Let us reflect on forgiveness. I, like a lot of people, have had to deal with the muddy waters and gummy thorns of forgiveness. I was once in a severe cult. It is a long story (for another time); let’s just say it was very unjust, damaging and abusive.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a process, sometimes a long one. I think of it in the way AAA describes getting over being an alcoholic – we can make great progress but it never entirely goes away, and we can easily fall back. The healing of Forgiveness becomes effective by looking to be right with God in life. In the muddled mess with people there is humiliation, shame, anger and competition. The opposite of Forgiveness is seeking revenge, and God told us to leave revenge to him. Taking it to God brings the problem between our self and him, and in Him we can trust and feel safe. God is just. It is very important to understand this because we have to take the step of being vulnerable to him, to humble our self to Him. When we feel the blessing of connecting to God from our core self, we can begin to forgive others.
Some people just give willy-nilly forgiveness. They say, ‘Oh, I forgive you’; by which the mean, ‘you were the one that was wrong’.
Like faith (and compassion) – Forgiveness is not blind! Forgiveness is the union of compassion and discernment. Blanket compassion is a false trap; it is like painting over a dark smudge; the smudge looks better but it is still there. Only now, it is worse, because it is hidden and God does not want lies, deception and evil hidden! Evil can only be removed if it is seen – which is God’s constant effort, but humans all-too-often do the opposite. In forgiveness we have our eyes open to what happened and we go through the process.
Martin Luther King’s non-violence helps us understand forgiving in a powerful way. MLK’s non-violence was the union of compassion and strength; it was not passive nor avoidant, but brought the power of presence. By being present and addressing the truth of what was going on he awakened people’s conscience to the issue of racism. The end goal of his mission was Forgiveness! MLK brought the focus of being right with God, not the intent to be better than others, and demean others; and thus it possessed the potential virtue of winning others over, who, deep inside, yearn for the relief of being honest with themselves and God. His mission didn’t seek or settle in being above or below others. Being present in this way guided and/or forced people to face their conscience, a conscience that they had been avoiding; it also exposed how they had been colluding with others to avoid. Seeking this path effectively aligns a movement with the power of love and wisdom, and allows God’s providence to work through it. Jesus said it in many ways; here is one: “He who is without sin let him throw the first stone”. In saying this people were convicted by their own conscience from within, which leads to a perception of their own sin, contrition, and hopefully forgiveness.
Jesus never dissociated from anything, but was present to every situation and person, no matter how great the conflict or how intense the intimacy. We can’t do as he did; we are human we don’t have to be perfect, but we can learn from His example. Jesus also said, ‘The Meek shall inherit the earth’. This means that Humility is not weakness, but is the very source of strength – for God can only be approached in humility.