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Janet Smith

More on Unprincipled Forgiveness

Jul. 22 at 10:14pm

Katie van Shaijik understands us to have very different positions on the relationship between forgiveness and justice.  I am still not clear what the nature of those differences are (and hope the discussion below will smoke those out). 

Proper Focus

Katie also thinks that I have shifted the focus from what she wanted to focus on.  I think it fair to say that what she wants to focus on is the incompatibility of “unprincipled forgiveness” with Christianity.  She says I have shifted the conversation to “the subjectivity of the offended party and the need for her to forgive, or "stay in friendly relations", etc.”  Katie, of course, is not saying that such is not an important topic but for her it seems that to shift the focus to such is to steer too close to the shore of promoting unprincipled forgiveness and focusing on what the victim needs to do in respect to the movements of her own heart rather than what the victim must demand from the wrongdoer.  

Katie expressed earlier some chagrin at seeking a definition of various terms (for that is not quite a personalist concern).  I, as a good Aristotelian/Thomist, am thrilled at the attempt to find tight and clear definitions, yet I also appreciate the personalist project of trying to focus on the subjectivity of agents.  Personalists are extremely interested in subjectivity and in the interior state of agents.  And that is what makes personalism such a great fit for Christianity.  Christians are to be much more concerned about the quality of our interior states than about the exterior actions (these are not unimportant, of course) or even the interior actions of others (I am not saying Katie disagrees with this.)   If any subject merits attention to the subjectivity of the agent, surely forgiveness does.  “To forgive in an unprincipled way” is what an agent does; we need to probe the agent’s subjectivity to determine the right way to forgive.  One cannot understand the privation without understand the reality itself.  I don’t think it is taking the conversation too far afield to focus on what should be the subjective state of a victim (I am not saying there is only one correct subjective state but there is likely a feature or several that are true of all of those who truly forgive – for instance, banishing all anger from one’s heart directed towards the wrongdoer, praying for the conversion of the wrongdoer, and being willing to be reconciled at least to some extent should the wrongdoer fully repent).  I think that will lead us a long way to understanding what true forgiveness is and what unprincipled forgiveness is.

Original Text

I will take Katie up on her invitation to back up a little on this conversation.  At the beginning of this discussion Katie cited a text by Kevin Myers and said it is plainly true.

Now contrary to what those creepy moral apologists for the IRA insist, Christian teaching does not demand that one forgives one’s uncontrite assailant as one forgives the repentant ones. The entire sacrament of absolution depends on unconditional repentance and a “firm purpose of amendment”, namely, an intent never to repeat the sin. It is clearly absurd to treat the unrepentant and the repentant equally. To forgive all unconditionally is to indulge an unprincipled sanctimony that liberates offenders from whatever remains of their consciences. Such “forgiveness” — whatever that term may actually mean — thereby makes more murder more possible. Why would anyone cease to kill if the bereaved repeatedly exonerate those who bereave? 

I think the above is plainly contrary to Christianity, so maybe there are great differences between Katie and myself.  (Still, Katie and I may not be disagreeing because we may be understanding Myers’ claims differently or emphasizing different portions.) 

Myers, like Katie, seems to have encountered many Christians who think forgiveness is easy and that it means abandoning all attempts at seeking justice and means that the victim needs immediately to resume prior or some kind of “normal” relationships with the wrongdoer.  These people press the victim to extend forgiveness, to ignore their own hurt, to accept blame where there is none  and to “move on” without having really processed the experience.  I agree that those who think forgiveness involves the above are wrong to think so.  What happened in the Legion as reported by Katie seems to be a good example of such false thinking. The Legion was sadly very bad at helping those who belonged to become full human beings and to some extent that was because they focused on externals rather than on interiority.  Its pressure on members to “forgive” does seem to be driven by a desire to restore the Legion rather than to minister to the members of the Legion and affiliates.  Yet, I suspect the flaw in the Legion’s practice had little enough to do with a faulty understanding of the dynamics of true forgiveness.  It was more a matter of being willing to sacrifice individuals’ spiritual and moral maturation to the ambitions of the order.

Yet while he may be right about some wrong ways of practicing forgiveness, the way that Myers expresses his contempt for such thinking utilizes false principles that can be as dangerous as or more so than the unprincipled forgiveness he disdains.

Certainly there is a sense in which one does not forgive one’s uncontrite assailants AS one forgives the repentant ones. It depends a lot on the meaning of “as.” Certainly it is easier to forgive the contrite and wrongdoers should certainly be contrite and make things easier for the wronged.  But we must forgive whether or not contrition exists. I think that has been established many times in this discussion.  As has been established as well, contrition does not remove the need for making restitution, for justice being sought and done. 

I will argue more fully below that sometimes it is right to “reconcile” when there has been no contrition and no restitution.  (By “reconcile” I mean the willingness to be in some kind of harmonious relationship with the wrongdoer, which may not mean being in any kind of close contact.) The contrition and restitution may follow or may not follow but the reasons for “reconciliation” trump the need for immediate contrition and restitution.  Many horrible feuds and wars have been put to an end without contrition being expressed or restitution being made.  Many family troubles have been overcome by putting aside the need for contrition and restitution. (Though there are certainly times when it is not right to reconcile without contrition and restitution.)  Sometimes contrition and restitution have followed but sometimes not but the peace that was purchased by the reconciliation was worth suspending the need for contrition and restitution.  (I put “reconciliation” in quotation marks because I do not think “reconcilations” without contrition and restitution are equivalent to those with contrition and restitution but there are commonalities, such as the willingness to be in relationship of some kind.)

Back to Myer’s text.  I don’t think the principles as articulated above are even considered to be the right principles for the confessional let alone for personal relationships.  I think priests rightly look for some sign of some repentance and some sign of intention to amend. They do not require, nor should they, that the penitent manifest “unconditional repentance”.   Just as parents accept a “sooooorry” from a misbehaving child, I think God does pretty much the same for us.  He is looking for some sign of repentance and is ready to jump in to help us experience his loving embrace as soon as we give him the slightest opening.  This does not mean we don’t need to work towards fuller contrition or do penance or make restitution. It doesn’t mean we have been fully reconciled. But any sign of change of heart goes a long way.

As far as the “intent” never to repeat the sin, most of us have moral certitude that we will sin again and often in pretty much exactly the same way as before.  Yes, we can have a firm intent not to sin and the desire not to sin but we almost certainly will. Kevin Meyers may agree with this but the way he states his views makes God seem fierce and exacting.  I don’t think that is compatible with Jesus’ “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” Perhaps Jesus saw into the adulterous woman’s heart and saw full contrition and firm resolve, but I don’t think his words were conditional on those realities.  I am not suggesting that God the Father or Jesus are indifferent to justice; Jesus' death paid the price for all and justice is done.  To what extent we continue to need to pay the price is a terrific theological question, one beyond this discussion, I hope…

I think it is absurd to say that “To forgive all unconditionally is to indulge an unprincipled sanctimony that liberates offenders from whatever remains of their consciences.”  Or that forgiving unconditionally makes crime more possible.  Certainly it depends upon what “unconditionally” means.  If it means that one does not seek justice it is often wrong to forgive “unconditionally” but if it means “I will hold no anger against you in my heart; I will pray for your conversion”, one should always forgive unconditionally.  This in no way will liberate offenders from whatever remains of their consciences.  Myers seems to judge the value of the forgiveness of the victim by whether or not it prevents the wrongdoer from continuing doing wrong. That is surely a false measure. 

Again, there is a difference between an interior act and reconciliation, as many have noted.  I can’t keep all the former posts in mind, but again, interior acts of forgiveness do not lead to crimes by others because they are not in the least incompatible with seeking that the wrongdoer face the full consequences of his/her actions.

At the conclusion of his article, Myers reports on a dying man who forgave the individuals who killed his daughter, dying beside him.  He believes that act did little good because the atrocities continued.  He puts the blame in part on priests and others who called for “unprincipled forgiveness” and accuses them of “psychologically enabling” perpetrators of injustice.  I personally find such an assessment implausible.  If priests and others called for “unprincipled forgiveness” I suspect it harmed those who prematurely offered forgiveness (by prematurely, I mean without sufficient understanding of what forgiveness entails and means) but I doubt it did little to encourage wrongdoing.   And it may have had the salutary effect of keeping those who prematurely forgave from engaging in retaliatory acts (that doesn’t justify advancing a false view, of course). 

I wonder what those who have counseled unprincipled forgiveness would need to do to merit Myer’s forgiveness.  He is terribly hard on those who are likely not subjectively guilty of having a false view of forgiveness.  (I forgive Myers for his harshness, J)

The Cheating Husband

Now let me turn to Katie’s latest example of her thinking, the example of the cheating husband. She states:

Your sense of justice in this context is different from mine. 

Take a concrete case.  Suppose my husband cheats on me and lies about it. I find proof and confront him with it.

He owes me, in justice, first, the truth ("yes, I did it; I wronged you profoundly"), then sincere contrition, firm purpose never to do it again, and amends, i.e. real efforts toward reestablishing the love and trust he lost.

In requiring these of my husband, I am in no way setting myself up as his "formator".  I'm not "punishing" him; I'm not "making him pay" (in the "eye for an eye" sense); I'm not being harsh or self-righteous.  I am loving him truly; I am being faithful to marriage; and I am defending my own dignity.

I'm also probably just trying to come to terms with the painful and overwhelming earthquake that has just occured in my life.  

If he withholds these things from me, say, by lying or downplaying what he did, then it's not my "unforgiveness", but his unrepented act that ruin the marriage.

Katie states that she thinks this example will show that my sense of justice is different from hers.  I am not certain that it shows that.  I am not saying that Katie would disagree with what I am about to write. I am not attributing any views to her. I am setting out my own.

When a Christian wife discovers that her husband has cheated on her, just as any wife, she will suffer terribly from the wrong of having been betrayed, from anger at the hurt and confusion that she feels; if there are children involved, she will suffer at the thought of their emotional pain and the effects it will have on them as well as on extended family, friends, etc. She will fear that she may lose her husband; she will fear that she is incapable of forgiving and living with him.  She will be tempted to make her hurt and her sense of injustice the center of the conversations between them and to demand that he grovel and beg for forgiveness.  She may be tempted to think he was unfaithful with the intent to hurt her.  She may think he must have known how much it would hurt her and that he didn’t care about that hurt.  That fact that what he has done is objectively wrong may seem to her to be sufficient to show that he is completely in the wrong and that he is the one who must make amends.  She may be unwilling to consider whether she contributed in any way to the conditions that prompted the infidelity; she may be unwilling to understand what other things in his life led him to be unfaithful.  (I am not saying that anything can excuse infidelity but much might explain it.)

A good Christian man will likely be very confused about what he did and terribly ashamed and likely even very remorseful.  Reconciliation there may not be so difficult, preserving his self-esteem and dignity might.  

Even if the wife is totally innocent and the husband is just a horrible person who thinks only of himself, a complete narcissist, for her to make her hurt the focus of the initial conversations may not be wise and may not advance the ultimate goal of reconciliation.  The narcissist will, by definition, have a hard time understanding that his actions impact another. A woman married to a narcissist will find it difficult if not impossible to get him to make admissions of wrongdoing or strive to make amends.  She will have much praying and sacrificing to do for him.  She may decide it best to remain married to him for the sake of others.  No one would consider that a true reconciliation but some might admire her sacrifice, especially if she could retain her dignity in doing so (I think it possible to do so.)

Among the many responses of the mature Christian wife will be sorrow for her husband and worry about him. 

She knows that responding with anger and a demand for restitution is not likely to advance the cause of reconciliation. Rather she will pray to understand what happened and what she can do to advance the cause of reconciliation.  Her foremost goal will not be justice (though justice is important and will be part of what she seeks); rather her goal is reconciliation and yes true reconciliation (which involves contrition and amends on the part of the husband) but seeking justice will likely not be her first concern.   

She will try to learn what has happened that has led her husband to cheat.  He is now in a serious state of sin and has endangered his salvation, his happiness, and the well-being of his family.  What led him to do so?  Is he unhappy in the marriage?  Why?  Can she do something? It may be that the wife is not at all at fault but the husband is immature and selfish and at a point in his life where he wanted to prove his masculinity and attractiveness.  Whether his wife is quite guilty for contributing to his reasons for betrayal or not at all, she will still want the same thing: reconciliation.  If she is able to respond with forgiveness (I will not be angry at you.  I will pray for your conversion and ((in this case)) I will do everything I can to facilitate reconciliation.),  she will have a good start for achieving reconciliation.  "Doing everything" will surely not include downplaying the seriousness of what has happened, her hurt, fears, etc.  But it does mean that since the wife has made a pledge to love this man for better or worse, she needs to dig down and ponder what it means to truly love him when he has been unfaithful (prayerfully reading the book of Hosea may help; mediating on the crucifixion of Christ surely will).  Again, she should certainly not overlook his infidelity nor be willing to tolerate his continuing infidelity (though there may be future infidelities and none need lead to a complete break) but should work towards reconciliation while fully retaining her dignity.  She may have to settle for less than full satisfaction about the truth and about amends but may be willing to do so for the sake of the children, etc.  

I agree with Katie, that the wife who wants the truth and her husband to assure her of future fidelity is not her husband’s “formator” nor is she being self-righteous or harsh to want the truth and amends to be made.  Nor do I think that what she is doing is rightly portrayed as punishment (but his needing to sleep in a separate room or bed for a while will certainly be perceived as such, J).   

I don’t know if Katie agrees that forgiveness should not be contingent on his being truthful, on his contrition and firm purpose not to do it again or on his attempting to make amends. Reconciliation may require some or all of those but forgiveness should not.  I don’t know if Kate agrees that a reconciliation without full justice is sometimes (perhaps often) a good and worthy goal and that it does not necessarily demean the victim to be satisfied with less than full justice.

We need to explore further the priority that should be given to demanding contrition and amends before reconciliation.  Consider this situation (a real one and not so unusual).  Someone stole a considerable amount of money from a grandmother.  A family member approached with great sensitivity (“I have no reason to suspect your children) the parents of grandchildren (from several families) who had access to the money during the time it was stolen with the request that the parents ask their children if they had any knowledge of the whereabouts of the money.  One family member took huge offense at the implication that one of the children might have stolen the money and said very unkind and unfair things to the person trying to learn who stole the money.  Later it was discovered that two of the children are in fact guilty of serious theft, but the person who took offense has not acknowledged to the investigating family member that his concerns were legitimate.  At this point to press the person who took offense to recognize the truth, to show contrition and make amends would not be conducive to harmonious family relationships. The investigating person is willing to shrug off the injustice.  True, those two individuals will not have a close relationship but for the sake of the family, seeking justice is not wise.

Complete Honesty from Friends

Finally, this statement needs a response and some elaboration: Katie says: “I demand honesty from my friends--not because I think it's my job to make them honest, but because I think there can't be real friendship without honesty.  I don't trust people who prove dishonest.”

The phenomenologist would want to explore the many kinds of honesty there are and which of them must be demanded in friendship.  “Demanding honesty” is not a phrase I would use in respect to my friendships.  I very much appreciate it when my friends tell me honestly what they think about my behavior when it is bad especially when they do so lovingly and kindly (which they generally do). I also appreciate it when they don’t speak bluntly or honestly to me about their views of some of my bad behavior, especially if they think such speech would do no good and might harm the friendship.  Those are the truths and silences about truth that are most important in friendship, I would guess.

I had one friend who was a habitual liar; about why she was late, about why she forgot an appointment and about all sorts of things if she thought it would get her out of trouble or get me to do something she wanted me to do.  I called her gently several times on her lies but largely learned to live with them.  She was very kind and cared a great deal about me but wasn’t corrigible in this respect, at least under my “direction.”  Yes, the friendship did not have the ultimately secure foundation that true friendships should have, but I discovered that settling for something less than the ultimate is often still pretty darn good.


 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet, thank you for this!

Before I'm done reading it, I want to offer a few points of clarification regarding the first part, at the risk of sounding pedantic.

1.  It is my training in phenomenology (not personalism) that makes me shy of definitions.  Realist phenomenologists set themselves against a common problem in philosophy: viz, that it begins to be about concepts, rather than things themselves.  This can lead to error and unreality, since things are almost invariably much fuller and richer than the concepts we form of them for the sake of convenience in discussion.  But I don't oppose definitions absolutely.  Often they're very helpful--especially in cases of miscommunication.

2. I balk a little at the description of personalism as being "extremely interested in interior statess," not because it isn't, (it is!) but because this description tends toward a too-subjectivistic understanding of what personalism is about.  It's not "about" "subjective states", but "subjectivity," if you follow me.  It's about the objective reality that human persons are beings with interiority; free and self-determining, embodied moral agents, who live in relation to objective reality, most importantly the reality of other persons.

#1 - Jul. 23 at 10:20am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Another item for the "more precisely" column: (With Alice von Hildebrand as a daily companion in summers I'm mentally expressing it as she would: "I have a passion for precision.")

Rather than saying that my focus is in showing that "unprincipled forgiveness" is incompatible with Christianity, I would rather say that my interest is in uncovering the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness," which popularly masquerades as the Christian notion of forgiveness, and analyzing it in contrast with the full truth about forgiveness.

This way of saying it makes for a more philosophical than theological approach.  But perhaps I'm splitting hairs.

#2 - Jul. 23 at 10:30am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Maybe this will help explain the difference between my reading of Myers and yours: 

His attention is fixed on the objective situation, on stopping evil, on restoring justice and peace.

Your attention is focussed on comparing the "subjective state" of those wronged by violence to an ideal of Christian forgiveness. 

Myers' frustration is with Christian ministers to a community in violent conflict who, practically speaking, make it their sole mission to encourage victims to forgive according to a Christian ideal, when the "theme of the moment" should be putting an end to wrong and injustice and restoring peace.

This is the same pattern on display in the Legion scandals.  Victims of wrong cry out: "This is wrong!"  And they receive, in return, talks about "forgiveness", "serenity", etc.

I also see it, often, in interpersonal conflicts.  A wrong is done (we're speaking of serious matters).  Those wronged cry out and ask for justice.  They get, from the surrounding community, not justice, but "concern" about their "anger" and "bitterness".  They get lots of advice on the need to "forgive as Jesus forgave," and lots of reminders that "forgiveness is an act of the will."  

What they don't get is justice.

#3 - Jul. 23 at 11:07am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

They may say, in reply, "Look, I know about the gospel.  I too am a Christian, seeking holiness.  I know I have to find ways of forgiving, but give me a break here!  I'm reeling from a blow; I'm talking about a standing wrong.  Why do you show no interest in righting that wrong?  When it comes to the question of reconciliation, why do you show no interest in the need for the wrong-doer to repent? Where is justice?"

This, of course, deepens the concern on the part of those preaching and practicing "unprincipled forgiveness."  You are apparently very far gone in bitterness.  It's a shame.  You should know that forgiveness doesn't depend on repentance and contrition.  Look at the example of St. Steven.  Look at Immaculée.  "I'll pray for you."

I read in Myers not so much contempt as frustration and exasperation.

Sorry for hogging the thread again!  I should write a separate post.

#4 - Jul. 23 at 11:17am | quote

Janet Smith

Katie, I accept most of your precisions and the ones that I might nuance are not essential to the enterprise.  I don't have the time to work to get everything just precise for posts like this. In fact, soon I really must withdraw to attend to other work, so I am grateful for your emendations.  

We are in agreeement it seems on the wrongness of "unprincipled forgiveness."   though I am perhaps less frustrated and exasperated by it than Myers and yourself and more forgiving of them.  I think they are probably subjectively innocent for their holding a false view. Nor do I think they have much responsibility for enabling wrongdoers to continue wrongdoing.  And if one is going to err, I think it better to err on the side of forgiveness since it can prevent retaliation, grudge-holding, and be more conducive to eventual reconciliation.  But, of course, it is better not to err at all.

I don't know if we are in agreement on the extreme importance of forgiveness even without contrition and of the relative importance of imperfect reconciliation vis-a-vis achieving justice.  Your future posts will reveal that, I expect.

#5 - Jul. 23 at 11:48am | quote

 

cath2u

Forgiveness without contrition?  What's my forgiveness got to do with the other person's contrition?  In the school of real life, it's an act of the will (at least initially).  Thank you, Ms. Smith, for your wisdom.

#6 - Jul. 23 at 1:43pm | quote

 

Kate Whittaker Cousino

Thank you for this post, Dr. Smith. There's a lot to chew on, and I look forward to Katie's reply. :-) I do think that perhaps this needs to branch in to two different discussions - since the original critique of unprincipled forgiveness appears to be a critique aimed at the Christian community - so what *ought* to be the response of the community to a witnessed wrong or unreconciled relationship within the community? And secondly, what does the subjective experience of proper forgiveness look like when the wrongdoer is unrepentant or not fully repentant, or when complete truth and justice seem unlikely. 

#7 - Jul. 23 at 2:37pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Thanks, Kate.  You are right that at least one of my main interests in drawing attention to the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness" is the communal dimension.

In brief, when a wrong is done, the "job" of the offender is repentance and restitution; the job of the one offended is forgiveness; the job of the surrounding community is to restore justice. 

In cases where the offender is denying and/or covering up his wrong, the community does a terrible disservice when it sets aside the question of justice and focusses its attention on the problem of the victim's "lack of forgiveness".

And while it's true that a person can forgive a serious wrong even without repentance, it's also true that in the normal course of events, forgiveness follows repentance. Repentance for wrong is objectively called for.  

If we want to help one another accomplish the super-human task of forgiving serious injuries, the best thing we can do is address the injustice done to them.  If we instead ignore the injustice and pressure them to "forgive," we add to their burden.

#8 - Jul. 23 at 3:14pm | quote

Janet Smith

Thanks to cath2u and Kate C and Katie.  

I agree with this well stated summary for the most part:

.

In brief, when a wrong is done, the "job" of the offender is repentance and restitution; the job of the one offended is forgiveness; the job of the surrounding community is to restore justice. 

Though I think it is also the job of the surrounding community to comfort the victim, to help the victim achieve the ability to forgive, to try to convict the conscience of the wrongdoer, to put pressure on the wrongdoer to make amends.  Perhaps you mean all of that when you say "restore justice."

#9 - Jul. 23 at 5:12pm | quote

Janet Smith

I don't think this is true:

 

If we want to help one another accomplish the super-human task of forgiving serious injuries, the best thing we can do is address the injustice done to them.  If we instead ignore the injustice and pressure them to "forgive," we add to their burden.

The "super-human task" is one made possible by grace. Acknowledging the injustice and legitimate hurt, etc. is essential to be sure, but I know many instances where justice has been restored and there is no forgiveness and more instances where forgiveness has happened independently of justice being restored.  (Katie, could you give us a brief statement of what you mean by "justice restored. You may have already done so but I need a refresher.).  "Pressuring to forgive" doesn't sound like a good plan, but talking about the centrality of forgiveness to the Christian life, about Christ and his forgiveness and redemptive act, and praying and sacrificing for the victim I think are much more essential than addressing the injustice done to a victim.  For some harms, restoration of justice is impossible.  E.g., the dead cannot be brought back to life.  Whatever justice is done falls infinitely short of full restitution.  

#10 - Jul. 23 at 5:20pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet, I agree with you that the "super-human task" is made possible through grace.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  I can even move mountains, though moving mountains is not within my human power.  Forgiving serious injuries is likewise beyond my power.  

But I don't think "acknowledging the injustice and legitimate hurt," goes far enough. There are objective wrongs to be set right.  (Think for instance of the Gospel passage, "If I have wronged anyone, I will repay him fourfold.")  Sometimes they can't be set right.  In such cases, the establishment of the truth of what happened becomes even more important to the victim.

Desmund Tutu has a great book, No Future Without Forgiveness, that touches on this point.  The South-African victims of Apaartheid atrocities were "locked" in their victimhood, until the truth about what had happened to them was confessed by the perpetrators and established on the public record.  At that point, they were freed to forgive.  Many of them did so without hesitation and with great generosity.  They asked no further recompense.

#11 - Jul. 23 at 8:09pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

I don’t know if Katie agrees that forgiveness should not be contingent on his being truthful....

I don't think of forgiveness as something  I do so much as something I strive for.  It's, as I said, a super-human task.  Sort of like climbing Mt. Everest.  If God asks it of me, I know I can do it.  But I will need training and a support team and good equipment: oxygen tanks, etc.   If I'm deprived of those things, I will not say it's impossible, since "with God, nothing is impossible." If He is asking me to do it anyway, I will try, come what may, and trust Him.  But it won't be easy.  I may die in the attempt.

I don't see forgiveness as "an act of the will" anymore than climbing Mt. Everest is an act of the will.  I can't do it without willing it.  But will power alone won't get me there.  I will need divine grace, and the help of others.

What I don't need is people reprimanding me for not being at the peak already—especially the people who have stolen my equipment and broken my legs.

I exaggerate, of course, to make my point.

#12 - Jul. 23 at 8:26pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

If a wife is betrayed by her husband, especially if the love between them had been real and strong, forgiving him will be a hard struggle.  His acknowledging his guilt would make it less hard, especially if his contrition is manifestly deep and sincere.

If he denies his guilt, though; if he says, "It was no big deal, get over it," it will be much harder.  Her task will be complicated with concern for his soul and with doubts about the viability of the marriage.  She will have all kinds of worries and considerations regarding her children.  Is it better to stay married, even in this horrible situation, for their sake?  Or does separating from him offer the best hope of his recognizing his fault and being restored to the family?

Her task will be complicated further if the surrounding community blames her for being too demanding and unreasonable and idealistic.  "After all, all men cheat."

#13 - Jul. 23 at 8:46pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

About honesty and friendship:

The term "demand" lends itself to a harsh and uncompromising interpretation that isn't what I mean.

I hope it's not necessary to say that I don't demand absolute honesty from friends.  I don't demand perfection from friends, since I want to have some.

And of course there are depths and levels of friendship.  I can have superficial friendships with many.  

I had meant to refer to deep friendship and close confidants.  

#14 - Jul. 23 at 9:11pm | quote

Janet Smith

Katie, I don't know why you say: 

Instead of "if" do you mean "since"?  Are there times when God does not ask forgiveness of us?  When would that be?  Doesn't "as we forgive others" amount to a command: "Forgive others their trespasses".  "Love your enemies." Etc.  There is no contingency there that they must be contrite.

#15 - Jul. 23 at 10:04pm | quote

Janet Smith

I am losing track a bit.  Have you agreed that it is right, indeed essential, to forgive even if contrition has not been expressed and amends have not been made?  No matter how hard it is?  Not to do it by strength of will but to pray, pray, pray to receive the graces to do so?  Have you agreed that sometimes it is right to seek an imperfect reconciliation?

I am sorry if you have agreed to the above, but I have missed or forgotten it.  I hate to ask for straightforward yes or no answers because there are always nuances but I think we are awash in nuances and may not have secured the foundations.  So if you could provide yes or no answers, that would help me greatly. I don't want to keep seeking clarity about points about which we agree.

Is there anything you think essential to the conversation with which I have not yet indicated my agreement?

#16 - Jul. 23 at 10:09pm | quote

Janet Smith

One important distinction, I think.

Forgiveness is an act of the will -- what else could it be? It is not an act of the intellect (though proper understanding of many things is essential) or an emotion (though certain emotions will come into play)  or a physical sensation (there may be physical manifestations, usually express of agony when unable to forgive and expressive of peace after one forgives) but a choice.  Certainly in severe instances forgiveness cannot be done by strength of will but requires massive grace.  Immaculee surely received that grace.  Jesus promised us that grace.  Of course, it make take time for us to overcome the trauma created by the harm done especially if there is no contrition or justice has not been  achieved, and if the community does its job poorly, it will be difficult to seek and accept that grace.  But it is grace that strengthens the will and it is the will that chooses to forgive.  The peace that one will experience with true forgiveness (and with true repentance) is of inestimable value.

#17 - Jul. 23 at 10:41pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet Smith, Jul. 23 at 9:04pm

Instead of "if" do you mean "since"?  Are there times when God does not ask forgiveness of us?  When would that be?  Doesn't "as we forgive others" amount to a command: "Forgive others their trespasses".  "Love your enemies." Etc.  There is no contingency there that they must be contrite.

 I meant "if" only in reference to the Mt. Everest climb.  I agree (of course I do!) that God requires us to forgive, always, and that He promises to give us the grace to accomplish what He requires of us.

(I wouldn't attempt Mr. Everest, though, absent a very vivid and unmistakable personal interior call from God.)

The "contingency" I recognize in cases of serious injuries is that I do, in fact, depend on others--on the help of others--in my moral life.  My task of forgiving becomes, objectively, much harder and more complicated when others, instead of helping, are piling on burdens.  In other words, it's not a contingency I haughtily lay down.  It's imposed on me by others.  And it's not an "absolute contingency" in the sense that it absolves me of my responsibility, but only that it makes my task harder and more daunting.

#18 - Jul. 24 at 8:20am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet Smith, Jul. 23 at 9:09pm

I am losing track a bit.  Have you agreed that it is right, indeed essential, to forgive even if contrition has not been expressed and amends have not been made?  No matter how hard it is?

Yes, I agree with this.  The reason you may sense hesitation in me is because I so oppose the commonplace notion that "forgiveness is an act of the will."  It's not an act of the will; its a high achievement of grace and virtue.  It can't be done without my free cooperation, so it involves my will.  But I can't "make it happen" by willing it.  I can only beg God to accomplish it in me, and then collaborate with Him as best I can with His work in my soul.

Janet Smith, Jul. 23 at 9:09pm

 Have you agreed that sometimes it is right to seek an imperfect reconciliation?

I don't think I've taken up the point, mabye because I see it as too completely uncontroversial.  Does anyone think it isn't sometimes right to seek an imperfect reconciliation? 

#19 - Jul. 24 at 8:29am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet Smith, Jul. 23 at 9:41pm

One important distinction, I think.

Forgiveness is an act of the will -- what else could it be? 

 A gift.

#20 - Jul. 24 at 8:34am | quote

Janet Smith

Ok.  I think we are in substantial agreement on all the substantial matters. 

Unprincipled forgiveness is wrong and it is wrong to press people to engage in unprincipled forgiveness.

We should always forgive whether or not the offender is contrite or makes amends.

It is our will that makes the act of forgiveness but in difficult cases needs the gift of grace.

We agree on an abundance of other things, such as the need for others to support us and help seek justice, etc.

We may also agree on the wisdom of seeking imperfect reconciliation which I did not define but mean as reconciliation that is not accompanied by contrition or amends being made.

Thank you for the opportunity to get many things clear!

#21 - Jul. 24 at 9:07am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Is there anything you think essential to the conversation with which I have not yet indicated my agreement?

This is not easy to answer, since "agreement" is no simple concept in deep matters, as I'm sure you agree. :)

I know people who agree, for instance, that married couples should be generous in accepting children from God, but who, in practice, interpret the statement in ways that are almost opposed to each other.

Also, a person can assent to things he doesn't deeply "get". I agree that a desert is a hot place.  But I don't  know it like Laurence of Arabia knows it.

Those who have been the victims of serious, standing wrongs that are denied by the offender and "enabled" by the surrounding community, while victims are not only pressed on all sides to "forgive unconditionally, as Christ forgave," but falsely judged as "unforgiving" and blamed for their lack of Christianity because they stand for truth and justice (I'm thinking, for instance, of Maciel's accusers) know at a level most don't how real and serious a problem "unprincipled forgiveness" has become in our society.

As a friend put it: "You have to feel it in your own skin."

#22 - Jul. 24 at 10:33am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

By which, dear Janet, I do not mean to presume that you yourself have never had such experiences.  Only that I have met many who haven't and who find it very difficult, if not impossible, to enter sympathetically into the problem I am trying to address. They can't see it.  They have been too "trained" to repeat that "forgiveness is an act of the will," and to take it for granted that there is something illegitimate in a victim of wrong taking a stand for truth and justice and requiring true repentance as a condition for reconciliation.

We may also agree on the wisdom of seeking imperfect reconciliation ...that is not accompanied by contrition or amends being made.

In cases of serious wrong, there can be no reconciliation without contrition and amends, IMO.  

I know of a woman who was sexually abused by her father for years, while her mother protected him.  Later in life she had a deep conversion.  Though her parents never acknowledged the wrong they did her, she nursed them tenderly and faithfully through their last illnesses.

I call that heroic charity, not reconciliation.  I hope that (thanks to her charity) they are reconciled now.

#23 - Jul. 24 at 10:47am | quote

Janet Smith

I am surprised to hear you speak of "requiring true repentance as a condition of reconciliation."  Immaculee and as many others have achieved reconciliation without contrition and amends so it seems to me that sometimes it is achievable and desirable.  Again, many wars and feuds have come to an end because demands for contrition and amends have been suspended.

You are adept at making fine distinctions and I mean that as a compliment, for the most part, smile).  

Let me try one; I think the woman of whom you speak who nursed her father who sexually abused her and her mother who did not protect her, through heroic charity achieved an imperfect reconciliation with her parents, which would be made "perfect" (meaning, not beyond improvement but containing sufficiently the essentials of full reconciliation) were they to be contrite and attempt to make what amends could be made.  I think the minimum characteristic of reconciliation is the willingness to be in harmonious relation of some kind with the wrong doer; without contrition and amends the reconciliation is imperfect; full or perfect reconciliation, again, include contrition and amends.

#24 - Jul. 24 at 10:57am | quote

Janet Smith

I think it needs to be taken into account that demands for justice (which I am beginning to think in this context means contrition and amends) and refusal to accept imperfect reconciliation can stand in the way of achieving contrition and amends and full reconciliation.  I suspect the daughter who nursed her parents through her forgiveness and willingness to suspend demands for justice did much to advance her parents towards contrition and amends, likely much more than demanding justice could possibly do.

#25 - Jul. 24 at 11:00am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet Smith

Immaculee and as many others have achieved reconciliation without contrition and amends so it seems to me that sometimes it is achievable and desirable.  

 Yes, sometimes.  Just not always. 

Some Legionaires are convinced that the best thing they can do in the circumstances is remain with the order to repair it "from within."  Others leave the order on good terms, remaining friendly with it, etc.  Others are convinced that it is a scourge  that ought to be shut down.  They are making great sacrifices (including the sacrifice of being constantly called "bitter" and "vindictive") to try to get the full truth out and see justice done to the victims—including, especially, the justice of having the truth told—not only the truth of Maciel's crimes, but the truth about the way the leadership around him covered it up and enabled it, and the way his "habit" of lying and manipulating and distorting the gospel worked its way through the fabric of the order...

My point is that while our own sympathies may lie with one response or the other, we cannot say that any is objectively incompatible with the gospel, and therefore we ought not to judge it wrong.

#26 - Jul. 24 at 11:09am | quote

Janet Smith

Good. More agreement.

#27 - Jul. 24 at 11:22am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet Smith, Jul. 24 at 10:00am

I think it needs to be taken into account that demands for justice... and refusal to accept imperfect reconciliation can stand in the way of achieving contrition and amends and full reconciliation. 

If it comes from hard-heartedness, yes.  But likewise, a failure to "secure justice", when justice is our theme, can lead to the illusion of reconciliation and to the perpetuation of wrong.  "Dressing a wound as if it were not serious."

Let's look again at the case of that woman.  If we assume that her service to her parents was animated by true charity, then we can also assume that there was no better way for her to help them.

But what if it were animated not by real charity, but by a dysfunctional "entanglement" with her parents; an inability to separate herself duly from them?  What if her nursing them was a sickly way of trying to "win" their love and approval?  

In that case, her service to them might have contributed to their failure to "own" their wrong and repent of it.  It might have prevented her from achieving all kinds of other goods, like marriage and family.

#28 - Jul. 24 at 11:26am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

As a matter of fact, that woman's parents did not repent. 

Absent a last moment deathbed grace hidden from our view, they died in their terrible sins.

As a matter of fact, that woman was never able to develop a thriving life of her own, self-standing, properly free of her parents.  She lived a life of loneliness and poverty.

Now, maybe (let's hope, and even expect!) she achieved (admirably!) exactly the mission God had set for her.  Maybe, her inner life wasn't lonely and impoverished at all, but rich and full of consolation.

But, looking at it only outwardly, it's not impossible to imagine that a different scenario might have had a better outcome.  Maybe if she had done more to insist on truth (say, by reporting him to civil authorities), he would have repented.

Remember St. Paul's explanation for "ex-communication": (paraphrasing) "so that he may realize his sin and be restored."

It's not impossible to imagine that Nora's walking away from a marriage that was no true marriage and her firm refusal to continue to participate in a charade were not only objectively valid, but the very thing most likely to lead her husband to acknowledge the truth about himself.

#29 - Jul. 24 at 11:40am | quote

Janet Smith

All good thoughts but they don't impact the outcome of our discussion, so far as I can see.

I am bowing out and thank you for the discussion.

God bless,

Janet

#30 - Jul. 24 at 11:48am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Thanks so much for your generous, kind and thoughtful participation, Janet.  Even if no one else has been following, I, at least, have found it all very helpful and clarifying.  

Also, I often hear privately from people who tell me that they are "listening in" on our discussions and benefitting from them.  So, I think you can be sure your time wasn't wasted.

Now I, too, have to get to things I've let pile up.  Such as housework.  Ugh.

#31 - Jul. 24 at 12:07pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Today I thought o something I wanted to add to what I said yesterday:

Katie van Schaijik, Jul. 23 at 2:14pm

In brief, when a wrong is done, the "job" of the offender is repentance and restitution; the job of the one offended is forgiveness; the job of the surrounding community is to restore justice. 

 It's important to note, I think, that the respective "jobs" of the offender and the victim are not equal in kind.

1) The offender owes (in justice) the one he offends repentance and restitution.  The victim does not owe him forgiveness.  He cannot demand it; he can only ask it as an undeserved gift.  If he simulataneously denies his wrong and demands her forgiveness, he increases his offense against her.

2) Repentance and restitution are in the power of the offender in a way that forgiveness is often not be in the power of the one he offends.  (Grace is not at the command of our will.)

#32 - Jul. 25 at 3:16pm | quote

Janet Smith

Some of the obstacles may be on the side of the offended person.  We haven't sketched out those obstacles.  That has not been your project.  It could be mine but I don’t want to do an exhaustive phenomenological discourse on the reasons why a person might have difficulty forgiving.  They would include, for sure, an ignorance about the fact the forgiveness is required of a Christian, to a desire to punish the offender by withholding forgiveness, the desire to remain the center of attention. 

But a person who wants to forgive and is having trouble forgiving should expect the gift.  That person should not feel guilty that he or she has not forgiven but should patiently wait for the gift to come, while making the petition for the grace a major prayer intention.  Regular holy hours would be wise -- not for the purpose of obsessively petitioning for the grace of forgiveness but just to soak up God’s love.  That will melt our hearts.

#33 - Jul. 25 at 10:19pm | quote

Janet Smith

Furthermore, as Pascal and others have taught, if we put into place some of the actions that accompany forgiveness, that helps the reality fall into place.  First and foremost is prayer for the offender.  Whenever I have prayed for someone who has offended me, everything changes.  I get more peace in my heart and also I tend to look at the offender in a different light.  A better light.  A more understanding light.  And forgiveness and reconciliation are much more possible.

The offended should also perform acts like trying to banish all angry thoughts, ceasing to speak to others about the offense, even making some overtures to the offender. Then the grace of forgiveness may come.  This is not to say we should shortcircuit the process of acknowledging to ourselves -- and being consoled by the acknowledgement of others -- that injustice has been done, that the wrongdoer should repent and make amends. We have established well those facilitators of forgiveness and others.  If our friends are not counseling unprincipled forgiveness but genuinely trying to help us achieve true forgiveness, we should also try to listen carefully to them. They may have something to teach us.

#34 - Jul. 25 at 10:22pm | quote

 

Pete

I think that original sin has a great deal to offer for all of this.  In the sense that original sin means this is an imperfect world and all humans are imperfect because of the fall, even though we all have a responsibility to eternal truth, and on the same token, how could we not order our wills towards forgiveness if we really believe we are imperfect persons?  If everyone is "down here" trying to improve, and to learn to love and accept this truth about ourselves as we strive for perfection in this life, but inevitably fall short, how can we not order our outlook to forgiveness of others and ourselves?  It seems we are operating in a paradox:  We must order ourselves to non-judgmental forgiveness of others and ourselves knowing that we are "born to fail" and so is everyone else, and yet we must also order ourselves to eternal truth and its expression in the phenomenal world, the world in which we, as persons, live.  We must be in integrity with both worlds.  This is the paradox.

#35 - Jul. 25 at 11:14pm | quote

 

Pete

9.  People who presume they can forgive operate from a     false premise, which likely was passed down to them as a form of unconscious dysfunction and therefore harbor a potential to create dysfunction.

10.  If someone hurts you and they ask for your forgiveness and they are genuinely contrite then their repentance, contrition and asking for forgiveness is God speaking.  Respond and rejoice!  You can say you forgive them but really it is God forgiving.  You can reconcile, but God forgives.

11.  It is possible to “reach a place within ones heart” of    forgiveness without the offender asking for forgiveness genuinely and with contrition, yet this kind of forgiveness is solitary, and it would be dysfunctional to reconcile with someone who is not contrite, not genuine and who does not ask for forgiveness. 

12.  Forgiveness is contingent on an objective measure of truth.

#36 - Jul. 25 at 11:18pm | quote

 

Pete

Explanations:

There is no “partial reconciliation” that implies partial forgiveness on behalf of the offended.  This is actually a presumptuous, made up term that “covers one’s self” from going against what one believes their religion requires of them and contrary to popular belief among Christians, it is not modeling Christ.  Scripture does not say, “Partially reconcile so that you may be forgiven.”  Forgiveness cannot take place between one person who wants re-communion with God in the form of communion with another and the other who is not asking for forgiveness.  It would be deception if one believed it did which is a signature for a dysfunctional relationship.  On the other hand, the definitive signature for forgiveness is re-communion with God in the form of communion with another or others.

#37 - Jul. 25 at 11:20pm | quote

 

Pete

Forgiveness cannot happen for both the offender and offended if the offender does not ask for forgiveness from the offended just as forgiveness cannot happen for a person who does not ask it of God.  God forgives unconditionally, yet a person does not have to respond to God’s forgiveness.  Forgiveness in these cases would be impossible – and I’m not talking about “reconciliation”!

 I interpret scripture as saying, “Respond to forgiveness when it happens because it is from God and it is good.”  When one responds to forgiveness, one rejoices in re-communion with God in the form of re-communion with another or others.  It has nothing to do with the will of the offended.  Yet the offended can experience forgiveness of the offender even if the offender does not ask for forgiveness, but he will reach forgiveness alone.

#38 - Jul. 25 at 11:22pm | quote

 

Pete

Deleted post; Oops!

#39 - Jul. 25 at 11:23pm | quote

 

Pete

I think that original sin has a great deal to offer for all of this.  In the sense that original sin means this is an imperfect world and all humans are imperfect because of the fall, even though we all have a responsibility to eternal truth, and on the same token, how could we not order our wills towards forgiveness if we really believe we are imperfect persons?  If everyone is "down here" trying to improve, and to learn to love and accept this truth about ourselves as we strive for perfection in this life, but inevitably fall short, how can we not order our outlook to forgiveness of others and ourselves?  It seems we are operating in a paradox:  We must order ourselves to non-judgmental forgiveness of others and ourselves knowing that we are "born to fail" and so is everyone else, and yet we must also order ourselves to eternal truth and its expression in the phenomenal world, the world in which we, as persons, live.  We must be in integrity with both worlds.  This is the paradox.

#40 - Jul. 25 at 11:26pm | quote

 

Pete

Yet isn’t it true that the experience of forgiveness reunites these worlds and that it is achieved by human beings only indirectly through their realization of the truth of what happened within the phenomenal world between the offender and the offended and their response to the ensuing Grace from a larger immanent Truth from a different world?  I would propose that it is a harmonization of these two truths which bring about the experience of forgiveness. 

Is it then possible for one person (the offended) to harmonize these truths within himself to achieve forgiveness?  I would say that it is.  The ingredients he needs for this are within his ability to attain – that is both truths.  Depending on his emotional awareness, intelligence and moral development he may be able to understand both of these truths and through Grace be able to harmonize them for the complete experience of forgiveness, which in this case is re-communion with God alone. 

#41 - Jul. 25 at 11:28pm | quote

 

Pete

In the case above as well as all others, it can be understood that forgiveness is essentially a solitary act with God, even when it appears to be an act between two or more people in cases when it involves an offender and an offended, or more than two individuals, and that reconciliation, though daunting an endeavor it may pose, is merely a human enterprise, which is why it is only with immense humility, integrity to both truths, and a willingness to seek out and respond to something out of their hands, that humans ever reach the heights of forgiveness.  It is sacred and holy and should be treated as such.  It is of immense importance and should at least be understood correctly.

#42 - Jul. 25 at 11:29pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Lots of good food for thought there, Pete.  I'll respond further in the a.m.

Here I'll just say that "unprincipled forgiveness" treats forgiveness as an act of the will, when (I agree with you) it isn't.  It is a gift of divine grace, which needs our willing collabortation.

#43 - Jul. 25 at 11:37pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet, I find more to agree with in your latest comments. 

Certainly there can be obstacles in the one offended.  And while forgiveness itself might not be in her power, other things are, such as the choice not to return evil for evil, and the choice to seek help and grace in her trial.  She can also do good, including the good of prayer, and the good of working to put a stop to the evil she has suffered and may see others suffering.  She might, for instance, (depending on the case) call the wrong-doer to account.  (Doing good outside "self" is often a great way to recover from moral injuries, I find.)

As for cases of ignorance, I suppose you're right, though in the intensely religious circles I generally travel in, I personally never come across it.  I come across preachers of "unprincipled forgiveness" regularly.

I agree, too, that if a friend were to come to me for help, expressing a desire to forgive and an inability to forgive, then it would be a good service to offer suggestions like the ones you offer here. I might also see if I can do anything to get the wrongs she suffered righted.

#44 - Jul. 25 at 11:41pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Pete, Jul. 25 at 10:29pm

It is sacred and holy and should be treated as such.  It is of immense importance and should at least be understood correctly.

I agree with this too.  Frustration over how widely and seriously it is misunderstood and misapplied among Christians is what prompted my posts on the topic.

I like a lot your emphasis on truth, and your saying that deception and denial are the hallmarks of dysfunction.  That's my experience too.  

Truth is the only possible ground of real communion between persons.  Therefore, the more we accommodate deception, denial and illusion in our relationships, the less genuine our communion will be.  

#46 - Jul. 25 at 11:54pm | quote

Janet Smith

Kate, I thought we were in substantial agreement so I am surprised to hear that you agree with me more now than before!

And now I have found a point of disagreement.  You keep saying forgiveness is not an "act of the will" but a gift.  That seems imprecise and more so false to me.  

Perhaps we understand the term "act of the will" differently.  I thought we had distinguished it from "by strength of the will alone".  Many times we cannot forgiven by strength of the will alone but it is our will that gets strengthened by the gift of grace to make an act of forgiveness.

 Forgiveness is not something that is done for us or done to us. We must do it. It is not an act of the intellect or an emotion or a physical ac, I repeatt.  It is a choice that we make.  We must choose to forgive (and choosing is an act of the will.)  The gift of grace tremendously aids us in making that choice, but we must choose.

  

#47 - Jul. 26 at 7:36am | quote

Janet Smith

I am not familiar with this book but like the choice and blurb:

http://stacathedral.catholic-store.net/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=6583

Forgiveness Is a Choice is a self-help book for people who have been deeply hurt by another and caught in a vortex of anger, depression, and resentment. As a creator of the first scientifically proven forgiveness program in the country, Robert D. Enright shows how forgiveness can reduce anxiety and depression while increasing self-esteem and hopefulness toward one's future. This groundbreaking work demonstrates how forgiveness, approached in the correct manner, benefits the forgiver far more than the forgiven. Filled with wisdom and warm encouragement, the book leads the reader on a path that will bring clarity and peace. Enright is careful to distinguish forgiveness from "pseudoforgiveness" and to reassure readers that forgiveness does not mean accepting continued abuse or even reconciling with the offender. Rather, by giving the gift of forgiveness, readers are encouraged to confront and let go of their pain in order to regain their lives.

#48 - Jul. 26 at 7:36am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet Smith

Kate, I thought we were in substantial agreement so I am surprised to hear that you agree with me more now than before!

I meant "more" in the sense of "additional items".  I think we agree on many substantial points and propositions, but I doubt we're in substantial agreement.

I think perhaps we do.  Following von Hildebrand and others, I hold that some of the deepest free acts of the person are not properly described as "acts of will".

Consider: I can't sanctify myself.  I can only cooperate (freely) or not with God's work in me.  

My vows to Jules were an act of the will.  My falling in love with him wasn't.  It was a gift.  It had everything to do with my freedom and individuality, but I did not call it into being with my will.

To go to Jesus and pour precious oil over his head is an act of will.  The contrition and adoration that animated the act were not.  (Nor were they "sensations.")

This is not an unimportant distinction.  Not recognizing it leads to much practical confusion and pastoral error, IMO.

#49 - Jul. 26 at 8:55am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet Smith, Jul. 26 at 6:36am

Forgiveness is not something that is done for us or done to us. We must do it. It is not an act of the intellect or an emotion or a physical ac, I repeatt.    

I, too, wouldn't say it's done for us or to us.

It has to be deeply our own.  I would rather say something more like, it's accomplished in us.

I don't agree with the aternatives you lay down.  I think von HIldebrand is right to see "deep spiritual responses" as a category of their own, involving the whole person from the roots of her being.

I dislike the formulation "we must do it."  Not because I disagree with it, but because it seems to me to set us up for just the wrong approach I'm here critiquing.  It underplays the role of time and grace, for instance, in a human heart gravely wounded by betrayal.

It was two years before St. Jane Frances de Chantal (who was being closely pastored by St. Francis de Sales) could face the man who had shot and killed her husband.  And that was an accident for which he was profoundly sorry.

#50 - Jul. 26 at 9:08am | quote

Janet Smith

 

Here I'll just say that "unprincipled forgiveness" treats forgiveness as an act of the will, when (I agree with you) it isn't.  It is a gift of divine grace, which needs our willing collabortation.

 Doesn't anything that "needs our willing collaboration" count as an act of the will?  Acts of the will are necessary for sin or for merit.  These are "acts of man" not just human acts.  Acts of the will are tranformative of our character. We become good or evil because of them. Choosing to accept the grace to forgive and then to choose to forgive (which are likely simultaneous) can be radically life changing.  It is an intensely personal act.  Is springs from the heart. Things that are simply gift remain external. It requires an act of the will to make put the gift to work.

How, Katie, do you understand "act of the will" to be able to say that "forgiveness is not an act of the will"?  Are you saying it is not at all an act of the will?  Or just not primarily?  Doesn't "willing collaboration" require an act of the will? 

#51 - Jul. 26 at 9:11am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

I doubt that, during those two years, St. Francis de Sales was urging her to "make an act of will."  I doubt he was pressing texts on her showing that "she must do it."  

I think he must have had too much respect for her and for the mysterious and "unforceable" workings of grace in her heart for that.  

He urged the distraught man (I think it was her cousin) to wait patiently until she was ready.

#52 - Jul. 26 at 9:13am | quote

Janet Smith

We posted quite simultaneously so I didn't see post #50 before I wrote #51.

It would help me if you would explain this: "I think we agree on many substantial points and propositions, but I doubt we're in substantial agreement."

In what way are we not in substantial agreement?  I believe we are and that our differences are a matter of nuance and emphasis.  

Of course, I have never said or implied that forgiveness is easy or comes quickly; just that we are commanded to forgive and must pray for the grace. etc. (I cannot repeat all the qualifications we have established about acknowledging wrong doing, attempting to see that amends are made etc.so please take it that I still agree with all I have agreed with before.)

Forgiveness cannot be accomplished in us with out our, as you say, "willing collaboration."  That means the will is involved.  I have stated repeatedly that grace is necessary. You have given a fuller description of how grace. While I love full phenomenological presentations, just because one does not provide them does not mean one does not assent to them.

#53 - Jul. 26 at 9:22am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

 One more, then I must run.

Janet Smith, Jul. 26 at 8:11am

Doesn't anything that "needs our willing collaboration" count as an act of the will?  

Not in the usual understanding of that term, no.

My love for Jules entails my willing collaboration, but it is not well-described at all as "an act of the will."  To call it such would belie its real essence.

Pastors who describe conjugal love that way do wrong and practical harm.

Janet Smith

How, Katie, do you understand "act of the will" to be able to say that "forgiveness is not an act of the will"?  

To clarify, when I say it is not an act of the will, I mean that it is not reducible to an act of the will.  And it's not an "act of the will" in the usual sense of that term.

Nor can I agree that calling it a gift makes it something outside myself.  My love for Jules is deeply my own.

Since the roots of our being are in God, and since He is closer to us than we are to ourselves, His intimate gifts are by no means external.

#54 - Jul. 26 at 9:25am | quote

Janet Smith

You say: 

"I don't agree with the aternatives you lay down.  I think von HIldebrand is right to see "deep spiritual responses" as a category of their own, involving the whole person from the roots of her being."

 

I believe I have asserted the same. When I spoke of the "heart" that means "deep spiritual responses."  The "whole person" involves acts of the will as well as the intellect, emotion, and body. I acknowledged much earlier that all would be involved but the will is primary.  Those are the "roots" of one's being.  The heart is where all those come together.  

I suppose a difference between  an Aristotelian/Thomist and a phenomenologist is that the AT believes that one is committing one's self to all that essentially and logically entailed in one's claim and does not have to spell out  all that is entailed all the time.  The definitions "rational animal" or "self-determining entity" capture an infinite number of realities that belong to those terms.  

To say that forgiveness is an act of the will is not at all to exclude what VH depicts but that "willing collaboration" involves an act of the will cannot be denied.

 

#55 - Jul. 26 at 9:34am | quote

Janet Smith

Yes, falling in love with Jules is something that happened to you deep in your being. But that you willed to act on that love was an act of will.  If we weren't free in response to loving feelings the world would be a mess.  More people need to exercise acts of the will in respect to love.

And most couples find that they need to make repeated acts of the will to remain "in love" with their spouses. Especially when the "feeling" of love is not there. Love is the determination to seek the good of the other.  Yes, there are many kinds of love, but that is the essence of love and it needs an act of the will.  Many.

#56 - Jul. 26 at 10:18am | quote

 

Pete

It was stated in post #45 that forgiveness ultimately comes from God.  If forgiveness ultimately comes from God, then God must will it.  If it is known that the human being is somehow associated with forgiveness and that God wills it, then it is reasonable to conclude that God wills forgiveness through the human being, and that the human being cannot forgive by an act of his own will, but only by the will of God. 

#57 - Jul. 26 at 7:02pm | quote

 

Pete

Janet,  I forgot to personally address my last post to you.  Sorry about that!  I will remember next time. 

#58 - Jul. 26 at 7:29pm | quote

 

Michel Accad

Thank you all for accepting the thoughts of a philosophical neophyte...

It seems that the act of giving is not fully accomplished until the gift is accepted and received.  Prior to that, it is an offer to give. 

Perhaps likewise, forgiveness should always be offered, unconditionally.  It is the hope of the Christian to see that his forgiveness be accepted/received, which would indicate at least the beginning of contrition and repentance that will lead to reconciliation.

#59 - Jul. 26 at 7:41pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet Smith

Yes, falling in love with Jules is something that happened to you deep in your being. But that you willed to act on that love was an act of will. 

Right.  Of course I have to freely respond to the gift if it's going to be mine.  The same is true with faith.  It's a gift of grace to which I freely respond.  The point is that its a response to a gift.  It comes in relation to a gift.  I cannot make it happen by will power. 

I could not, by an act of will, decide to love Jules as the most eligible bachelor of my acquaintance (which he was!).

If am not given the gift of faith, I can pray for it and hope for it, and act towards it, but I cannot say, "I do believe" without lying about myself, and cutting myself off from the reality of my own being (and from God, since I can only meet Him in reality).

Those who constantly press on the attention of an offended person that "forgiveness is an act of the will" and "just do it!" do a kind of spiritual violence.

#60 - Jul. 27 at 8:35am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Janet Smith

I have stated repeatedly that grace is necessary. 

Yes, but you so stress that it's "an act of the will" that, in practical effect, you seem to set aside the role of grace—as if it's something that we can expect to come automatically with our "act of will."  

You seem not to account enough for the very deep and mysterious way grace does its work, over time, in the human heart.  Objective obstacles (such as the wrong's being unrecognized and the offender in denial) are almost waved away as essentially irrelevant to forgiveness.  You seem unconcerned with how vital a role the sincere contrition (or lack thereof)  plays in a person's coming to forgive with depth and integrity and fullness of heart.

In practical effect, the stress on forgiveness as an act of the will regardless of contrition and amends works out into situations where the victim of wrong is unjustly blamed for "failure to forgive", while the community at large ignores the unrepentance of the culprit and the standing injustice in objective reality caused by his offense.

This magnifies the offense and her difficulty in forgiving.

#61 - Jul. 27 at 9:04am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

I say again, if we want to help another achieve forgiveness, the best thing we can do is attend not to her subjective condition (unless she is asking for help with that, or "speaking evil"), but to objective reality.  What happened Who was responsible?  Might it be set right?

This is all the more the case if the victim is calling for justice, as Maciel's accusers were.  Their "forgiveness issues" (if they had any) were their concern; the unacknowledged injustice done to them was ours.

If we are not in a position to address such questions, then we can remind ourselves that God knows the truth of what happened, and commend all concerned to Him.

We should just take care we're not concentrating our prayers on need for the wronged one to "forgive"—as if that's the problem, when it may not be.  

Since genuine reconciliation in cases of serious wrong depends on contrition and amends, no one on the outside of a given situation can judge whether the "discommunion" between persons is due to lack of forgiveness or lack of due contrition.

Denial of evil; refusal to take responsibility for the wrong we do is destroying Christian communities.

#62 - Jul. 27 at 9:17am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Michel Accad, Jul. 26 at 6:41pm

Perhaps likewise, forgiveness should always be offered, unconditionally.  It is the hope of the Christian to see that his forgiveness be accepted/received, which would indicate at least the beginning of contrition and repentance that will lead to reconciliation.

 Michael, I note the passive voice.  "Forgiveness should always be offered."  

In practice, this often works out to an illegitimate demand on the victim: "You should offer forgiveness, unconditionally."

We are not God.  

#63 - Jul. 27 at 9:22am | quote

 

Michel Accad

Thanks, Katie.  I don't think I implied that we have divine capacity to forgive.

I was pointing out that some verbs imply a reciprocal action.  You have bought a car only when the dealer has sold it to you.

Perhaps offering forgiveness does not mean it has been accomplished and that we have forgiven.  Forgiveness takes place when the offender accepts it, thereby demonstrating repentence.  That's when it begins to "interiorize."

#64 - Jul. 27 at 1:49pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Michel Accad, Jul. 27 at 12:49pm

Perhaps offering forgiveness does not mean it has been accomplished and that we have forgiven.  Forgiveness takes place when the offender accepts it, thereby demonstrating repentence.  That's when it begins to "interiorize."

Yes, I agree with this (if I understand you rightly).  Until we truly accept responsibility for our wrong and repent it, we can't receive forgiveness, even if the forgiveness is being offered.  Unless and until we repent our wrong, we, in a way, can't be forgiven.

I want to add, though, that I think there is also a sense in which until the wrong done to us is acknowledged, we can't really forgive it.  We can work to remove in ourselves any obstacles to forgiving it.  We can "put to death" any impulse to return evil for evil.  We can "bless" and "do good" for the one who hurt us, e.g. by praying for him.  But while there's one sense in which we can forgive him even before he repents, there's another in which we can't.  

Forgiveness is a gift and it can't be given if the recipient won't take it.  (Unless he repents his wrong, he can't take it.)

#65 - Jul. 27 at 6:00pm | quote

 

Michel Accad

But while there's one sense in which we canforgive him even before he repents, there's another in which we can't.  

Forgiveness is a gift and it can't be given if the recipient won't take it.  (Unless he repents his wrong, he can't take it.)

 We're getting close!

The "one sense if which we can forgive" is what I mean by offering forgiveness, which I think we ought to do always.

Thank you everyone for the thoughtful discussion.  I have stumbled on this site a look forward to returning and learning more.  Michel

#66 - Jul. 27 at 6:18pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

I agree that we're close!

I agree that we "ought to forgive always" in the same sense, perhaps, that I agree that we ought to "be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect."  It's an ought we strive for, under grace, rather than one we "just do".

I mean, the ought in "we ought to go to Mass every Sunday" is differenct in kind from the ought in "we ought to forgive always."

#67 - Jul. 27 at 11:04pm | quote

 

Michel Accad

I'm not sure it is different...Let's try this:

We should offer forgiveness always...as we should go to Mass every Sunday...as practice makes perfect...as our Father in heaven is perfect.


You see, it all ties together :)

#68 - Jul. 28 at 12:31am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Well, yes.  It ties together.  But there's still a difference—a significant one when it comes to our "pastoral approach" to ourselves and one another.  

It's in my human power to go to Mass.  It's not in my human power to be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.  We can blame ourselves and others for not fulfilling that basic obligation of our faith.  We shouldn't blame ourselves or  others for not being perfect.

We should take care not to downplay the gift character of forgiveness of serious wrongs, and the mysterious way it ripens in us over time.

We should also take care not to overlook or downplay the real way in which the injured one needs the sincere contrition of the offender (especially in cases where there had been a significant personal relationship).  (See Jules' post on the subject.)  Our real dependence on one another is God's design for the human person.  

I think sometimes the intense stress on the need to forgive regardless of whether the offender repents comes from a rejection of our human vulnerability.

So does the refusal to face and "own" the wrong we've done. 

Without vulnerability, there's no communion.

#69 - Jul. 28 at 1:14am | quote

 

Michel Accad

Yes, but my point is that offering forgiveness is not the same as forgiving, since the latter can only take place when the offender receives (accepts) it, thus indicating repentance. 

I suppose it is important to offer forgiveness unconditionally as a matter of duty (and act of the will) because one may not have the opportunity to do so later on if and when the offender repents and asks for forgiveness (at which time forgiving is imperative, per Matthew 18:21-35). 

Offering forgiveness should not be an empty gesture either, but a resolve to forgive from the heart when the offender repents, or at least begin the process of reconciliation.

#70 - Jul. 28 at 2:01am | quote

 

Pete

Michel,  here are some ideas that may or may not be of value to you:

I assume you believe in God.  Consider this:  

If someone causes you grave injury to the point of causing you (maybe them too) discord with God, this discord must be repaired to restore communion with God.  

Since one is dependent on God, one would need themselves to be restored to God and not the other way around.

If this leads you then, to believe that forgiveness ultimately comes from God, then God must will it.  

And if it is known that the human being is somehow associated with forgiveness and that God wills it, then it is reasonable to conclude that God wills forgiveness through the human being, therefore, the human being cannot forgive by an act of his own will, but only by the will of God. 

#71 - Jul. 28 at 11:09am | quote

 

Pete

It also follows from this that human beings who claim forgiveness is an act of their own wills are in fact, and out of ignorance, falsifying God’s will for their own.

This act may be essentially a subterfuge for avoiding feeling the pain of a deep injury, and ultimately, may be responsible for a great deal of unnecessary dysfunction, ill health, psychological discomfort and confusion in the form of repressed rage, indignation, etc. at an offender for harming them, and is caused by a simple misunderstanding, i.e. that forgiveness is an act of man’s will.

#72 - Jul. 28 at 11:19am | quote

 

Pete

God forgives unconditionally, human beings on the other hand can only seek out forgiveness, order ourselves to it, respond to it, choose it, and encourage others to do the same. 

But, it is not within our or another’s power to will forgiveness.  

The reason, I believe that people make the mistake of thinking forgiveness is an act of man's will is, it requires patiently and courageously sifting through the pain of one’s injuries and understandably, humankind is most reluctant to do this, especially if there are deep wounds.

It's a lot more difficult than people think it is because a lot of it is unconscious.  

#73 - Jul. 28 at 11:27am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Michel Accad

Yes, but my point is that offering forgiveness is not the same as forgiving

 Agreed.

Michel Accad

I suppose it is important to offer forgiveness unconditionally as a matter of duty (and act of the will) 

I am leary of this formulation, though, because it risks overlooking and underplaying the essentially gratuitious character of forgiveness. 

Maybe let's put it this way: My freely forgiving others is a response I owe to God, because He has freely forgiven me so much more, and He asks it of me.

But forgiveness is not something I owe the offender.  He, on the other had, does owe me contrition and amends.  Intimacy with him can't be restored if he withholds what he owes me in justice.

It's not wrong for me to require contrition and amends from the one who has seriously offended me.  It is wrong for the offender to demand my forgiveness, and to accuse me of "not forgiving" when he is refusing to acknowledge his wrong.

It's not wrong for God to command us to forgive.  (His commands always come with grace).  It is wrong for others to pressure us to drop questions of truth and claims of justice.

#74 - Jul. 28 at 12:19pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Pete, Jul. 28 at 10:19am

This act may be essentially a subterfuge for avoiding feeling the pain of a deep injury, and ultimately, may be responsible for a great deal of unnecessary dysfunction, ill health, psychological discomfort and confusion in the form of repressed rage, indignation, etc. at an offender for harming them, and is caused by a simple misunderstanding, i.e. that forgiveness is an act of man’s will.

This reminds me of a point made by Desmund Tutu in No Future Without Forgiveness.  When real injustices are "forgiven" in a dysfunctional way, i.e. without addressing the objective injustice, violence will erupt later.  

Similarly, if we dress a gangrenous wound with first cleaning out all the gangrene, the infection will spread.

I'm not sure I'm clear on how you conceive the relation between God's will and ours in acts of forgiveness, but I do see lots of wisdom in your perspective.

#75 - Jul. 28 at 12:56pm | quote

 

Pete

It makes sense to me.  I have not read that book.  I do believe it can erupt in violence.  I believe that kind of violence is rooted in childhood mistreatment and that it is later used against scapegoats.  It's unconscious so people make grievous claims against each other and argue over "who started it", when it is in fact a deeply rooted cycle of violence within their culture which starts in childhood.

But, in post #74 when you wrote, "Forgiveness is not something I owe the offender."  I believe we do owe the offender forgiveness because it is commanded by God.  But, in the same breath, we cannot will this from our selves.  And also in the same breath, it would be dysfunctional to reconcile with said offender.  

But I believe we do owe our forgiveness - it is the only way to be square with God in the end; We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to God and we owe it to the offender, but we cannot will this on our own, and it would be dysfunctional to reconcile with said offender.

#76 - Jul. 28 at 2:25pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

I think we're up against the limits of human language in speaking about such mysterious things, or at least my powers of language.

I like that you recongize a way of "forgiving" an unrepentant wrong-doer that is dysfunctional.  I like that you emphasize the supernatural quality of forgiveness: that it's God who is its Author.  In a way, it's He who forgives in me.  

I'm not satisfied that we're agreed on the question of justice involved in objective wrongs.

A wrong-doer puts himself in the debt of the one he wrongs. He owes her something.  She doesn't owe him something.

As Pope Benedict said, "Justice is what we owe; charity is what we give over and above what we owe."  These two things shouldn't be confused.  

#77 - Jul. 28 at 3:23pm | quote

 

Pete

I was not using owed with its intended meaning.  Sorry for the confusion.  I do see now that her forgiveness is not owed.

My point is that if she does not seek out forgiveness, order herself to it, respond to it and choose it in regards to her offender, she is judging him and playing God, which because of her own participation in original sin is not recommended.   

And she must do all of this to be square with God.

I'm pretty sure you would agree with that. 

#78 - Jul. 28 at 7:29pm | quote

 

 

Michel Accad

Pete,

Thank you for your comments.  As Katie has clarified, I was highlighting the distinction between offering forgiveness and forgiving, so I think you were misreading what I was saying.

Common usage is vague and misleading.  We say "I'm selling my car" when we mean "I am offering my car for sale."  The selling does not occur until there is a willing buyer who agrees to the term of the sale.  Likewise with forgiveness; the forgiving normally occurs when the offender repents and reconciliation can begin. 

Understood in this way, then, offering forgiveness should not entail any divine intervention and is an act of the will (in the ordinary sense of the term--I'm not well versed in philosophy). 

I agree that forgiving can be supremely difficult, cannot be willed, calls for special graces, must be hoped for, etc...Given that, we should be careful about overstating the psychological effects of "premature forgiveness."  If one is given the grace to forgive a nominally contrite offender (or even an unrepentent one), who is in a position to doubt that this very interior healing is truly taking place?  Doing so risks poisoning the gift.

#80 - Jul. 28 at 11:25pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

I like that analogy with selling, Michel.  It's helpful and clarifying.

I don't so much care for the idea that forgiveness (in big and serious matters) "should not ential any divine intervention."

When we are accomplishing things through divine grace that are beyond our human power (not just difficult, but beyond us), it's not (to my way of thinking) God "intervening", but rather God, as it were, living in us.  

And, to clarify again (maybe we're just going in circles), my main concern is not with the problem of people forgiving prematurely (though I do think that's a real problem), but with a bad theory of forgiveness that leads (among other things) to third parties pressuring a victim to "forgive" because "it's commanded and it's an act of the will."

I say again that to do this, especially when the standing wrong done to them is left unaddressed and the wrong-doer is unrepentant, is to do a spiritual violence to that victim.

#81 - Jul. 29 at 9:37am | quote

 

Michel Accad

Katie van Schaijik, Jul. 29 at 8:37am

I don't so much care for the idea that forgiveness (in big and serious matters) "should not ential any divine intervention."

 Thanks, Katie, I agree with you because that was not my idea! :)

I said offering forgiveness should not entail any divine intervention.  So it's more like putting your car for sale on your own, but then praying to God 1) buyer will agree to buy it and 2) you'll agree to the term even if he pays you in depreciating Euros, because getting rid of that lemon will really help you clear up your garage space.  (But I concede that I'm clearly stretching the limits of the analogy here...)

I agree that a wrong theory of forgiveness is unhelpful and potentially harmful the way you put it.

Thanks!

Michel

#82 - Jul. 29 at 2:01pm | quote

 

Pete

Michel, I'm glad you formed this distinction because it brings up something I've been wanting to mention about forgiveness all along and that is:  It's important to agree on terms before getting too deep.  We have not done a good job of that with this discussion.  We've gotten pretty deep into this not even counting this thread.  So, I'm going to try to clear it up.  

First, terms such as "unprincipled forgiveness" and "offering forgiveness" and "premature forgiveness" I think muddy the waters.  

The reason for this is that I believe there is only one forgiveness.  The one forgiveness I am talking about is not of man's will but is sacred, holy, and of God's will.  There is no "reconciliation" that is it's equivalent, there is no "partial reconciliation" that is its equivalent.  

#83 - Jul. 30 at 10:33am | quote

 

Pete

As you say Michel, common usage is vague and misleading and this is precisely the reason people misinterpret forgiveness as being of man's will, when I claim in all cases it is not.  

You can pardon someone for small grievances such as someone cutting you off in traffic or a spouse who has bad breath and spinach in his teeth but these grievances do not require forgiveness and can be willed by the human being alone.

Your distinction of "offering forgiveness" illustrates the exact same concept as was illustrated before, that is, that we can order ourselves to forgiveness, we can seek out forgiveness and we can choose forgiveness - all acts of man's will - but we cannot participate in the one forgiveness without divine Grace working within us.

#84 - Jul. 30 at 10:39am | quote

 

Pete

If we are agreed on these terms, that there is one forgiveness and that we can respond to it then I believe we would have a much easier time talking about it.  It requires giving up all of your old habits of using the word forgiveness as people commonly use it, which I believe is a misuse.

#85 - Jul. 30 at 10:42am | quote

 

Pete

Michel, 

One would never be in a position to doubt that forgiveness is taking place in someone who was experiencing through Grace.

One would however, be in a position to make a claim that people who presume to forgive, i.e. people who claim to forgive under the false pretense that it is done by their own will, are people who live in myriad forms of dysfunction, with the evidence for making this claim to be an observation of what these people say their experience is.  

#86 - Jul. 30 at 10:50am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

I can't say I agree with your definition of terms, Pete. That is to say, I believe that there is such a thing as "unprincipled forgiveness".  I don't think using the term muddies waters.  I think it throws light on a particular problem.

Same goes for "premature forgiveness."  If I say, "I forgive you," to someone who has offended me deeply, without really realizing and suffering the injury and recognizing it for what it is: a wrong and an unjustice and an abuse, while I'm still, as a matter of fact, full of bitterness and resentment, then I have forgiven prematurely.  I have "dressed the wound" too soon.

If I preach and practice (as many do) a notion of forgiveness that disregards objective reality and justice, then I am preaching and practicing not authentic Christian forgiveness, but an unprincipled subsitute.

If I "forgive" and reconcile with someone who refuses to acknowledge the wrong he did or the fact that his habitual treatment of me is abusive, then I am being dysfunctional, not properly merciful.

I do agree that our forgiving others is a participation in the divine forgiveness.  But I'm not sure I would express it the same way you do.

#87 - Jul. 30 at 10:58am | quote

 

Pete

It muddies the waters because when you say unprincipled forgiveness it is not understood from that term that the one forgiveness that I talk about is not being experienced.

By reducing it down to one forgiveness vs. all of the others, it is understood that the one forgiveness is by Grace alone, and that it takes time to achieve, is a mystery within each person, etc.

To talk of "unprincipled forgiveness", "offering forgiveness" and "premature forgiveness" is as you and Michel say, not to speak of the one forgiveness.  Why speak in double meanings when you don't have too?

And, why implicate God's will when you mean man's will?

If you were to eschew of your made up terms it would make it much clearer to see that there is the one forgiveness with all of its qualities, there is pardoning with all of its associations, there are people who presume to forgive and therefore live in dysfunction, and there is the community and their response to claims of grievance.

#88 - Jul. 30 at 11:25am | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Every term is made-up.  All language is a sign and an approximation; it all falls short of the fulness of the reality in question, especially when we're talking about deep and mysterious matters.

It's not unmeaningful or misleading to speak of my act of forgiving this person as something distinctive.  It's a real moral thing.  

The question is whether (in a given case) it's a genuine act of Christian forgiveness or some counterfeit.

I think many are like me in that, while they find your way of speaking about "the one forgiveness" interesting and helpful, from another point of view, it's also confusing and problematic.  It doesn't seem to do full justice to the reality of human action.

One of the key things about personal life is that our acts and dispositions—even when animated by divine grace—are really and truly ours

Kierkegaard has a great passage somewhere about the way God shows His Omnipotence precisely in that He made creatures who are not just free, but independant originators of reality.  Of course our independence isn't absolute.  We are not God.  We "live and move and have our being" in Him.

Yet, it's our being. And we are its pro-creators.

#89 - Jul. 30 at 12:17pm | quote

 

Pete

Your points are valid.  

I think using the language that you recommend is one of the reasons why we fall into the trap of presuming to forgive under false pretenses in the first place and why we insist that others forgive unconditionally without addressing truth and justice - we don't understand what it is to forgive because we think it is something we can just do of our own will - and we do this unwittingly.  

We are not bad, we are just learning.  But, we've never examined it deeply and because of this we probably live in more dysfunction than is necessary.

To examine it deeply, one finds only one forgiveness.  

And, "the reality of human action", is that humans are constantly searching and seeking to be in harmony with God, to receive Grace by learning what we have to learn "down here" as persons, and in the process wreaking dysfunction in order to learn.  

Those actions - I see - are the actions that are really and truly ours - when we're apart from Grace, which is the work we are supposed to be doing.  Eventually, we fully and finally understand God's Love when we experience forgiveness.

#90 - Jul. 30 at 3:35pm | quote

 

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