The Meaning of ForgivenessPosted: June 25, 2015
Verb (used with object), forgave, forgiven, forgiving.
- To grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
- To give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
What does it mean to forgive someone? Granting a pardon doesn’t mention anything about how one should feel.
- Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.
In this Wikipedia definition there is an offender and a victim. That’s very interesting that in order to forgive someone, you would have to acknowledge yourself as a victim. The process is also described as intentional and voluntary. That would suggest that forgiveness takes a conscious effort and only happens when one takes that leap knowingly. But how do we know when we’ve truly forgiven someone? Sure you can let go of vengefulness and wish your offender well, but what if you’re not the victim?
If you are a Cleveland Cavalier fan mildly affected by LeBron James’ decision to go to Miami years ago, is it called forgiveness when you welcomed him back?
Has LeBron forgiven the team’s owner for his hateful letter, or the fans that burned his jerseys? There was probably no real forgiveness going on because both the fans and LeBron’s emotional investment is based on an outcome over anything else. A championship is what most fans and players desire. Winning cures all is the catch phrase.
Does that count in relationships when a parent and adult child no longer see eye to eye? Does winning matter when two grownup siblings have a falling out that can’t be easily resolved? There is no championship to win. When two people decide that their own point and opinion on a certain matter is grander than being understanding of another person’s view, they get stuck at a crossroad. Forgiveness most likely cannot exist when both offenders feel as though they are victims. Isn’t that what happens in courtrooms everyday? A plaintiff sues a defendant and sometimes the defendant counter sues or they simply have their opposing argument ready that says they are not guilty.
What happens when you forgive, but you don’t forget? If you’ve had a supposedly committed lover step out on you and you ended the relationship…but then you got back with that person, have you forgotten what happened? It is possible that you didn’t. Or it’s highly likely that you were both offenders in different ways. Someone’s neglect or disinterest led to another scenario that called for action, and all of a sudden pain ensued for all parties involved. There is the pain that comes from a broken heart and there is also a non-physical torment that can inhabit one’s soul.
When I received the news that a man walked into a prayer meeting at a church and sat with men and women for over an hour before killing them, I was sorrowful. I thought about the families of these people, about my own family and their safety when going into a place of worship, and I thought about the offender. The offender here is clear.
The media will distort the shooter’s motivation because they fear a race war. I understand that. His racial privilege will afford him rights that others would not have if this were a man of color launching an attack on Caucasian human beings. But more importantly, he claimed he almost didn’t go through with it. It reminded me of the movie Higher Learning’s character Remy, who was pushed by his Skinhead cohorts to do something he may have had in his heart, but didn’t know was there.
We are led to believe that Dylann Roof acted as a “lone wolf” and his hatred for a particular group of people was so strong that he wanted to rip out the core of our hearts. He wanted to send a message that black people are lower forms of the species and do not deserve to breathe the same air as his people. He also wanted to live and deal with the repercussions, see the faces of the victims’ families and consume himself with the afterthoughts of why he did what he did. These are all my assumptions since I never spoke to the man, nor can I grasp his disdain for a race of people.
His victims have now become everyone that is moved by the story. The relatives and friends of every person that lost their life that evening are now victims. Each black individual that has ever gone to or will be attending a church is now a victim. Can you forgive him?
If someone takes the life of your loved one on purpose or accidentally, do you have it in your heart to wish him or her well, or to empathize? If a hospital performs malpractice and it results in death can you understand that mistakes happen? If someone’s hatred is so deep that they cannot help but destroy the future dreams and hopes of another individual by ending their time on earth, how do you accept that, wish them well, and pray that God shows them remorse for their sin, no matter how large the perceived impact of the sin?
Every time I’ve forgiven someone, I have empathized with their motive, forgotten what the pain inflicted upon me felt like, or most importantly, I could no longer identify with who I was when I was victimizing myself.
To me, that is what forgiveness provides. It is a chance for our souls to grow. At the time we experience the initial hurt, it always seems like the worst moment in the world. Time stands still, there’s a hole in your heart, and for some reason it won’t go away. But true forgiveness happens when you evolve higher than the being you used to be when you were affected by whatever occurred. It doesn’t mean you forgot, it doesn’t even mean that the pain no longer exists, but it means that you are not the same individual you were when a college lover broke your heart. It means you have elevated yourself above the earthly motives of a relative that cursed you out, or a friend that owes you money, or a person that ended a life of someone you love. What they did is what they did. And your soul has grown so much that forgiveness is not a by-product or some laboring task that you need to do in order to gain entry into Heaven and feel like a saint…but it has now transformed into something deeper…gratitude.