Thursday 17 January 2013


I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of forgiveness. Intrigued because as a society we all seem to have adopted our own definition [and caveats] for the term. And man oh man are there many definitions out there. By definition, the term forgiveness is defined as follows: “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.” Be honest, for some just reading that statement brings up conflicting emotions or a whole litany of ‘yeah buts.’ (But he doesn't deserve it; but he's an ass; but she isn't sorry! etc.) For some the above definition is that simple; forgiveness means to let go, to absolve, and to move the hell on, putting aside those feelings of wanting to get in the last word and tell someone to shove it! Yes, it’s not easy, but no one ever said it was.

Of late, (and what got me thinking about all this) the Lance Armstrong debate (or as some call it, a tedious drawn out dialogue etc.) has sparked all sorts of traffic on the Internet, news, print media etc. on the notion of forgiveness. In short, what is forgivable? [I’d like to pull Nixon and Charles Manson in on this debate so that we get the full spectrum of human deficiencies and put some perspective on this thing] and if we forgive does this absolve the person of their wrongdoings? If you read many of the forums out there in regards to Armstrong's apparent confession, people are strongly divided. There are those that say he is a human being, a flawed human being that erred and if he is genuine in his apology and shows true contrition (in his case that is another ball of wax) then we as a society should forgive. There are others that are a bit more stringent and seem to think that due to his actions over the last few decades and treatment of others, he is simply unforgivable.

Of course, I’m of the opinion that forgiveness in its very state cannot be discretionary. Either we forgive or we don’t. Now, I’m NOT saying this is easy. God knows I’m not always good at forgiving, letting go, or moving on (my husband will happily attest to this). I’m human after all. :-) But I tell myself that is why forgiveness is anything but easy; in truth, it’s one of the hardest things in the world to do especially when the wrongdoing is on a level that seems incomprehensible (I’m just going to say that an athlete doping to me is not in this category. In fact sadly it’s commonplace and the man is clearly a narcissistic ass, but he’s not Charles Manson). More important to understand about forgiveness is that the subject of our forgiveness does not always necessarily deserve it, but that does not mean we should not forgive. Furthermore, for many one can forgive but not hold the subject in any esteem (for many this is their quandary when it comes to the Lance Armstrong’s of the world). And I think that’s okay. In fact more than okay. 

To put things in sobering perspective I always try to remind myself that people have forgiven others of unspeakable things, things that I can’t even truly digest. You hear stories all the time where a mother forgives a man for killing her child (and so on). The stories are hard to believe as it seems inconceivable that one could forgive for crimes of this nature (I am not sure I am a person that could do this. I’m admitting it okay!), but when you listen to the 'forgivers' you hear them say that in forgiveness they were liberated somehow. The pain may still remain, but they are not bound by the anger and hatred for the person that wronged against them. 

You see, I said it wasn’t easy. But I think often times it’s good to ask yourself where you stand on forgiveness. Or more importantly, not what you could forgive, but for what would you want to be forgiven. 

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