Forgiveness/Suffering (Was Re: DWJ in Israeli newspaper)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Tue Feb 17 18:20:23 EST 2004

On Tue, 17 Feb 2004 18:30:20 +0000, mecha godscylla wrote:

>I have been obsessing over this ever since I read the following:
>>There is also an issue of forgiveness that to see
>>people as flawed or incompetent makes it possible
>>to forgive and to achieve reconciliation.
>Another example of people glossing over the truth in order to stay safe.
>Sometimes forgiveness is more painful than constant suffering.
>And now, my random thoughts....
>Of course, Melissa has since clarified her comments by further stating that 
>she was thinking of situations where everyone knows there's a problem and 
>they have tacitly agreed to step around the large elephant in the middle of 
>the room and never mention it.    Yesterday, I had the impression that you 
>(Melissa) were saying constant suffering can be a preferable alternative to 
>forgiveness.  Now I see that you are saying people choose constant 
>suffering, consciously or by default, by preferring it to awareness of the 
>large elephant that is currently stepping on their foot and spraying water 
>across the television.  Yes?

Yes.  If it's harder to forgive someone--which can entail admitting to a
past pain or re-encountering a person who's harmed you, among other
things--than to simply go on feeling miserable, people often choose the
latter.  Which could be said of just about anything in life; my kids, for
example, would rather give up playing computer games and spending time with
friends than spend twenty minutes cleaning their rooms.

>In that case I would only add -- it seems to me that while people might 
>appear bullheaded, wayward, or wilfully blind when bent on ignoring what is 
>obvious, it stands to reason that it's fear, being daunted, and feeling 
>helpless (in addition to a whole bag of complicated stuff that may go with 
>all that - guilt, shame, many things) that is leading to that extended 
>effort of unawareness.  Seems to me that confronting and acknowledging the 
>underlying fear/helplessness is the key first thing leading to admitting 
>perhaps the elephant is blocking the fire exits.  Otherwise, even if the 
>elephant is acknowledged, still no one has meanwhile discovered their inner 
>mahout capable of getting a handle on the situation.
>But I would argue that we aren't choosing between constant suffering and 
>forgiveness. Those are two possible choices and may be two obvious choices 
>in some situations, but there may be a lot of work to do clearing up the 
>elephant ordure before any question of forgiveness comes up for review.

It's interesting that this is the direction the discussion has taken.  I
think something else Ven wrote has been largely overlooked--we were
originally talking about Dumbledore and how he isn't portrayed as someone
who can fail, even when he does.  Sometimes it seems that acknowledging
flaws (in ourselves or in others) is a betrayal of sorts, or opens us up to
further pain.  Ven points out accurately that in recognizing these flaws,
these times of incompetence, we also gain the opportunity to change said
flaws--to forgive others for the hurt they've done us, or make ourselves
better people.  I have known people for whom this kind of acknowledgement
would be abhorrent.  They would rather try to paper over the cracks forever
than to smash out a wall and rebuild.  As you say above, there are a lot of
complicated things that go into this kind of reaction, and sometimes a
temporary patch is what gives people the ability to face their fears.  So it
isn't always a bad thing to do.  But ignoring the obvious isn't a long-term
solution, and ultimately we all have to face the things that scare
us...either because we choose to or because they come leaping out at us.

My counter-argument is that suffering and resolution (not just forgiveness)
are states.  How we deal with our troubles--facing up to them, ignoring
them, exhibiting addictive behavior, etc.--are the processes which lead us
one way or the other.  They aren't choices except in the sense that you can
decide where you want to be; you can't just choose to be happy, you have to
take the actions that will get you there.

>It seems to me that reconciliation is a separate process from forgiveness.  
>Because reconciliation *must* be mutual or it is just the forgiver letting 
>themselves in for another round, having received no evidence that 
>circumstances have changed.  On the other hand,  forgiveness is essentially 
>a solo act that is predicated on the individual's sense of personal agency - 
>*you* have the power to forgive and the power to lay down the burden imposed 
>upon you by the incident that requires forgiveness.  It seems to me a 
>difficult solo act, but preferable to work at instead of passive constant 

Reconciliation doesn't just have to mean agreement between two parties.  In
its root sense, it means to bring into agreement or unity, so it can also
mean that you've stopped letting past horrors affect you and that you are
personally reconciled to what you've suffered.  This is how I associate it
with forgiveness--not coming to agreement with the other person, because
you're right that so often the other person doesn't care or will deny it.

>That's why I am not in favor of the phrase 'forgive and forget.'  I'm more 
>for 'forgive and remember.' I don't mean to remember in the sense of a 
>grudge, but as something that has been thoroughly exploited for all learning 

I absolutely agree with this.  Thanks for the discussion.  :)

Melissa Proffitt

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