This issue has been brought to the fore for me by the case in Liverpool that just ended, but it’s a concept I cannot get my head around.
After what happened, how on earth can someone say to another that they forgive them ? This is not a criticism of the family involved – far from it – just me lacking the ability to comprehend how someone can bring themselves to say let alone think that. If someone harmed me (as a few people have done) there is a snowball’s chance in hell that I will forgive. It just ain’t going to happen. As I have said before there are a select few if I ever get the chance in any way whatsoever to harm I will (not physically). Without hesitation or regret. Equally though I do not let such issues consume me – they sit quietly labelled in my mind.
So how DO you forgive ? I suppose it comes down to what is forgiveness. Maybe it’s faith. I remember that years ago when I was in a Catholic school having to go to confession every Thursday morning. One week – isn’t it amazing what you remember ? – I confessed to having sneaked down in the night and pinched some chocolate biscuits. I was forgiven ? cleansed of my sins ? How does that work then ? “You stole the biscuits, you have told the priest, you are forgiven and are now sin-free”. What ? It always struck me as very very strange that in Northern Ireland the clergy did not take a stronger open line against what went on (but that is arguably a more complex thing) but it still comes down to forgiveness in some way doesn’t it ? When Mormons knock on our door and try to convert us (which is akin to counselling a tree as to it’s growth) one question I always have is “Is your god all-forgiving ?” Their reply, as always, is Yes. In that case, come the day of judgement he’ll say “Called a bad one there Mark … tut tut.. but worry not. Go grab an angel ;) )
So what is forgiveness ? Not hating someone ? Being prepared to help them should they need it ? Absolving them in some way ? Not hating them ? I find it incomprehensible that someone could have done what those two murderers did yet they are forgiven. I genuinely do not have a clue how someone can move away from all the negative feelings to something more neutral. I could not do that. Hurting me is one thing. I’ll deal with that in some way. But hurt mine ? Hurt my family ? You would certainly not get anything but extreme negative emotions and actions from me. You lose control you will pay every price that can be extracted.
We are a Christian country apparently. Blair and Co. would have us ‘turning the other cheek’ about things yet nothing in our country is geared toward forgiveness is it ? Do Blair and other leaders feel better after having gone to church because they are forgiven for their actions and the privations that they have inflicted upon the people ? If that is wrong then your confession and absolution is also wrong isn’t it ?
“I forgive you”. Means what ? Different things to different people…. maybe it’s too deeply spiritual for me or maybe I’m just callous. I do know that you cannot explain it to me.
What I do have is respect beyond measure for the way that young man’s family have carried themselves in the wake of such a cruel event.