On Forgiveness

Forgiveness coerced, forgiveness presumed, forgiveness-or-else, forgiveness as forgetting — none of these are righteous.

They’re the cudgel by which the offender keeps the offended in line. But forgiveness freely offered from a strong soul, a healing or healed soul, proffered from a position of strength that refuses to deny or diminish the original harm caused, refuses to countenance the self-serving lies the offender tosses out to mitigate what can never be lessened, is a powerful weapon. It’s not dependent or conditioned on the response or acknowledgement of the other; it’s made with full understanding of the wrong and its severity. This forgiveness stares unflinchingly at the truth, even as the forgiven scrambles to evade it or mocks the importance of it.

In the Christian story, it’s the forgiveness of Christ freely offered to those who sin against him; it’s also the standard for the forgiveness I am called to offer. I have been harmed by episodic offenses, while those whose experience with the filthy violence of patriarchy is more immediate and constant. It’s only in the Spirit that I’ve found strength to forgive. And it’s the Spirit, not me, not well-meaning bromides about the burden of nonforgiveness, that must provoke a person’s pardoning of the other. When that happens — when it’s Spirit-power and not political or personal pressure that draws forth forgiveness — reconciliation and restoration is possible on the personal level. And when that happens, when souls are restored and hearts are awakened unto peace, revolution happens.

And revolution is a good and necessary thing, like a cleansing breeze through rotten, dusty temples.

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