Monday, November 17, 2008

On forgiveness.

It’s stormy today in Portland (actually, it’s gorgeous and sunny in Portland today but I wrote this last Wednesday between classes when it felt like monsoon season). While I sit in the window of a bustling downtown café, I find myself trudging through a multitude of thoughts on forgiveness. We watched a powerful documentary in my social work and spirituality class called The Power of Forgiveness. I can’t stop thinking about it, like a shiny pretty thing, I can’t draw my attention away. The filmmaker proposed that forgiveness is the key to achieve social justice, reconciliation and peace in the world. He talked about how important it is to forgive, to let go of the anger. To forgive is to do something for yourself. If we hold on to anger, we only hurt ourselves by sitting in an open wound. When we forgive we let go of the anger; we are no longer continually hurt by it. We don’t forget but we incorporate those pieces into who we are and we keep moving. The film talked about forgiveness between faiths as between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland and what that might look like. They are teaching forgiveness in children’s curriculum, teaching them about the inherent worth of every person and when we forgive, we see people with new eyes not for what they have done.

They shared a story of a 14 year-old boy who shot another young man, the pizza delivery boy, because he refused to give them a free pizza. When I hear stories like that I can’t help but feel sick and judge and blame. They followed the victim’s father as he embarked on a journey of forgiveness for the young boy who shot his son and the boy’s grandfather. He forgave. The Amish families who’s children were gunned down in their school. They forgave. It’s a daily act of forgiveness. They wake up in the morning and actively choose to let go. It is woven into the fabric of their faith and lives to forgive.

There is nothing reasonable in forgiveness. In a society so hell-bent on justice and retribution, it doesn’t make sense to forgive. It doesn’t add up. I remember a conversation I had about heaven and faith with my step-dad. We talked about how God forgives and anyone who believes will go to heaven, no matter what they have done in this life. He couldn’t understand a heaven that would include a serial killer and an innocent child. There was no justice. A killer deserves to go to hell. I couldn’t respond. It wasn’t justice alone. It was mercy.

I get really emotional when I hear or see stories of forgiveness. I was watching Grey’s Anatomy (I know, I know, I’m addicted) and a husband and wife ended up in the hospital and it came out that the husband had been having an affair with the wife’s best friend for months. I was writhing in anger. Later the husband had written a letter to his wife asking for forgiveness, pleading for another chance and declaring his love for no one but her and made a statement that he would spend every day for the rest of his life trying to make it up to her. I was bawling at this point. Infidelity is something I have the hardest time with. As with all wrongs, someone makes a choice, and another is hurt as a result of that choice. Once it’s done, it’s done. Once you’re stung, you can’t get un-stung. When Eve picked the apple, she couldn’t just give it back as much as she longed to. It can’t be undone or forgotten but it can be forgiven.

That’s what I’m pondering today, while I’m supposed to be writing a zillion papers…gah..

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