Today in my e-mail, I noticed on a Science and Religion newmail that research had been done on forgiveness. It talked about how there was a decision making process to forgive before one could experience the emotional feeling and health benefits. It also covered various ways forgiveness is manifested toward self, other and God. (Apologies to the one who did the research, but it seems like a overly simplistic view on forgiveness, although I understand that the newsmail could not ever cover all of the information that the researcher uncovered or evaluated. I am only responding to what was stated.)
Forgiveness cannot be demanded by another, (this was affirmed in this newsmail ), as forgiveness was an experience of offering, seeking and reconciling. Forgiveness is not something that is sought for any other reason than the relationship, otherwise, it is predatory. So, reconcilliation is not possible in all circumstances.
I have qualms about certain aspects of generalized suppositions about forgiveness and reconcilliation. Although I can forgive my rapist, I will not trust him and until he has spent time building that trust (that is, if he wants a relationship to me), then, I would be foolish to pursue any type of relationship. So, forgiveness does not mean reconcillation, or that the relationship will be restored. In fact, unhealthy relationships are numerous because of forgiveness being absolutized as the epitome of character, while dismissing the offenses of the predator. Forgiveness can only happen in these situations when the offended feels "safe".
Forgiveness can only be offered to those we trust, so the offender cannot manipulate or demand it from us. Why is this so? Forgiveness means that someone has been wronged and if the offender does not recognize his offence, then, he does not recognize the damage. The offender cannot seek forgiveness for something he has no recognition of. This is when it is necessary to work through the issues, but allow the other "to be". Do not try to have a relationship with such persons, as it is an excercise in futility. Some people will not have the capacity to understand how you understood or took their offending behavior. And others don't care, because they don't value the relationship to you. Move on. Do not think that it is you fault. Many predators love to manipulate their prey into responding out of guilt.
I believe that the Christian community, as a whole, has an unhealthy view of forgiveness. Forgiveness means that there is no consequence in or to the relationship. I believe that relationship is only granted to those who value the person enough to want to make amends. But, the people involved must determine how that will be worked out. Sometimes outsiders mean well, but can exasperate the problem and make one or ther other feel defensive and unsafe. This will never breed an environment of acceptance.
If the relationship has gotten to the 'point of no return", then there are legal ways to rectify the injustice. Divorce is always an option for the victims of damage and devastation. There is no need to put youself or you children or others you love into harm's way.
Today's world is filled with the need for countries and people to be "reconcilled". This term rolls off the tongue of evangelicals without understanding the full implication or impact of what they are saying. The greviances are deep and historical. There is no simple solution in asking for forgiveness, turning the other cheek or making a decision to rectify the situation. Both or all parties involved have to be reconcilled. And in the world of politics there are many duplicities, and inconsistancies to count, much less to rectify. Forgiveness must be a personal term, while reconcilliation is an "ideal" and imaginary one.
Peace is an "ideal" that will never come as long as "God" is useful to justify actions that disadvantage, dominate, and demean another, while seeking promotion for oneself. And I really wonder, since all of us are so short-sighted and limited in our understanding if peace is even a value that can be held realistically in this world.
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