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.

6 thoughts on “Forgiveness

  1. You’re not alone Mark, I find it incredibly hard to understand how anyone can forgive such a thing too. I definately think it’s tied into their faith as well. I guess I’m what you’d call a spiritual person but not in the sense that they are. I know I wouldn’t be so quick to forgive.

    Like you, I wouldn’t criticise the family either (they’ve been fantastic really!), but I do find their forgiveness incomprehensible.

  2. Maybe it’s a way of dealing with the situation. Being self-consumed with hatred and anger is a road to self-destruction. Possibly the aspect of forgiveness is a way to justify moving on?

    Forgiveness in confession is something that even the Church is struggling with I think. There appears to be less emphasis on it than there used to be. Where it is held to it’s more of a personal thing between God and the believer (?), a way of reflecting on what you’ve done, recognising what was wrong, why and being seriously sorry for having done it with a sincere promise that you will do your utmost not to repeat it. Never believed in it myself! If you are a true believer and have a personal relationship with God why do you need to confess all to a priest? If you piss your wife off by going to the pub on a Saturday with your mates you don’t go to her Mother’s, confess what you did and beg forgiveness….shit I think my analogy just fell apart 😀

  3. The man I love called me a freak and a Nazi for suggesting the two bastards who did it should face the death penalty. I don’t suppose for a second that Anthony’s mother would want them to lose their lives because they took away her son’s.

    It’s a funny old world really…

  4. Mark: first off, so sorry for referring to you as an Englishman in my last email! (Although I may again be making a false assumption based on your reference to N. Ireland.) 🙂

    I was raised Catholic too, but perhaps the American ‘experience’ with the church is different. I’ve read that the two primary benefits of confession (in the material world, anyway..can’t speak to possible benefits in any supernatural one), are a) making a conscious attempt at ‘forgiveness’ helps diffuse any potential self-destructive anger/hatred, as dino mentioned, and b) psychological studies have indicated that people seem to derive some real psychological benefit from the simple act of speaking certain things out loud and receiving absolution in return. It’s a kind of therapy, in other words.

    In addition, in some ways it requires you to take some responsibility for you own actions; the idea of confessing one’s ‘sins’, and having to do penance to atone for them, forces you to think about the impact of your actions, not only on yourself, but especially on others. If you boil down the 10 Commandments, they’re really about not doing harm to others. Simple, really. Even the concept of original sin, for me, always meant less that I personally was inherently bad and more about remembering not to judge others, since we are all imperfect in our own ways.

    Anyway, sorry for the ramble. 🙂 Interesting post and comments!


  5. Cena – I’m English 🙂
    I do get your points though, but they apply equally outside of a religion don’t they ? I’m happy to take responsibility for my actions (and inactions) and not acknowledging any ‘higher power’ let alone any mortal servants or – as I see it – getting one of them to say “No problem mate”, especially when the same person may come back with the same crime / misdemeanour every time. In fact I think that the easy concept of “Go see the priest” to be absolved is almost too easy, too convienient..
    I do agree in some ways with the talking bit (exceptions above still apply) but then I use writing – or I did in the past – to work things out. Again though I do this myself, I don’t need some guy to tell me I’m cleansed – I don’t think you ever can be (karma) – because that has to come from within. Not a church.

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