Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Hypocrisy of Forgiveness

It's easy to preach forgiveness when you're the offender; not so much when you're the offended . . .

Now, don't misunderstand me, forgiveness is an integral quality for a healthy life. It is indespensible in relationships with our fellow man as well as with God.

But, in my considerable ministerial experience, I've seen forgiveness applied with both hypocrisy and cruelty. How?

It goes something like this:

You realize you've offended someone. You apologize and then (humbly) demand that they forgive you. Sometimes you don't even have to apologize - you just stress the fact that they need to forgive even if there is no apology forthcoming (it's helpful if you're able to do this from a position of power, like a pulpit).

If there's still no discernible forgiveness on the part of the offended party, it's time to pull out the big guns. Scare them into submission by belaboring the point that God is on your side, and if they don't forgive you, He won't forgive them. If you're crafty, you can make this threat ambiguous enough so that they aren't sure if you're saying they will lose their salvation, or just be afflicted with some sort of malady that will make them a little less comfortable - like gout, or or a hellacious case of gas.

You can then rest easily, knowing that the person you have wronged has been properly warned against holding any kind of grudge against you. Furthermore, any retaliative action on their part will be further confirmation of their lack of forgiveness, and will get them in even deeper trouble with God, who - as has been previously stated - is on your side.

Now, put the shoe on a horse of a different gander (or something like that). You're the one who has been horribly offended. I mean, some low-life slob has debased himself and sunk to an all-time low in an attempt to hurt you.

And it did hurt, too.

And let's say, for kicks and giggles, that the offender has offered a public, heartfelt apology.

What do you do? Do you forgive and forget? Or do you launch a campaign of your own to further sully the scum's name and ostracise him or her?

I've been on both sides of this debate, and I can tell you - it ain't easy. At times I've responded well, and at times I've failed miserably.

How aboout you?

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