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Tony Grist

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Forgiveness [Aug. 28th, 2009|09:39 am]
Tony Grist
Forgiveness is always sublime, but...

A friend of mine is being pestered by a man from her past of whom she has less than delightful memories. Maybe he's just amazingly thick-skinned and unaware of how she feels about him- or maybe he's been put up to it by his AA group. Apparently that's something the AA do- they urge their members to go out and seek reconciliation with those they've wronged.
It's not that she doesn't forgive him, it's just that she'd rather he faded back into the woodwork. Does forgiveness mean you have to hang out with your former enemies?

It's a very egotistical thing, wanting to be forgiven. You've hurt this person and now you're creeping round them going, "Please make me feel better".  It turns the victim into the aggressor.  Wouldn't it be kinder- more honest-  to keep the hell out of their way?

Or are you doing them a favour by giving them the opportunity to forgive, which- as I said at the beginning- is always a sublime act?

Someone should write a novel about this.

[User Picture]From: dadi
2009-08-28 09:45 am (UTC)
Some religious and "spiritual" groups put people up to this stuff too. I have an ex too who is part of some kind of sect which promises him he will do astral travelling, thought control (of other people), have all the money and the sex he will ever want.. if he does what they say, among which the "reconciling" is on the program. He periodically pesters me that we have to "forgive each other" for what we have done to each other, but to me this is simply another way of him stalking me out of my head what had ended our relationship. So now he stalks me to ask me to forgive him for stalking me. Gah.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-08-28 11:15 am (UTC)
That is simply disgusting.

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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2009-08-28 09:51 am (UTC)

Give it a go!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-08-28 11:16 am (UTC)

But I know my limitations. That kind of psychological/theological fiction is way beyond my grasp. Dostoevsky might have attempted it, or Iris Murdoch.
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2009-08-28 09:51 am (UTC)
It's the old story about forgiving and forgetting; one does not necessarily lead to the other, and sometimes forgiveness can be granted without the victim ever being able to forget or have normal relations with the aggressor again. Anybody seeking forgiveness should - in my opinion - always be ready to face either a refusal of forgiveness or a forgiveness that doesn't mean a clean slate. (Can there ever truly be a clean slate when one person has been hurt? Will traces not always linger on, sore in the background? And sometimes too sore to be reminded of on a regular basis?)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-08-28 11:23 am (UTC)
It's complicated. Is it really forgiveness if you still want the person out of your life? Can you forgive someone while still intensely disliking them?
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[User Picture]From: baritonejeff
2009-08-28 10:19 am (UTC)

or maybe he's been put up to it by his AA group

Regarding this, steps 8 and 9:

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

In the Al-Anon meetings I attended, there was much discussion of these steps, with particular emphasis on being sensitive as to whether or not the subject(s) of ones "amends" attempts is/are receptive to this, and respecting that.

If this guy is taking this as a mandate for finding everyone he has wronged and pestering them into forgiving him, then he is perverting (or at the very least misunderstanding) the concept.

These two steps might be better worded: Figure out who you wronged, and try to fix it if you can; but only if they want you to.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-08-28 11:26 am (UTC)

Re: or maybe he's been put up to it by his AA group

Thanks for the clarification.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone you've wronged is never to darken their door again.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2009-08-28 10:27 am (UTC)
She should do a deal - "I'll forgive you but ONLY if you promise me to bugger off."
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-08-28 11:26 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: wlotus
2009-08-28 11:39 am (UTC)
Forgiveness means choosing not to seek retribution for what was done. Fellowship/trust/reconciliation means associating with someone. The two are not the same, and one is not obligated to hang out with a person they do not wish to associate with. While it hurts when someone doesn't want to hang out, the person seeking reconciliation needs to accept the other person's choice and learn how to move on.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-08-28 12:57 pm (UTC)
That's a useful distinction.

Forgiveness, on this model, is quite a cold, cerebral thing- an act of the will- and doesn't really involve the emotions. I like that.
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[User Picture]From: seraphimsigrist
2009-08-28 01:19 pm (UTC)

thoughts on it

the film flat liners was about this as I
remember--medical students experimenting in near death
experiences come up against ghosts of their past in
unforgiven acts...
but in fact I suppose each case is unique and it is
doubtful that anyone remembering some schoolyard bully
wants to meet the fellow again etc
the balance of things often must rest in God or in
the Tao of things etc and the idea that we can pay all
debts is an illusion...
we would be hard pressed by the gravity of our debts
and of our heavy selves if there were not something
like Grace...
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2009-08-28 02:17 pm (UTC)

Re: thoughts on it

I believe in Grace, too. If I did not, I "would be hard pressed by the gravity...."
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2009-08-28 02:10 pm (UTC)
Amends-making is a "sticky wicket". As a recovered alcoholic I too have had my turn at amends-making, and been rebuffed for the attempt. The program tells us to attempt (try) "to make amends where ever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others". Easier said than done. Some are offended if you do not try, while others are offended if you do try.
Then, of course, there are those who are hell bent to make amends whether the other party wants it or not. Sounds like your friend's "friend" is one of those. Here's hoping he is not one of those obsessed ex-boyfriends who often wreak havoc on a person's life, while attempting to rekindle an old (and dead) relationship.
Ideally, it is best to offer amends and let the other party take it or leave it without either crowing about a good result or resenting a bad one. It doesnt always work out that way.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-08-28 05:33 pm (UTC)
I don't think this guy is an obsessive. The way things are developing it seems like he's unaware of the damage he once caused.
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[User Picture]From: zoe_1418
2009-08-28 04:08 pm (UTC)
I've been in a somewhat similar situation -- someone seeking to make amends to me -- and I've struggled with it. In my case it was a family member from whom I didn't, ultimately, *want* to stay estranged -- perhaps that made it even more difficult, because I couldn't just write him off and never speak to him again (there were other important family reasons for this too). I did a lot of musing about what the hell forgiveness means to me, anyway... and eventually (maybe a year and a half after his initial gesture?) I did believe that I'd reached "forgiveness," and also the beginning of reconciliation -- and we are friendly and cooperative now (we both need to be involved in our parents' care, for instance) -- but that doesn't mean I "forget" what he did or say "oh, that's OK." It's a very deep and dark (not meaning dark in a BAD sense, more in the sense of "not cheery and light") experience...

As for novels... I can't think of an exact instance, but it seems to my foggy memory that Susan Howatch may have some of this -- the complexity of forgiveness in real life -- in her Starbridge novels.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-08-28 05:36 pm (UTC)
Families present a special case. Where an ex-lover can sail off over the horizon and never be seen again, we'll never be entirely free of the people we're related to.

I like that you use "dark" to mean something other than "bad". The dark is where seeds germinate.
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[User Picture]From: qos
2009-08-28 05:55 pm (UTC)
There is one particular person from my past -- an emotionally abusive ex-lover, who I have never been able to forgive, even though I feel that I understand and have compassion for the elements in his background which clearly led to his behavior. (I spent a lot of time around his horrible family.)

I don't want him in my life again. In fact, I've coached Wolfling that there may be a time when I deny who I am if a particular person ever accosts us in public.

That said. . . If he ever came to me and said, "QiA, I want you to know that I now understand how badly I hurt you, and I want to offer my apologies and ask for forgiveness" I would appreciate it. I would like to forgive him, but I don't feel enlightened enough to do so without him acknowledging that he hurt me very badly.

I still would not want him in my life, but having him acknowledge his harm and express contrition would be very welcome.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-08-28 08:19 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that you're on the way to forgiveness when you say you feel compassion for this man.

I think it's possible to forgive someone coldly- simply as an act of will. Forgiveness doesn't commit you to liking the person or volunteering to spend time with them.
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