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Joan Drennen

Joined: Nov. 11, 2011

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Re: What his contrition has to do with my forgiveness

Jul. 30 at 4:57am | see this comment in context

When you asked what role the community can play in all of this I thought of a story I heard recently. A child got caught doing something dishonest for a school project by the mother. The mother asked the teacher for advice, who then advised the mother to apologize to the child for letting him down, for not overseeing him in a way that would have helped him resist the temptation to take the easy way out, and for failing to provide a way for him to succeed. The mother burst into tears knowing she had missed an opportunity (actually, she recognized that she had missed many) to fulfill her mission. She took responsibility and apologized to her child for letting him down and stated specific ways she should have assisted him.  At that very moment, she was teaching her son to desire honest success, to know that he was worthwhile, to care for himself because he was cared for. The teacher and the mother recognized the greater responsibility the mother had than the child. The mother made a new, internal commitment to serve her child.

Re: What his contrition has to do with my forgiveness

Jul. 30 at 4:48am | see this comment in context

Vanier's examples catch us off guard which is what I think he meant to do. Usually we don't think of a child having authority over a parent. The child does, in a way, because he says by his existence, "I'm yours. Take care of me." The authority the mother has over the child is higher in the hierarchy (does von Hildebrand go into this?) Another way of saying this is more is required of the mother.

I thought of Pope John Paul’s apologies as an example of an authority figure apologizing without lessening his authority, and was left with this question, “Can any of us do a perfect job in carrying out our responsibilities?” That's what we're sorry for. Our contrition teaches those we've hurt to be sorry in turn when they fall short (not that we express sorrow because of that.) We're so sorry- because we wanted our charges "to grow." And if that unselfish awareness hadn't arisen in us, we're sorry because we recognize that desire should have been there. In a spiritual way, at the moment of contrition, we begin to carve a new path toward being more faithful to the sacred trust invested in our position.

Re: What his contrition has to do with my forgiveness

Jul. 27 at 9:52am | see this comment in context

. My favorite part is when he answers that “this type of authority is like the authority a child has over a mother, or a friend over a friend, or a wife over her husband and vice versa.” I believe he is saying that there is an authority in relationships, the authority of knowing that the other is worthy of respect, as well as ourselves. I must take responsibility when I have failed those under me even though I am put in a position over them, especially because I have been given that duty and privilege. I believe there is a misconception in the Christian community that somehow this weakens authority and I disagree with it wholeheartedly. If I have nothing to hide (I blew it. I let you down. I failed you.) in expressing contritions, I not only restore my charge’s dignity, I also restore the validity of my basis of authority- my duty and commitment to serve.

Re: What his contrition has to do with my forgiveness

Jul. 27 at 9:50am | see this comment in context

But even in the case of authority, I believe it is wrong to withhold contrition, especially then. There is a high duty when we are in authority, to express sorrow to those under us that we’ve let down. I was reading in the June 25th Magnificat “Meditation of the Day” a very inspiring entry by Jean Vanier on the topic of authority. He explains, “The word ‘authority’ comes from the Latin ‘augere’ (to grow). All authority, whether it be civil, parental, religious, or community, is intended to help people grow towards greater freedom, justice, and truth.” He then cites Jesus’ example and posture of washing his disciples’ feet as expressing an authority “from below”. He continues to write that this type of authority is based on service and questions for the sake of the reader whether this type of authority can still be called authority.

(continued)

Re: What his contrition has to do with my forgiveness

Jul. 27 at 9:47am | see this comment in context

Jules, what you are saying seems so obvious and yet so profound. I am left wondering- what is at the root of the question, "What's his contrition got to do with my forgiveness?" If we denied that relationship, we would, as you say, have to deny our true and holy need for each other. Is there some hesitancy in the Christian community, as witnessed in the very thorough debate about the details of forgiveness, to permit that we need each other's sincere contrition?

 Like you say above, what is restored when contrition is expressed is the outward verification that the other is worthy of respect. It seems to me the only instances that there would be a withholding of contrition is in cases where the offender wants to control or hold power over the one he has hurt (in unhealthy, dishonest, or abusive relationships) or when he believes he has the right to have the upper hand, as in the case of authority.

(continued)

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