Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Danger and Damning Nature of Cheap Forgiveness

I believe strongly that “cheap forgiveness” is very much like “cheap grace” – and every bit as damaging.

By that, I mean that those who have not been hurt by someone specific have absolutely NO right to talk about having forgiven that person. Only those who have been wronged can forgive – and when someone who has not been wronged talks of having forgiven someone, it only serves to condemn the inability of those who were harmed to “forgive” as easily. What is misunderstood so often is that the one who thinks he has forgiven really hasn’t. Nothing has been done to him, personally, that requires forgiveness – so his forgiveness is a cheap counterfeit.

Someone could argue that every bad action harms lots of people to varying degrees – and I won’t argue against that. However, it’s patently obvious that all harm is not equal and, likewise, that all recovery is not equal. Thus, not all “forgiveness” is equal – since the deeper the damage, the harder the healing and the forgiveness.

If I could teach one thing to those who are harmed only tangentially, moderately shallowly or not at all it would be the realization that those who seem to be unable to forgive cannot, and I mean absolutely cannot, be judged by we who can’t see their hearts and their wounds perfectly. It is the concept that forgiveness of deep wounds that takes a lifetime means more in the grand scheme of things than forgiveness of paper cuts that take an hour. Jesus is the ultimate example not because of the quickness of his forgiveness but because of the depth of the pain and the wounds he forgave – and it interesting to ponder the source of that pain. Yes, he suffered for us – but it is just as real to say that the pain was inflicted BY his Father as it is to say it was inflicted because of us.

Thus, in a very real and very powerful way, he forgave his Father for asking him to become our scapegoat – for placing him in the position to suffer so greatly – to cast him out in a way that is very similar in practical terms to what Janusz’s wife did to him in the 1954 book "The Long Walk" by Slavomir Rawicz. (The book is written as non-fiction, but it might be creative non-fiction - or historical non-fiction, depending on the term used"The Way Back" is a film adaptation of this memoir.  Reactions to the movie vary widely.)

There’s a lesson in there about the pain and suffering each of us endures simply as a result of Adam’s transgression and our faithful step into mortality – and our own need to “forgive God” for asking us to endure it.


Papa D said...

A friend left a comment on Facebook about wanting more information about the book, and I realized I had mixed the media originally in this post. I had written the name of the movie adaptation instead of the book. I edited the post to correct that mistake.

Thanks, Justin, for helping me catch that.

ji said...

If I was offended by my mortal condition and felt I deserved better than I got, I suppose I could choose to feel that God did me wrong or harm and that I needed to forgive him and endure to the end.

But I'm not offended. I don't feel that God has done me any wrong or harm. Or in my blindness, I don't see any wrong or harm. So I don't feel any need to forgive God. Endure to the end? Yes, but happily with a sense of thanksgiving and charity. Forgive my fellow man? Yes. Forgive myself? Yes. Forgive God? No, I haven't reached that point yet.

Maybe some persons, in their extremity, need to reconcile themselves to God as part of a larger healing process -- and maybe that means letting go of their animosity towards God. I would stop short of calling that forgiveness because forgiveness to me implies harm or wrong and failure by another in some owed duty -- but yes, letting go of the grudge, dropping the complaint, choosing to love instead of hate are important for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Joseph Smith taught we could only get into heaven when we have no accusers. Whether we wronged another or not, they must cease to demand justice against us before we can gain entrance to heaven. It is grandstanding to declare "I forgive Hitler," but in the final analysis I must not harborill will against him, nor he against me. When the Savior presents the kingdom to the Father, all quarrels will have been resolved, all debts paid, and even perceiced slights or aestheticc complaints will have been silenced. We must learn to let go of each other's hair, even forgive the distant proxy "crimes against humanity."