Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 08:23 am
This discussion started on Facebook and I moved it here to be able to get in more depth, share more insights and articles, etc. It started with a simple quote:

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi.

I am curious to discuss what role forgiveness plays in people's and in communities' life.

My hunch is that this role will be quite different on personal and on community level, as on community level, forgiveness can be a form of politics and is often prone to manipulation if not potentially a form of blackmail. For more about this line of thinking, read here: http://www.stonybrook.edu/sociol/faculty/Levy/Levy-Sznaider%20Forgiveness%20Chapter.pdf

I recognize the wonderful liberating power that forgiveness has in individual person's life. What I dislike is the pedestal that forgiveness is often put at. As if those that do not forgive were somehow less worthy, less wise, less strong. It is truly admirable if someone is able to forgive. But I would think long and hard before I would dismiss those who are not able or willing. Human situations and reasons are numerous and also avenues of moving on and of conciliation are various.

For conciliation of people and communities, I hazard to say that forgiveness is neither necessary, nor sufficient. I think we should separate the psychological from the social aspect of forgiveness, to be clear about what we're talking about exactly. On a community level, it can play a positive role also, but it can also be detrimental. Depends on motivation, whether it stems from below or is initiated by a few people with own agendas, depends also on what is there to forgive. Maybe some things simply should not be forgiven?

Anyhow, this is just to kick things off, hopefully people will chime in. I'm interested in personal stories of forgiveness in your life, also stories of communities and nations in post-conflict situations...anything and everything that has to do with forgiveness.
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 08:32 am
@dagmaraka,
dagmaraka wrote:
I recognize the wonderful liberating power that forgiveness has in individual person's life. What I dislike is the pedestal that forgiveness is often put at. As if those that do not forgive were somehow less worthy, less wise, less strong. It is truly admirable if someone is able to forgive. But I would think long and hard before I would dismiss those who are not able or willing. Human situations and reasons are numerous and also avenues of moving on and of conciliation are various.


These are good observations. One might allege a deficiency in those unable[/i] to forgive, but to be unwilling to forgive is a different kettle of fish altogether. There are those who thrive on people who will forgive them, because they take that as evidence that they are free to commit their transgressions again. There are many people in my life whom i've forgiven--and there is a significant, small group of people whom i have refused to forgive, because of their intent, and the great likelihood that they would take it as a sign of weakness and an invitation to attempt once more to take advantage, to domineer--whatever.
dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 08:54 am
@Setanta,
so you'd say it depends on what/whom there is to forgive... I agree. Sometimes, even on personal level forgiveness can actually be detrimental, to forgiver and the forgivee.... though especially to the forgiver.

It strikes me as a deeply personal, inner thing. I always feel uncomfortable when communities are asked to forgive.... it's a stuff of social construction and those are always open to manipulation.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 08:56 am
@dagmaraka,
Yes, open to manipulation . . . that's the most succinct way to put it.
dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:29 am
@Setanta,
What I truly resent is for a politician to step out and say: We apologize for what we have done to you.....
In my mind, it is an action that demands reaction -- i apologize, now forgive me....

I'm a fan of acknowledgment instead of apology, leaving the reaction up to those whom it is addressed to. acknowledgment rocks.
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:32 am
<lurking>
Joe(following closely)Nation
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:35 am
@dagmaraka,
Interesting.

I think it also matters how the forgiveness is expressed -- what the forgiveness means.
0 Replies
 
dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:35 am
@Joe Nation,
Another quote: “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

Evil or Very Mad why is it "stupid" not to forgive?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:41 am
@dagmaraka,
And why is it stupid to remember?

I do think that holding on to a grudge for a long time, nursing it, inflating it, making it a touchstone for your life, can be a bad thing, especially if the cause of the grudge was not actually that big of a deal.

But then I also think that there are genuine wrongs that shouldn't be forgiven or forgotten.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:43 am
@sozobe,
I guess it matters too which perspective we're talking about.

I think it can be healthier for the person/entity in the position to forgive or not to go ahead and forgive. Let it go. Move on.

But I think that this forgiveness has to be natural/ organic, something the forgiver wants to do. I don't think it can be compelled in any way from the person/entity in the position to be forgiven, and that it is very much a privilege, not a right. If a person/entity does something wrong, and is not forgiven, so be it. That's the consequence of doing something wrong.
0 Replies
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:43 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

There are those who thrive on people who will forgive them, because they take that as evidence that they are free to commit their transgressions again.


I was thinking this very thing when reading Dag's OP.

However, that is the problem of the forgiven person, not the forgiver.

It I forgive someone, and they take that as permission to do it again, they would soon find out they are wrong.

In a way, I am going through this with someone right now. This person is on the cusp, I believe, of repeating their transgression. However, when s/he tries to do so, s/he will be surprised to find the door they would have used now has a crossbar lock on the other side.
0 Replies
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:47 am
@dagmaraka,
dagmaraka wrote:

Another quote: “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

Evil or Very Mad why is it "stupid" not to forgive?


Perhaps because one must deal with that person in the future.

If that person hasn't been forgiven, it would prejudice me in my dealings with them, assuming they would do it again.

If I forgive, but don't forget, I can deal with them, knowing safeguards are in place.
dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:52 am
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:

And why is it stupid to remember?

I do think that holding on to a grudge for a long time, nursing it, inflating it, making it a touchstone for your life, can be a bad thing, especially if the cause of the grudge was not actually that big of a deal.

But then I also think that there are genuine wrongs that shouldn't be forgiven or forgotten.


fully agree.

chai, i also agree that forgiving is this one way, personal, internal thing. once i asked this indian student if he doesn't care what people think of him (he said he always trusts people and chooses to think the best of them, doesn't believe in retribution etc...). He said no, that he prefers to look stupid and know inside that he has done the right thing.

i'm a bloody pragmatic realist, but i kinda liked what he said. don't think i can implement it fully in my life, but i like the sentiment.
0 Replies
 
dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 09:54 am
@chai2,
chai2 wrote:

dagmaraka wrote:

Another quote: “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

Evil or Very Mad why is it "stupid" not to forgive?


Perhaps because one must deal with that person in the future.

If that person hasn't been forgiven, it would prejudice me in my dealings with them, assuming they would do it again.

If I forgive, but don't forget, I can deal with them, knowing safeguards are in place.


this i can fully sign under. but it's not universal, i don't think.i do believe some things simply should not be forgiven.... i am so not a fan of these sweeping quotes on some 'universal moral truths'.
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 10:27 am
@dagmaraka,
Oh!

Well there are certainly things that are unforgivable.

I agree, it's silly to make some universal statement like that.

However, when it is something that can be forgiven, one still shouldn't forget.

I'll amend this by saying I'm not talking about piddly little things. Things that are readily forgetable.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 10:35 am
@Setanta,
Whenever you find yourself in a snit
or feel a profound funk coming on,
think of others before you quit
this confederation of dunces upon
whom we depend for our daily quota
of terrible angst and chagrin.
Think carefully of whether you oughta
give us another chance---again.

BBB
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  3  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 11:23 am
I have been thinking about the community forgiveness idea. It seems that, by and large, the English have forgiven the Irish for the bombings of the 1970s and -80s (for which, of course, the Irish as a whole were not responsible). On the other hand, the Irish have forgiven the English for eight hundred years of often brutal repression. But the whole situation is complicated by individual attitudes. There are members of the PIRA and other extremist republican groups who probably don't give that a thought, and would just consider it a sign of weakness if they did. And there are members of the UDF (Ulster Defense Force, an extremist right-wing loyalist Protestant paramilitary) who feel the same way about the majority of the Irish--while calling themselves Irish. So forgiveness by communities can be very problematic.

During the wars in the former Yugoslavia, Karadžić referred to the Bosnians as Turks--which was very clever because the centuries old resentments of many Serbs kicked in on that propaganda ploy. Many, many Serbs continue to harbor resentments, and the Turks themselves are no longer a reasonable target for their resentment. The right-wing nationalist movement in Serbia, recently successful in parliamentary elections, continues to nuture this resentment--there's been no forgive and forget there, almost two centuries after the Turks were driven out. (Prince Eugene of Savoy decisively defeated the Turks at Belgrade in 1717, and drove them out of most of what is now Serbia by 1718.)

I would find this incredible, were i not so familiar with Irishmen who harbor the same kind of grudges against the English. However, among the Irish they're a kind of benignly tolerated lunatic fringe, and among the Serbs people with such attitudes command a good deal of political power.

Finally, although the English and the Irish are largely reconciled, there continues to be a wide-spread undercurrent of racist contempt among the English for all the Kelts, and the Irish in particular. Casual anti-Irish attitudes are clearly evident in great English writers from Dickens to Galsworthy. I can't speak to those sorts of attitudes among the Serbs, not being conversant with their literature.

Forgiveness and resentment are entirely different things when considered in the aggregate of communities.
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 11:35 am
@Setanta,
So true. What would you say about Israel and the Palestinian and the Sunnis and Shiites?

What about Aboriginal tribes and colonialists throughout the planet?

I think much of the violent conflics today is the delayed reaction to colonial movements in the past.

BBB
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 11:41 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Sunnis and Shi'ites are on either side of a doctrinal divide--it's not a legacy of accusations and grudges. If anyone forgives anyone else in Palestine, it will have to be the Palestinians forgiving the Israelis. I'd say that most aboriginal people in our day and age have almost made a profession out of retailing their resentments against the former colonialists--and there's a cottage industry in revionist history to support it.
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 11:44 am
In my personal life, I've always considered forgiveness to be something that is for the forgiver, not for the forgiven. I can't imagine asking for it as the transgressor. Apologizing, maybe, but not asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness, for me, has always been a precursor to letting go of something or someone. The act of forgiveness has allowed me to give that burden back to the person who hurt me, if they ever carried it.

At a community level, I'm just not sure how it applies. I like the idea of using of acknowledgment, though not in place of an apology but rather in place of forgiveness. As in "we acknowledge your apology".
 

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