Etymologically, to forgive, for-give, is to give completely. [FR: par-don]
Is forgiveness an act of generosity, of total giving, of love? Or a lack of integrity to escape responsibility? Or a chance/risk to forget? If the answer was obvious, it wouldn’t be worth looking into. But it’s not that obvious, is it? Then, let’s have a profound look into it!
At Business and Values, we see the notion of forgiveness as rather unreliable, while the act of forgiveness, as its etymology suggests, as generous and liberating.
In its religious, social, legal, philosophical, psychological dimensions, the notion of forgiveness results first from a fault, an offense, an injury, a sin, of the one who inflicts it, on the one to whom it is inflicted.
Let us see a classic scene: Mister A hurts Miss B. Miss B hurts Mister A. Mister C and Miss D attend the scene. Mister E and Miss F, meanwhile, did not attend.
Whose fault is it?
Mister A, who hurt Miss B? Miss B, who hurt Mister A? Mister C and Miss B, who watched the scene without reacting? Or Mister E and Miss F, by their absence? How to measure these faults? How to evaluate them? How to judge them? Here is already a beautiful bag of knots. [FR: un sac de noeuds]
Who is entitled to judge the fault?
This formulation, by connotation, immediately brings closer to the notion of justice, human and divine.
As far as human justice, it is simple, the judge is entitled to assess the fault. But judges are men, and every man is friable, therefore judges are friable. So, we create the laws. But laws are created by men, and every man is friable, therefore all law is friable. And, if we add the friability of the judge, one can see the friability of terrestrial justice. And it’s not too difficult to look down the street, out the window, and even into your TV, phone, or tablet screen to be convinced.
As far as divine justice, it is equally simple. Only the representatives of God are entitled to judge. But these representatives are men, or every man… So, we go up a notch above to say that only God himself can judge… But God is created by men, and every man…
We attribute to a certain “Jesus” the words “may he who has never sinned cast the first stone at him”, suggesting that 1 / we all make mistakes 2 / we are not entitled to judge the faults of others 3 / we would do better to work on our own messiness rather than harassing others. The first assertion is obvious. The third is wise advice. As for the second, it calls for another question, even more essential:
Why should we judge the fault at all?
From a young age, and whatever our culture of origin, our parents teach us “the good / the bad”, “the beautiful / the ugly”, “the true / the false”, “the great / the little one ”, etc. Then school takes over and I don’t even talk about what comes next, which results in an abject way of going through life weighing, underweighting, evaluating, monetizing, judging, everything! We all do, and we were told and we still find it perfectly normal and mandatory.
This allows us to move forward, we say, and it’s true… But at which cost? Take the example of these two children who go throughout their childhood hearing the same song, one sucks, the other is excellent. See the damage, for each of them AND for the whole classroom, of this type of judgment. Beauty has no place in this psychological horror, love, life, freedom, even less. The why, then, comes down simply to “because it is so”, “because we cannot do otherwise”, “because we do not know how to do otherwise”.
So, let’s find out, for god sake!
Are we obliged to judge the fault?
“Obviously yes, you nuts”, the masses will scream in chorus! See the degenerates, see the murderers, see the rapists, see the wars! And I may answer that I look profoundly into this every single day, for many years, now. I see and I hear that. I see the mess we are in, and I see how messy we are. And I see that it is not only on the other side of the screen that the war is played out, that the violence is played out, that we count the points and the faults in each camp of the earth, I see that we are, each one of us, responsible, and not just a little. I see that these wars over there are just an echo of our ultra-egoism here, and vice versa. I see that fear and suffering inhabit each of us, and that all the judges, and all the laws and all the repressive organs in the world, and the trillions allocated to them, have not changed anything. Quite the contrary. It’s a movement that has been going on, as I said, since childhood. Could we therefore, modestly, ask ourselves the question of a serious alternative, rather than dismiss it out of hand?
Is it possible to function without judgment?
If we stop judging. If we stop attributing to everyone, from childhood and throughout life, good and bad points, if we stop holding others responsible for our ills and the ills of the earth, if we come out of the infernal mechanics of comparison, of competition, to fully enter the field of solidarity, interaction, cooperation, what is happening?
An inward revolution. Because all our codes, all our thoughts, are governed by these pluses and minuses which lock us up, and which lock the others in small boxes, from which we never or almost never emerge, and certainly not unscathed. A malicious act is a malicious act. Scolding him doesn’t fix it. Hitting someone for him to stop hitting someone else is always hitting someone, whether metaphorically, judicially, religiously, or physically. What we learn through fear and repression is fear and repression, it is violence, it is revenge, it is shame, it is mistrust, it is protection. The positive effect of the stick is lost a hundred times in these negative effects.
And, from there, an outward revolution. The emergence of a new consciousness for mankind. You think it is NOT possible ? Look at the history ! Major changes happened. Look at Hitler, look at Napoleon, look at MLK, look at Gandhi… Just one person, standing up, the worst of us and the best of us in mankind has already profoundly impact our species and all species trajectory! So, just imagine what it would be like if, all of a sudden, we were just a few hundreds to stand radically for our people and our planet. Not to judge each other any longer at all. To end our internal and external conflicts. It IS possible, of course it IS.
Without judgment, is forgiveness still relevant?
In other words, if we manage to put judgement down, is forgiveness still relevant? The notion of forgiveness, like the notion of fault, was born in the bed of justice and religion, of the power of men over men. Let’s deeply observe forgiveness as well as we did for judgement to be able to answer this fundamental question.
Who asks forgiveness?
According to the religions of the Book, we are all sinners. So, we should all ask forgiveness… To God!
(or any high ranking authority, if we keep it simple)
OK. Why not…
Why ask for forgiveness?
The so-called sacred texts tell us that we ask for forgiveness to cancel our faults (in the analytical accounting of God…) and to avoid divine punishment. Ah…
Let us observe how this bias is perfectly egocentric. For the sinner, it is not a question of taking care or asking forgiveness from the person he has injured, but of applying to clean his own slate, imaginary, to avoid punishment and therefore injury, just as imaginary, that he risks being inflicted, by divine means …
Crowd management by threat, punishment, stick, terror, you can say it as you like. Anyway, a management centered on oneself, and on others. Which is curious because Christ took care of others, inviting us to love this other as ourselves. Why then does he apply himself to proposing to the sinner to concentrate on his own slate, even though he has hurt someone, threatening him, if he does not ask forgiveness, to hurt him, to punish him, to chastise him in turn?
Not wanting to believe that Jesus’ intentions were so far from the Christian ideal that he represents, I suggest that, of two things, either Jesus expressed himself very badly or he was very badly interpreted on this one!
Does asking for forgiveness negate the hurt caused by the fault?
Of course not. Neither does the threat of divine punishment, being an imaginary threat from an imaginary world that no one really knows, let’s not shift energy to that side. The point is that neither forgiveness nor punishment, real or imagined, now or after death, will take away the hurt committed. It should be noted that the judgment does not negate the injury caused either. If your son is killed, no sentence will return him, and no court ruling will appease your true suffering.
For, conversely, the eventual impunity – if there is no judgment – of the one who has committed a fault will sharpen your suffering, your anger, and your thirst for revenge. It is therefore necessary to do everything possible for your suffering to be recognized and taken care of (see our blog post on “suffering“), and you must also do everything possible to avoid any risk of recurrence. And if, in our world of all-out suffering, we must take care of everyone or almost everyone, because everyone suffers and causes suffering here below, we must also and in the first place, take the greatest care of the most fragile of between us, among which delinquents of all kinds, who often have a colossal burden of suffering which leads them, despite themselves, to commit the faults they commit.
Why ask for forgiveness? #2
For give, precisely. [Fr: par-don]
Asking forgiveness from the one we have hurt, and accepting forgiveness from the one who asks us, these are the first concrete steps, to take care of the wound of the one who has been injured and, very often, to begin to take care also of the wound of the one who caused suffering, for he also suffers.
Here is a generous act – the least we can do – to show others that we are sincerely sorry for the act we have committed, and its consequences which gradually appear to us in broad daylight, once the coup left, through this hurt that we inflicted on him, and the suffering that followed for him.
No matter our slate and the risk of retribution, it is above all for the other and the other that we have hurt that we ask forgiveness.
Asking for forgiveness without expecting anything in return.
Whether the injured person accepts our forgiveness or not should not matter to the one asking. He did what he could. To start. Recognize responsibility. And try to act to fix what can be.
Who then gives forgiveness?
This question is a mirror of why to ask for forgiveness. Here again, it is important to lift a hiatus! In the religions of the book, it is about God who forgives, and his / her messengers on Earth, the prophets, Mohammed, Jesus, his apostles, and by extension, the priests of the various churches today. And all these beautiful and saints people would forgive, of course, but under conditions… Of faith AND baptism for Christians for example! This is a joke, isn’t it? It would thus be necessary that a third party to the scene, endowed with supernatural powers conferred by celestial way, be able to give forgiveness. Like the president at the time of the presidential amnesty. This is simply absurd!
Because it is to the one we offended, and to no one else, that we should ask for forgiveness. And it is he or she who is hurt who can forgive us, if he can. This act of giving forgiveness is also in this case an act of extraordinary generosity. He recognizes in the one who committed the fault, the fact that he is a sinner, let’s say human and fallible, like everyone of us! And he himself erases this slate. Like the child who forgives his parents for their violence and their wanderings, like the woman who forgives her husband and like the husband who forgives his wife, like Jean-Paul who forgives the one who tried to put an end to his days, like Mama Lambert who forgives the genocidaires of her country who took away her whole family, all this is being done “in the footsteps of Jesus” as the other would say, and it is magnificent!
Does forgiving run the risk/chance of forgetting?
Wouldn’t it be extraordinary to forgive and forget?
In other words, isn’t forgetting the most profound and beautiful expression of forgiving? Yes, you read that right!
Imagine for a moment…
If everyone could look at everyone as they did on the first day?
If we could give ourselves a chance again?
If we could be free from all judgment, from all criticism of others, accumulated over time, emotions and thoughts of the past?
What if we couldn’t reduce anyone to their most reprehensible actions?
What if we could see the extreme suffering of the one who causes pain? This other ourselves…
What if we could see the extreme hurt we inflict every day around us? Around us, to our children, to our parents, to our friends, to our lovers, to our loves, supposedly, to all those that we meet without paying any attention to it, and to our planet, and all its occupants, to our large living family?
For this to happen, one needs to learn how to die to every moment (see paragraph “to die today” in our blog post “re-birth“).
It is not by justice or by fancy divine means that we will solve anything.
The notions of sin, of fault, of injury, should no longer be seen as notions, to be debated and treated, emotionally or intellectually, socially or spiritually but well as facts. The fact of suffering, is bitter, is extreme, is everywhere. And only an absolute observation of the reality of this fact, which is our common lot, to each and every one, can free us from its tyranny. The tyranny of the suffering we feel, and the suffering we administer, in each of us and in a world ruled by suffering, fear and desires of all kinds.
May we detach ourselves from the debates and sterile images, which absolutely do not solve any of these astronomical problems, and attach ourselves to forgiving ourselves and all those around us, for the harm we do to each other, in order to ‘working together for the advent of a world of love and freedom, where we will do things by donation, by for-giving.
Have a good trip, good winds and maybe at a crossroads!