“People, in general, would rather die than forgive. It's that hard.”
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
For myself, if someone has harmed me, I begin to think about them all the time and what I would like to do to them, expose them. They live rent free in my head and in essence become my higher power, my God. I do not want this person to be my God, my higher power. That is what brings me back to start the work of forgiveness. Yes, for me it is extremely hard work. Forgiveness is not forgetting. There are things we should never forget, the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, slavery, abuse, 9/ 11, Hurricanes Camille, Frederic, Ivan, Katrina, and now Harvey and Irma.
Walter Brueggmann1 writes about forgiveness especially from what we learn in the Old Testament. He writes that forgiveness is made impossible in a system of deeds-consequence when deeds have an unbreakable tight predictable connection to consequences with no way out. This is the law, and if you break it, this is what will happen to you. Amen. This is the basis of much right-wing religious preaching of “hell, fire, and damnation,” trying to frighten people into a moral life. Brueggmann believes that forgiveness is only possible when we realize the astonishing readiness of God to reach beyond deeds-consequences, to offer continually to us unlimited restoration and extravagant forgiveness. There is nothing, nothing that we can do for which God does not forgive us, and we are called to do the same. When we begin to lead a life of pardoning and newness, we start to see the world not through our grievances but through gratitude. It is a new life, a different life. We saw it in Nelson Mandela who forgives his guards of his 27 years of imprisonment as he walks out of prison. He tells others who are harboring resentments and grievances, “if I do not forgive them, I am still in prison.” Buddhists call it the Great Compassion.
1Walter Brueggemann, “The Impossible Possibility of Forgiveness,” Journal of Preachers, Pentecost 2015, pp. 8-17.