Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Forgiveness followup

Just want to follow up on the forgiveness entry from last week. One of the comments I received was:

Anonymous said...

I agree that anger isn't a mood one should cultivate as an ongoing state of mind. But it should prompt focused action. That action can include things like voting out incompetents, sending aid to agencies that will use it properly, spreading the word about a problem that needs solving, etc. It can also include prayer, but not the kind of prayer that allows us to sink back into just another mood of self-satisfaction and pollyanna optimism. And while forgiveness is important, it should come AFTER people stop screwing things up. Otherwise we run the risk of condoning and supporting screwups like New Orleans.

To me, there's a distinction between forgiveness and condoning. I don't believe it's ever right to condone behavior that needs correcting. But I also don't think we can constructively solve the problem if we're feeling anger or resentment or vengeance.

Forgiveness to me is an internal thing; pardon or condoning is an external thing. Forgiveness is our own internal releasing of resentment and hurt; pardon is external excusing of wrongdoing, which I actually think we should never do unless reformation is evident.

A simple example might be with my kids. I've been known in the past to have quite a temper. I think it was the stress of raising two kids on my own with a fulltime job and probably too much volunteer work. But in any case, there were times they would be doing what I can see now is normal kid stuff, and I would go ballistic. We're talking messy rooms, spilling the apple juice, fighting with each other, etc. My internal stress would make me wig out. And they became afraid of me rather than learning anything constructive about how nice it is to have a clean room or be careful with the cup or can't we all just get along?

My point is I had to learn to be calm, to forgive, and to release any anger I felt *before* I figured out if they needed disciplining and how to discipline. Mercifully for all concerned, I did become much better at this. I'm even able, now, to stop in mid-shout to say, "Look, I've had a stressful day and I'm overreacting. Let's talk about this later."

So I guess I’m agreeing with the comment writer in this way: We can't and shouldn't condone screwups. People who screwup can only be let off the hook AFTER they've rectified the situation.

However, I do believe we can forgive long before that. We can be calm ourselves, we can be firm, but we don't have to stay angry. And we can strive to discern clearly what was going on to lead to the screwup in the first place, so that we can take action to prevent it in the future. All of this would be better served to do it from a place of genuine understanding, love—and forgiveness.

Let me know what you think!

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 9/21/2005 09:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with you about the internal/external thing. But a certain amount of passion is OK, I think, in pushing for reform. I think about Jesus messing up the moneychangers's tables in the Temple. He may have internally forgiven them ("for they know not what they do"), but his actions were strong and his words pungent in order to make clear that there needed to be a change in the status quo.

At 9/21/2005 08:28:00 PM, Anonymous Rev. Veronika Birken said...

Isn't forgiveness not buying into the illusion of what mortal mind claims is true? Isn't it remembering the Truth for everybody and everything?
Peace, Veronika


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