Thursday, July 20, 2006

Let's Hope

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on forgiveness, which solicited some very interesting and insightful comments. I took those comments to heart and started rethinking what it is one is doing when he or she forgives another. One way that my thinking has shifted on this issue is to think of forgiveness less as an act in which we are somehow educating the one who has harmed us. This is where I was hung up. My greatest fear was that by forgiving one who has harmed me, I am somehow sanctioning his or her actions. But to forgive is something wholly separate from moral condemnation or even moral education. To forgive is, I now believe, about healing yourself.

The energy we expend in fueling our moral condemnation and approbation of others could be redirected in more productive, fruitful and nurturing ways. Staying angry, trying to control the behavior of Others with that anger, and assure ourselves that we have a right to our righteous indignation because, after all, "look what he/she did to us" is self-destructive. When have any major conflicts been solved by the injured party festering a grudge and rehearsing the list of atrocities? We only continue to give power to the one who harmed us.

To forgive is to move away from the identity of victim. Sure, being a victim has its perks now and again. As victims, we get sympathy from others and our rage is excused as a justified response to sins committed against us. But, victimhood gets old, quick. It hardens us; freezes us in a moment of time. The future is cut off, which means possibilities that are yet unimagined never get imagined. We are prisoners to the past if we choose to maintain our identity as victims.

And yet, we desperately need something to lift us out of our misery, our hurt, our prison. I think what that something is, is grace. I am too agnostic to say anything meaningful about where grace comes from--is it a gift of God, as Christians say? I dunno. I choose not to resolve that particular metaphysical question. What I understand grace to be is an invitation; it's a open door, beckoning us to walk through and into an open future. Grace is hope. Hope is the antidote to anger.

To remain a victim is to abandon all hope. And to forgive is to regain hope. But, we need more than our own resolve to forgive, we need grace.

Let's hope.