigger than slights

to let insults pass through without hurting you

to find a deep essential self inside you

that’s too sturdy to be damaged by disrespect.

 

You have to be bigger than bitterness

to let go of wrongs that you can’t correct

and let past events dissolve and die away.

 

You have to be bigger than self-pity

to remember that the world is vast, and your life is small

and stop ruminating over problems that don’t exist

except when you ruminate over them.

 

You have to be bigger than rivalry

to see your peers as colleagues, not competitors

who share the same goals as you

who are part of the same project as you

which will only succeed through co-operation.

 

You have to be bigger than personal ambition

not to strive to accumulate, but to contribute

not to see your life as a long straight road of achievement

that cuts coldly through the landscape

but as a wide, winding river that nourishes the soil

and sustains and supports everyone you touch.

 

You have to be bigger than yourself

because every petty feeling wastes your energy,

squanders your potential and strengthens the boundary

between you and the world.

 

You have to be bigger than yourself

so that you can become nothing

and the world can take you over

and your own life merges with life itself.  

 

Steve Taylor  

 

 

 

How to disagree:  

“’Despicable’ Rees-Mogg disarms angry protester with politeness”

– Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph, UK, Tuesday 3 October 2017  

 

At first, the protesters must have thought it was going like clockwork.  They’d managed to dodge past security, burst into the hall where the Tory scum were gathered, and brought their nasty little meeting to a standstill.  “TORIES OUT!  TORIES OUT!” chanted the protesters, at the top of their lungs.  “TORIES OUT!  TORIES OUT!”  

Conservative Party members swung round in consternation, and stared helplessly at the intruders.  No one seemed to know what to do.  

The protesters chanted triumphantly on.  The brass neck of these Tories – thinking they could swan into Manchester, socialist Manchester, and just sit there, bold as you like, slapping each other on the back over Brexit and austerity and killing the poor.  Well, this would show them.  The Tories had been comprehensively silenced.  The protest was a total success.  

Then, however, one of the protesters made a mistake.  He ran towards Jacob Rees-Mogg.  

“Shame on you, Jacob Rees-Mogg!” he bawled, “Tories out!”  

The MP for North East Somerset looked up and then did something the protester hadn't bargained for.  He spoke to him.  “Hello,” said Mr Rees-Mogg pleasantly.  “What would you like to ask me?”  

For a moment the protester appeared utterly thrown.  Far from looking frightened or angry, this hateful Tory toff was chatting to him as calmly as if they were standing in a queue at the Post Office.  

The protester recovered his composure, and scowled.  “You're not welcome here!” he spat.  “Get out!”  

Mr Rees-Mogg tried again.  “What do you disagree with me about?” he asked.  

“Everything,” snorted the protester.  

Mr Rees-Mogg nodded understandingly.  He had the air of a doctor attempting to reassure a distressed patient.  “Mention something specific,” he suggested.  

“Abortion rights, women's rights, austerity,” spluttered the protester.  “Everything.  You're a despicable person.”  

“Well, we may disagree on things,” said Mr Rees-Mogg equably, “but just because you disagree with somebody, that doesn't make them a bad person.  The two are separate.”  

The protester goggled.  Mr Rees-Mogg's politeness seemed to infuriate him all the more.  “You're ruining people's lives!” he shouted.  

“I don't agree with that,” said Mr Rees-Mogg, with a frown of concern.  “We have the lowest rate of unemployment since the 1970s.  Employment historically has always been the best route out of poverty.”  

The protester purpled.  “That's absolutely not true!” he spluttered.  “That is a categorical lie!  You're a despicable person!”  

“Let's leave my despicability to one side,” said Mr Rees-Mogg soothingly.  “What's important is to have a conversation.  [But] I think the audience want [the meeting] to continue.”  

“I couldn't care less!  They all hold the same views [as you]!”  

“Well,” said Mr Rees-Mogg gently.  “Very nice to have met you.”  

And with that, at long last, the man and his fellow protesters were led muttering from the hall.  The audience rapturously applauded.  

Seemingly oblivious, Mr Rees-Mogg turned, adjusted his tie, and resumed his seat, as if nothing had happened.