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Forgiveness sucks





Indi
We've all been ingrained with the idea that forgiveness is a good thing. "To forgive is divine", for example, and we frown on people who are slow to forgive those who have "trespassed" against them... even when the wrong done to them was substantial. And when someone does forgive the person who has wronged them horribly, we fawn and cheer them on, and talk about what a nice and good person they are.

But... hang on a sec... why is it so good to forgive? Why should we consider those who forgive to be "nice", and those who don't to be stubborn or mean-spirited? What are the people who forgive doing that is "right", or at least "more right" than the people who don't?

And i want to be clear that i'm focusing on cases that aren't merely accidents or mistakes, but rather where the harm done was intended and possibly even enjoyed at the time it was done. Sure, yes, if somebody makes a mistake and does harm accidentally, we can and should forgive them (assuming they have shown genuine remorse for their mistake, and taken steps to repair the damage and ensure the mistake will not be repeated) - nobody is perfect, after all. But in situations where someone has callously or maliciously deliberately caused harm - or taken actions that they knew damn well would cause harm, even if the harm itself wasn't the primary goal - the equation is very different.

I think it shouldn't be controversial that when someone has deliberately or knowingly harmed you, and they have not shown remorse or made any effort to make amends or prevent a repeat occurrence, you are not obligated in any way to forgive them. But what about taking it a step farther... what if i said you are morally obligated to NOT forgive someone who has done harm, yet shown no remorse and made no attempt at amends or avoiding a repeat? What if i said it is morally wrong to forgive in that situation?

Even in those cases, it is possible for a person to change over time, so maybe they may come to genuinely regret what they've done, and take real steps toward making amends. What about then? Should you forgive then? Are you obligated to forgive then? Presumably you should hold back from forgiving until they've actually repaired the damage they did... but what about situations where the damage is irreparable - where it is impossible for them to undo the harm they did? Are you still obligated to forgive them?

Here are the kinds of questions I pose:

  • Is there anything actually "good" about forgiveness? In what way? It is like charity - which is unequivocally good (unless you're a piece-of-shit libertarian of the Randian persuasion, but let's not go there)? Or is it like being a people pleaser - which is good in limited amounts (it's not bad to want to make people happy), but is not universally good (it would be ridiculous if everyone put everyone else first all the time - we'd all end up miserable) and must be applied carefully or else it will be abused?

  • Or could it be that forgiveness is not good at all - that if there were no forgiveness, the negative consequences of bad acts would be even greater, which means they're less likely to be done in the first place?

  • What are the "rules" of forgiveness? Assuming forgiveness doesn't makes sense all the time - or that there are times where you certainly should not forgive, times where you certainly should forgive, and times where you have the choice - what are the rules that determine when and why it is a good and when and how it should be done?

  • What are the "rules" of being forgiven? Should someone ever expect to be forgiven? When someone has been forgiven, what does that mean? Does it mean they can stop doing whatever reparations they were doing?
deanhills
When I think forgiveness I usually think therapy. Like with alcoholics anonymous. Usually it is not the person that you forgive that matters as much as letting go of your own attachment to whatever had happened to create the need for release from negativity. Genuine forgiveness seems to be the key for getting rid of the root of negativity.

So in a way forgiveness is a selfish act of self-preservation to be able to let go of a grievance or perception of having been wronged. A release of something negative. That has little to do with the other person really. More with survival of self and personal happiness.

That's the ideal of course. I'm not good at the scenario you're referring to - i.e. someone who has wronged a person and did it as a deliberate and cruel act, and enjoyed it. For me there has to be an eye for an eye. I wish the other person as bad as what he/she has been responsible for creating. At my own cost of course. Carrying that kind of burden of negativity is obviously not good for one's health. It is logically dumb. But human at the same time.
Bikerman
I think there is some truth in that Dean. Certainly if a particular person or incident dominates our thinking then that is usually a bad thing. Forgiveness, if seen as a 'OK, I'm letting go of your ability to make me think about things that I would rather not' would be a positive for the individual in most, if not all, circumstances.

BUT...

Is this really forgiveness?
See, I tend to think it is more like you say - release. Do you have to forgive a person in order to come to terms with some harm they have done to you? Clearly if you are actively seeking retribution then you have not, and are unlikely to be able to, 'let go' - so we would need to have a position where you were not looking for payback or recompense of any sort. But other than that, would it not be enough to simply say something like:
This event is now going to be dropped. I DON'T forgive you because (I don't want to/you don't deserve it/there were others involved and I cannot forgive for them - delete as appropriate) but I will now cease interaction with you and would ask you to reciprocate and if we DO need to interact, socially, professionally, then we do so as strangers, in civility, with no intention of becoming acquaintances.

Would that not work?
nickfyoung
I go along with most of Dean's thinking on this one. To harbor grudges can be detrimental to ones health and the continuous thinking about the incident can eat away at you. So I see forgiveness as more of a self help thing than anything else. If you can let go of whatever it was that did you wrong you are stopping it from eating away at you and causing you grief. I don't think that absolves the wrong doer from blame and it is possible to forgive some one and still go for compensation of some sort. An ex comes to mind who did the wrong thing by me and cost me heaps. I was able to find excuse for her actions in a mental health issue and so able to forgive her but still took her to court for compensation. I was able to do so without any bitterness toward her and so did not allow her wrong actions to punish me over and over.
Bikerman
The problem will now be semantic. Forgiveness, like most words, is highly contextual - it means different things in different contexts. In legal context, for example, it often means NOT pursuing damages or compensation/costs.

In general use, I agree, it is more to do with the victims POV and needn't imply the related concepts of pardoning, accepting, excusing or even condoning the offender or offence.

In religion, however - and we can't avoid going there for this topic...
forgiveness (in Christianity particularly) is ALL about paying debts and absolution, is it not?
nickfyoung
Part of Christian council ling is going back to the distant past and forgiving every one that has ever crossed your path. It is all for the benefit of the forgiver though although sometimes if possible the forgiver can go to the trespasser and ask forgiveness. Whether it is granted is irrelevant as it is all about healing of the forgiver. I remember once having to forgive my dead mother for dying when I was 5 and abandoning me.
Bikerman
No, that is not traditional Christianity at all. That is more akin to Mormon beliefs than any tradition of scriptural mainstream XY (XY is a handy short-cut I use in writing Christianity - I use it all the time in my blog writings and other scribblings, so it may slip in occasionally).

Mainstream XY was unconcerned with peer relationships - hence monasticism and withdrawal from the world of sensation and relationships. The notion of a life-audit is one that no Christian from before this or last century would recognise.

The whole point of Christianity is you don't have the power or right to forgive anyone for anything - that is God's prerogative. He forgives people who offend YOU and you don't get a say. Vicarious redemption - an ugly doctrine. The notion that someone else can forgive injury to me offends me at a very deep level of my person - I find it repulsive in plain moral terms, but more than that, I find it totally unfair and unjust in a way that is offensive.
It comes, of course, from the necessity to construct a Jesus narrative to explain his rather ignominious death as a minor crim and subsequent vanishing for a couple of decades. Not the stuff of which legends are normally fashioned....To bind that into a narrative, one which also has him as the one true God, whilst at the same time building-in a defence against the inevitable charge of polytheism, and also integrates him with the other 'one true God' - well, those early church leaders set themselves a right bugger of a task and, needless to say, their efforts were, at best, patchy and makeshift.
The whole dying to forgive our sins patch is as dodgy as a ten year old two-stroke bike. You can almost feel the poor sods going round the table for the 50th time -
Look, I know it's not great but unless anyone else has any better idea??? No? Peter? Any inspiration? No? How about you Barnabas? Any useful thoughts? No..? Well, redemptive saviour it is then. /i]-

It has that feel of bad compromise hatched in desperation. It basically doesn't work on any level - especially when the stated back-story falls apart, as the whole Garden of Eden story is seen as, at best, parable/metaphor. So what, exactly, was the sin he had to die in order to allow himself to forgive us for? The whole thing is frankly embarrassingly terrible, but in the circumstances it was the best they could knock-up.

So we get the basic notion of the Jewish [i]Korban
- the sacrificial animal - that features in a lot of Judaic lore and practice - particularly Passover of course - and this is then woven into a narrative which has Jesus as the Korban. (In Judaism the korban is usually a Lamb (ey up, sounds familiar) and it is sacrificed in the belief that the creature becomes 'divine' or 'sanctified' before it is killed - presumably why God likes the smell in the first place Wink )

So it is clear where the basic narrative was pulled from - Jewish mysticism woven with a bit of creative myth-making to fit a general Zeitgeist, since they were all busy sacrificing anything handy. But the whole thing was held together with spit and chewing-gum even at the time. The fact that they had to tack-on other stuff to keep it viable - the Trinity nonsense being chief amongst them to avoid Polytheist charges - just made a basically crappy bit of theology DIY into a 'call Alan Titchmarsh and tell him it's bad'.
Truth to tell, even Christians have to psyche themselves up to believe this mush, and most actually prefer not to look too closely - a bit like not wanting to look at a film-set, or a theatre stage-set, too closely - because you know that you will see all the joins, and that will 'cross the Proscenium' (ie it will spoil the illusion).

I mean, you can believe it, I guess, if you work on it. You can even remember it and be able to repeat it. But you can't actually make it a credible narrative - it contains too much patchwork and symbolic frippery to cover the cracks.

I've often said, and I'll say it again, if the early Christians could have screwed up their courage and said 'bugger it, let's ditch the whole Torah' - as the Marcionites actually wanted to do - then Christianity would be :
a) A nicer (nice in the old sense, accurate, fit for purpose) set of beliefs, in which most people would see some worth, even if not buying the whole package
b) A more consistent afterlife narrative. The whole heaven & hell construction was always going to be a bad move- which is, of course, why the Jews never really go near it.
c) A more credible claim to be monotheist. The sticking plaster of the Trinity holds for the faithful, but it is lipstick on a pig - it won't fool anyone who isn't wanting/needing desperately to be fooled,and it will surely end in tears....
d) A more consistent and logical back-story. I mean, OK if you want to believe Jesus IS the one, eternal God then that would be doable. Trying to do that whilst retaining the other 'one, eternal God' was just asking for bother.Writing his back-story without the need to shoe-horn Yahweh into the picture would have led to a more coherent and believable narrative structure and mythos.
e) Most of all they could have ditched Psycho-bill from the OT. (Anyone who reads the OT and doesn't see that Yahweh is a monster is either deep in la-la land, is raising cognitive dissonance to a new and worrying record high, or is just basically unwilling/unable to face the notion and does what most Christians do - 'Oh, it's the Old Testament - that all changed with Jesus'. Many of them appear to think that makes some sort of sense which is slightly odd. Aside from the fact that the only reason for keeping the bloody Torah was to provide a back-story and history for the new Messiah, the notion that he is one with Yahweh - indeed IS Yahweh in some mysterious double-think manner beyond reason. To now try to say that no, he IS different, and certainly NOT the deity in the OT - well, put the analyst on danger money boyo because this is pushing the old Cog-Dif up to danger levels yet again.. Aside from the fact that the Jesus constructed in the NT never claims to be God; insists on two occasions that I can remember, that he HASN'T come to change the OT. and then states IN TERMS that no bugger else better think about changing it either....well, I guess it can't make it much worse....

If they had been brave and just said 'sod it - ditch the lot', then they could have dissociated Jesus nicely by playing Yahweh differently - and actually playing him TRUTHFULLY for what he was - a tribal war-God in a polytheist pantheon of Gods who, through accident and happen-stance, was elevated from Leader OF the Gods to the ONLY God, for reasons of political and social necessity at the time. The new Christians could have said - you keep your petty little deity, with his moods, his petulance, his cruelty and his infuriating, childish need to be loved and praised at all times - we've got a newer improved and MUCH more user-friendly God in Jesus who, we would like to establish, has bugger-all connection to YOUR Psycho, being 100% recycled from kittens and fluffy teddy bears, and with a snugglability warranty for no extra cost......stick that in your narghile and smoke it Lionel.

But no, they tried for the jackpot - having their God and eating him too - but ended up with a twisted, immoral, unbelievable and incoherent muddle of stuff, which they then had to patch together and smile, To survive they invented yet more asininity. Look, they would say - 'if you don't get it, don't worry - it's your fault not the text - you need special training to see the truth, which is obviously a higher and more refined truth than the stuff you are used to. Our truth comes in special packaging which makes it look like nonsense to unbelievers - you need a pair of Jesus goggles and a lot of intensive training - preferably before you can think critically - before our truth appears to you like the stuff you normally use.....but don't forget - any discrepancies are the product of your failure to believe hard enough and NOT because it is all silly nonsense.
In the meantime, get sine practice by chanting the holy mantras.........

doublethink is double-good;
belief wins over evidence - belief lasts forever but evidence can change;
logic and reason bring ruin and treason;
thinking brings doubt, so shut both of them out
Reason and rhyme lead to violence and crime
Belief is like a muscle - train hard and believe 10 contradictions with a smile
Facts lead to acts, but faith keeps you safe
Thinking too hard will catch you off guard
Belief without facts is the way to relax
No need to look, 'cause it's all in the book
Critical thought will leave you distraught
Believe in the book or get ready to cook
If it's written in scripture it's as good as a picture...


Ouch, that last one reacted with my poetic aesthetic, like a frenetic emetic, prompting apologetic Smile
Sorry, wandered off into a full stream of consciousness there for ages.....I only intended to write a couple of lines Smile Must be that damn Turkish cigarette I had...bad tobacco I bet...
Indi
Therapy is all fine and good, but the thing with all forms of therapy is they're just about you. It's not really about doing anything for the other parties - you don't need to involve the other parties at all. In fact, a lot times when people go to get therapy to deal with things like how their parents treated them, they're coached to vent their frustration on dolls or pillows. Forgiveness is much like sex, in that if you're doing it alone, you're not really doing it.

If you're forgiving and it's therapeutic for you, fine... but those are two entirely separate things. It's not hard to imagine situations where forgiving doesn't really heal the hurt, or where you can get the same therapeutic effects without forgiving at all (as Bikerman described). If what you're after is the therapeutic effect, you don't need to be forgiving to get it. You can shrug off grudges and stop fretting about people who have harmed without forgiving them.

In fact, if all you're concerned about is self-healing, then it's rather important to make it clear that you don't have to forgive to get it. Telling people that they have to forgive to get absolution is totally wrong, and it bullies people who are not ready to forgive into doing so in the hopes that it will heal their own hurt. And when they do that, they let the transgressor off the hook when when they shouldn't really be. In other words, this isn't just poor semantics, it's flat out functionally and ethically wrong - it doesn't actually do what it is supposed to, and it lets transgressors off when they shouldn't be.
loremar
There's nothing good about forgiving since you're just basically going back to square one. And there's nothing wrong with not forgiving completely like avoiding/disliking the person or feeling disgusted(granted what he did was disgusting) since maybe it's just physically not possible for you to forget or feel comfortable about the past. It's not doing good nor doing bad, just OK. Not bad since disliking you or feeling hurt about disliking him (which is just basically you expressing hurt) is just not correct.

Forgiving someone not repenting is ok as long as you think his wrong and should do better next time. People will demand you to feel disgusted maybe because they want some kind of confirmation but that should just be up to you right? or maybe feeling disgusted had to do with correcting the person but maybe other ways is possible? Asking for compensation is also ok as long as that leaves the both of you well and fine or that the offender can repair damage if any(meaning the both of you is well and fine in the future). Vengeance is ok as long as it does some kind of compensation and is not irrepairable. Like yeah, you should be the one suffering for your own doing, not me? Of course, this is after thoroughly considering other ways.

.....That is at least what I think....
Bikerman
As I say, my problems with religious forgiveness are even more fundamental - the option it is taken away from us, so a Christian who wrongs me doesn't need my forgiveness and probably doesn't want it - he/she needs God's forgiveness and God happily dishes it out on demand.
In general I forgive where it seems to me that it is the right thing to do - certainly not as a requirement or even a moral imperative. Some people I will probably never forgive but their wrongs to me are not the issuer - they are simply Gits , and I have no desire to do anything 'nice' for them at all. I don't hate them, I don't care about them enough to register much of any sort of emotion.
As for the general morality - I tend to think we are mostly in amoral territory here. There is no moral requirement for me to behave in a particular way, in response to damage from others. Mty forgiveness is something I don't feel able to control by force of will - rather like my beliefs. I see no reason to say I forgive if I don't think I do - why lie? On the other hand, if I do forgive, I see no moral imperative for that to be shared with the other person - though I would probably want to do so in most cases. It may be that forgiveness brings benefit to them if, say, they are filled with remorse and guilt. In such a case I might feel very inclined to help with that - but not unless I meant it.
It isn't actually something I've thought deeply about before....maybe because the Christian abuse of the concept actually DOES make me angry, unusually.
nickfyoung
Some call it regression therapy.

http://www.earth-association.org/information/regression-therapy/what-is-regression-therapy.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_regression_in_therapy
Bikerman
Regression therapy is the worst sort of nonsense and I say that CLEARLY, in case anyone thinks otherwise. It is pseudoscientific claptrap which has been responsible for huge suffering and even some fatalities,

Please do not post such garbage in these forums.
catscratches
Bikerman wrote:
As I say, my problems with religious forgiveness are even more fundamental - the option it is taken away from us, so a Christian who wrongs me doesn't need my forgiveness and probably doesn't want it - he/she needs God's forgiveness and God happily dishes it out on demand.
Yes, at my sister's confirmation they did a play that appalled me. Someone bullied their friends and betrayed them, but since they asked God for forgiveness it was all ok. (Except they never apologized to the actual people affected by their actions.)

I think forgiveness can be like altruism. It's not inherently good but praising it as a principle makes some sense. Naturally other people aren't more important than yourself, you're just as important, but you don't typically need to tell people to think of themselves, it's the default. Your own desires are always part of the equation, even when you try to think altruistically.

In the same way, telling people they shouldn't always forgive others seems typically (but of course not always) unnecessary. Being upset with people who have wronged you (whether intentionally or not) is the default. So even if forgiveness is not inherently good, praising it still make sense (although it's an oversimplification).

On the other hand, praising forgiveness as some form of inherent good when it really isn't sets the expectation of people to forgive, even when they really shouldn't (or at the least, aren't obligated to). I remember an instance from my childhood (childhood anecdote time! informative and entirely reliable!) where a teacher tried to force forgiveness out of me toward some other boy. I don't remember what had happened but she had made him apologize but I did not believe for a second he was actually sorry and refuse to say he was forgiven.

And on the flip side of the coin I remember when I had been quite terrible to a girl out of cowardice and peer pressure. I apologized and I think she said it was okay, but it really wasn't. I didn't believe she said so for any other reason than because it was to be expected. When expressing forgiveness is expected of you, you can't know if it is ever genuine. And even if that had been genuine, it still certainly wouldn't have made me feel better (whether it made her feel any better can only be speculated on, I'd like to think my apology helped at least a tiny bit and that she believed it was genuine (which it was)). I did wrong and I knew it was wrong even before I did it.

Not sure if these anecdotes added anything...

The Christian idea of forgiveness, I can't see anything positive about.
Indi
loremar wrote:
There's nothing good about forgiving since you're just basically going back to square one. And there's nothing wrong with not forgiving completely like avoiding/disliking the person or feeling disgusted(granted what he did was disgusting) since maybe it's just physically not possible for you to forget or feel comfortable about the past. It's not doing good nor doing bad, just OK.

But that's obviously not true. Say someone murdered your child. You forgive them. This does not "unmurder" your child. Even without being quite so dramatic, say someone maliciously ruined your chance to get a job you really wanted. You can forgive them all you want, you're still out a job. You're certainly not back at square one.

Okay, but what about situations where the damage can be - and has been - fully repaired? Even then, you can't possibly get back to "square one" merely by forgiving. Imagine you had some cherished possession, and someone stole it from you. Years later they return the item. Everything's all fixed, right? Wrong. You went years without your cherished item, and even if that didn't cause any tangible damage (like money or job loss, or stuff like that), you suffered for those years without your cherished item. And even if the lack of the item itself didn't hurt you, that feeling you had for all those years of being a victim, of being hurt, and of having to deal with the bitter knowledge that there's someone out there who wanted to hurt you. That just doesn't magically go away. You can decide you've accepted that as part of your life and decide you're okay with it, but the point is it still happened. Forgiving cannot take you back to square one before all that happened.

And that's just your side of the equation - what about the side of the equation of the person being (or not being) forgiven?

So forgiving someone does not take you back to square one.

Well, if they are really sorry for what they've done, that forgiveness can be an enormous relief to them. Living your life knowing someone hates you - and worse, knowing you deserve it - is a shitty experience. Being forgiven can complete change someone's life.

And not only are there those intangible benefits for the person being forgiven, there may be tangible ones as well. If the person is really sorry (or even if they're not) and they've been working hard to make reparations for their transgression, your forgiveness is the signal that now it's okay to stop.

So whether or not you choose to forgive, it can make an enormous difference... just not to you, but rather to the person who did the harm. If you do it, it can actually set someone who is being tormented by regret free. On the other hand, it may just let someone off the hook who isn't really sorry for what they've done. And in the bigger picture, the more people forgive, the less punishment there is for wrongdoing... which means wrongdoing becomes easier in general.

Bikerman wrote:
As for the general morality - I tend to think we are mostly in amoral territory here. There is no moral requirement for me to behave in a particular way, in response to damage from others. Mty forgiveness is something I don't feel able to control by force of will - rather like my beliefs. I see no reason to say I forgive if I don't think I do - why lie? On the other hand, if I do forgive, I see no moral imperative for that to be shared with the other person - though I would probably want to do so in most cases. It may be that forgiveness brings benefit to them if, say, they are filled with remorse and guilt. In such a case I might feel very inclined to help with that - but not unless I meant it.

But as i mentioned above, your forgiveness does have effect... just not on you, but rather on the transgressor. Thus forgiving is like any other action that may help or harm another: it's moral if it justly helps them and immoral if it unjustly harms them. It would also be immoral if you're letting them off the hook when you shouldn't, because it increases the likelihood that they'll transgress again - and not necessarily against you.

The reason i started this topic is because i started to wonder if we've got the whole concept of forgiveness completely wrong. It's always been defined (in the West) by Judeo-Christian logic (and in the East by Dharmic logic - ie, helping your karma - but let's not open that can of worms (unless someone actually wants to)), though i use the term "logic" very loosely. It's always been "understood" that it makes God happy when you forgive. Why? Who knows? But for whatever reason, it makes God happy when you forgive, therefore you should do it. (Except in those situations where God says you shouldn't, like if your wife had an affair - in those cases you should go ahead and stone her. And of course, I'm ignoring the whole concept of proxy forgiveness, where you can wrong someone then get forgiveness from God - not the person you wronged - and that squares everything, because that's just odious.)

Okay, obviously all of that is pretty stupid and incoherent (an "abuse" of logic, to use your term), but it is the foundation for the way we think about forgiveness today. Even if we no longer explicitly add "because it makes God happy", we still just... say... that being forgiving makes us good. Even moral philosophers have just tended to flat out assert that it's good (i exaggerate slightly, but what justifications i've seen are pretty weak). What struck me is that nothing in that "standard" thinking has any consideration for the person being forgiven - good or bad. You should forgive because good people forgive - that's the logic we all grew up with.

But when I started thinking about it, i realized that forgiveness is a two-party problem - a behaviour that involves two people, one giving and one getting. That pretty much automatically makes it a moral problem. And moral problems are primarily decided on relative to the target of the action, not the actor.

In other words, our whole understanding of forgiveness may be wrong.

And consider this: when deciding whether or not an action is moral, it very rarely comes down to what the actor wants. In other words, no matter how much you may want to punch an annoying person in the face... you shouldn't. And no matter how much you may not want to give a hand to an ****** in need... you should. What i'm saying is, that you may be wrong when you say "{t}here is no moral requirement for me to behave in a particular way, in response to damage from others", or "I see no reason to say I forgive if I don't think I do - why lie?".

Honestly, i feel a bit like i've opened Pandora's box here, because my head is spinning with trying to get a grip on forgiveness logically and morally all the while being confused by the infection of the "standard logic" of forgiveness. It may be that we have to completely redefine what "forgiving" is, and separate it into two entirely different things: forgiving-feeling, which refers to your inner feelings about whether the conflict between you and your transgressor has been resolved; and forging-act, which refers to the actual act and expression of forgiveness from you to the transgressor. That is, the action of forgiving and the feeling of forgiving are two entirely different and unrelated things. Split up that way, then the conflict you feel about forgiving(-act) someone you don't really forgive(-inside) might just go away (because it's no longer one thing "forgiving" anymore, it's two different things "forgiving-act" and "forgiving-feeling"... and just like anything else, you should do the right thing even if you don't like the person).

But I don't know, this is new territory for me. Believe it or not, it all spiralled out of a chemically-facilitated discussion about climate change. ^_^;

catscratches wrote:
I think forgiveness can be like altruism. It's not inherently good but praising it as a principle makes some sense. Naturally other people aren't more important than yourself, you're just as important, but you don't typically need to tell people to think of themselves, it's the default. Your own desires are always part of the equation, even when you try to think altruistically.

I would say altruism is inherently good, assuming its done reasonably (that is, assuming it's actually altruism and not martyrdom or fatalism in disguise). Helping others for no personal gain helps someone, after all... just not you, but i don't see a problem with that. Quite the contrary, i would say you should always help others, even if there is no gain for you, and even if there is a cost to you provided the cost to you isn't too great. (I don't mean to suggest you should do utilitarian-like balancing of equations to find out whether it's worth helping someone or not - simply reasoning along the lines of "if i help them, will it cost me the ability to help myself (or possibly others in the future)?". If the answer is no, then you are morally obligated to help.)
spinout
The rules of forgiveness are different from time to time, depending on what to forgive. And that may vary from person to person.

The only thing good about forgiving is that it is a hard thing to do.

And it beeing hard is interesting (good), because then every bad action actually become a very good thing. So if your goal is to be able to forgive in life, then you really need someone to do bad things to you.
Bikerman
Yes, I'm beginning to see the complications. I've tossed it around for a while during 'down time' (which for me is usually the time between head on pillow and sleep) and I think we have a two entity problem as you outline. It seems the way to progress is indeed to separate forgiveness as a moral imperative and forgiveness as a cognitive state. But the problem then, it seems to me, is that we need to be sure that the forgiving act is a moral action per se. Is there nothing to be said, in terms of 'good for the other person' for withholding forgiveness? Are there not situations in which granting forgiveness could be harmful? I'm thinking of situations where the transgressor is being given confusing moral signals by being forgiven without some specified contrition or acknowledgement of the harm done. If we DO decide that forgiveness should, in some or all cases, be conditional, then we get into a whole new set of problems....
LxGoodies
Interesting read, thx !

Indi wrote:
It would also be immoral if you're letting them off the hook when you shouldn't, because it increases the likelihood that they'll transgress again - and not necessarily against you.

Nie wieder, never forget. Often has been a consideration in jewish families, not travelling to Germany for decades after the war. The inability to forgive is proportional to the harm done. The holocaust cannot be forgiven. And in some cases, like this one, with political angles, the "not necessarily against you" plays a role indeed. For this reason, in the Netherlands many synagogues and jewish organisations oppose the recent habit of letting Germans take part in remembrance ceremonies of WW II. They should not be there, because the entity they represent (Germany) carries eternal guilt for what happened.

Collective forgiving is far more difficult than personal forgiving, anyway. If a jewish individual gets to know a German individual in the Netherlands, the German isn't blamed for what happened.. Actually, the - longing to - forgiving sometimes exists in the mind of the German ! For example, when the German would express himself in English instead of German, because he is ashamed to force the jewish person to use German..
Indi
Bikerman wrote:
It seems the way to progress is indeed to separate forgiveness as a moral imperative and forgiveness as a cognitive state.

Yeah, but then the problem with that is whether it is possible to do the act without the feeling. And if it is, is that actually meaningful? I mean, if you say the words "I'm sorry" when you don't actually feel sorry, it's not really an apology, right? So is it meaningful to say "I forgive you" when you're still hurt?

I'm thinking that it is meaningful, because when you say "I forgive you", you're not really actually saying you forgive the person, in practical terms. You're saying "I absolve you of any further responsibility to make reparations for the harm you did, and declare publicly that you owe me nothing more". You're not necessarily saying "I no longer hurt inside over what you did", and you're not necessarily saying "we're friends again with no further issues between us". You're making a public declaration, for the record and for your social network, that they should no longer badger the transgressor about what was done - you're declaring the whole thing "over" to your satisfaction for their benefit (and the benefit of the transgressor). It's a social signal to tell everyone around you that the matter is resolved.

But you - personally, inside - may still hurt. And you may still be unable or unwilling to forget what was done or pretend it doesn't bother you anymore. Clearing up the mess for everyone else doesn't necessarily mean you've cleared it up for yourself.

So forgiving-act is a public, social gesture to end the external conflict, which may or may not also involve forgiving-feeling - it's what you do for the sake of social harmony and progress. Forgiving-feeling is a private mental/emotional state - it's how you feel, which isn't always constructive, productive, admirable, or even nice... but it's the way you feel, and you can't help that.

Bikerman wrote:
But the problem then, it seems to me, is that we need to be sure that the forgiving act is a moral action per se. Is there nothing to be said, in terms of 'good for the other person' for withholding forgiveness? Are there not situations in which granting forgiveness could be harmful? I'm thinking of situations where the transgressor is being given confusing moral signals by being forgiven without some specified contrition or acknowledgement of the harm done. If we DO decide that forgiveness should, in some or all cases, be conditional, then we get into a whole new set of problems....

Sure, and I don't think that would disqualify it from being moral. Whether an action is moral or not is very situationally-dependent - context usually matters. Restraining someone is usually immoral... but not when they're drunk and trying to drive, not when they're having a seizure where they might hurt themselves, etc.. Forgiving could be moral when it's done at the right time under the right circumstances, and immoral other times (and amoral still other times).

If forgiving(-act) is really a signal to the transgressor and society in general that the matter is closed, that means the transgressor is - in effect - "cleared" of any more guilt. So if you do it too soon, you could be letting someone off the hook when they shouldn't be, and giving them a signal that what they didn't isn't all that bad. On the other hand, if you don't do it long after you should, you're just being cruel.

I don't think it's a matter of making forgiving "conditional" so much as it is saying that there's a proper time for it. Once the circumstances are right, then it's time to forgive(-act... you may not be able to feel totally forgiving for a long time after, or you may have felt ready emotionally to forgive some time before). Precisely what those circumstances are will vary from situation to situation, of course, but there might be some general rules - i can't think of what they might be, though, so i'm open to suggestion.
loveandormoney
Indi wrote:
We've all been ingrained with the idea that forgiveness is a good thing. "To forgive is divine", for example, and we frown on people who are slow to forgive those who have "trespassed" against them... even when the wrong done to them was substantial. And when someone does forgive the person who has wronged them horribly, we fawn and cheer them on, and talk about what a nice and good person they are.

But... hang on a sec... why is it so good to forgive? Why should we consider those who forgive to be "nice", and those who don't to be stubborn or mean-spirited? What are the people who forgive doing that is "right", or at least "more right" than the people who don't?

And i want to be clear that i'm focusing on cases that aren't merely accidents or mistakes, but rather where the harm done was intended and possibly even enjoyed at the time it was done. Sure, yes, if somebody makes a mistake and does harm accidentally, we can and should forgive them (assuming they have shown genuine remorse for their mistake, and taken steps to repair the damage and ensure the mistake will not be repeated) - nobody is perfect, after all. But in situations where someone has callously or maliciously deliberately caused harm - or taken actions that they knew damn well would cause harm, even if the harm itself wasn't the primary goal - the equation is very different.

I think it shouldn't be controversial that when someone has deliberately or knowingly harmed you, and they have not shown remorse or made any effort to make amends or prevent a repeat occurrence, you are not obligated in any way to forgive them. But what about taking it a step farther... what if i said you are morally obligated to NOT forgive someone who has done harm, yet shown no remorse and made no attempt at amends or avoiding a repeat? What if i said it is morally wrong to forgive in that situation?

Even in those cases, it is possible for a person to change over time, so maybe they may come to genuinely regret what they've done, and take real steps toward making amends. What about then? Should you forgive then? Are you obligated to forgive then? Presumably you should hold back from forgiving until they've actually repaired the damage they did... but what about situations where the damage is irreparable - where it is impossible for them to undo the harm they did? Are you still obligated to forgive them?

Here are the kinds of questions I pose:

  • Is there anything actually "good" about forgiveness? In what way? It is like charity - which is unequivocally good (unless you're a piece-of-shit libertarian of the Randian persuasion, but let's not go there)? Or is it like being a people pleaser - which is good in limited amounts (it's not bad to want to make people happy), but is not universally good (it would be ridiculous if everyone put everyone else first all the time - we'd all end up miserable) and must be applied carefully or else it will be abused?

  • Or could it be that forgiveness is not good at all - that if there were no forgiveness, the negative consequences of bad acts would be even greater, which means they're less likely to be done in the first place?

  • What are the "rules" of forgiveness? Assuming forgiveness doesn't makes sense all the time - or that there are times where you certainly should not forgive, times where you certainly should forgive, and times where you have the choice - what are the rules that determine when and why it is a good and when and how it should be done?

  • What are the "rules" of being forgiven? Should someone ever expect to be forgiven? When someone has been forgiven, what does that mean? Does it mean they can stop doing whatever reparations they were doing?



Jesus said: Forgive is wrong.

Is out of Your view Jesus wrong?

"Forgive" people were fooled.
nam_siddharth
Mistakes can be forgiven. But forgiving deliberate wrongdoings is not a good idea. But sometimes even deliberate wrongdoings can be forgiven if somehow we know that he/she will not repeat it. Even in this case we must be careful for his/her actions and we cannot trust him/her any more.
loveandormoney
Do You talk about mistakes or errors?
RamaRaksha
I agree with the OP about Forgiving - we had some recent cases of mass murders - are the victims supposed to simply forgive the mass murderer who brought so much pain into their lives?
Sometimes we say I forgive X, only to hear that X has forgiven us! Most people do not see themselves as bad people and it is a shock to them that some other person has forgiven them because they have been bad

But as others have noted it is better for the health of the victim if he or she forgives otherwise the burn might just kill them. It helps to move on. But it is also says one is weak - a weak can satisfy himself, doing nothing against injustice, by saying he has forgiven those that had hurt him. It's a coward's way out

The real problem i have with Forgiveness when religions use it - God will forgive? Wait a minute, who is God to forgive? He is not the victim! Only the victim has the power to forgive, not even God has that right. It's like saying this criminal did a terrible thing, he raped and killed this child, was taken to court and the Judge forgave him! Wow! How would the victim's family feel about this forgiveness by God? Their loved child is dead and the criminal is now enjoying heaven?
This situation actually happened at Penn State - the abuser was found out years ago - the admin and maybe the coach and the criminal got together, did the criminal cry and promise that he would never do it again? The admin forgave him! And we all know what happened afterwards. Who was missing from the meeting? The victim, of course! It is wrong for religions to teach that God forgives and i am disappointed that we have so many bright and educated people who study morals and ethics and yet none of them speak up

Here's an image that might help:
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