Resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other guy to die. Dan Kennedy
The term is coming to an end and Anzac Day and Easter will round off the term’s events. The themes of Anzac Day are sacrifice, patriotism and courage; Easter marks the season of forgiveness and fortitude; and of rebirth – the victory of life over death.
In considering forgiveness it occurred to me that in some ways it is the hardest of the virtues. This is because we are only called upon to forgive when someone has done something mean or negligent to us or to our loved ones, and we (or they) have suffered a hurt. We then feel hard done by and resentful (hence the quotation which heads up this message). This is not an emotional state in which we are naturally inclined to find a well-spring of compassion, empathy and all-encompassing love for the perpetrator of the hurt.
Making it even worse, there is a mistaken notion that if we forgive a wrongdoer they will be let off the hook, they will get away with it, and we will be a door mat to be walked over and stepped on.
There are three points to be made here:
First, Jesus said: Forgive them for they know not what they do. It is unusual that our doer of harm has some evil plan to bring us down. It is usually inadvertence rather than malevolence which caused them to do wrong; and if they actually are consciously bent on inflicting pain and injury, then they are in an even worse position of weakness and sickness.
Second, forgiveness is about us. It is a means of achieving healing and wholeness, peace and healthfulness for ourselves, and only secondarily is it about the wrongdoer.
Third, if someone has indeed inflicted pain or has otherwise acted unfairly, they need to receive justice. Like a sick man needs medicine; a drowning man needs resuscitation, or a crippled man needs therapy; so an evil man needs rigorous justice. And if forgiveness means that justice is dispensed rigorously, but with care and understanding and compassion, it is so much more effective.