The Folly of Forgiveness
( Ruminations on Reparations
on the Eve of July 4th )
Forgive and Forget. But what if you don’t want to? What if the apology feels more like just a landmark for the crime rather than a lighthouse for the way forward?
It is said that forgiving is good for you, that without it the transgressor keeps winning, that you will feel relieved. Lighthearted, even. But what if forgiving makes you feel defeated, ignored, and not just bloodied but left to bleed?
What is the basis for our penchant for forgiveness? Why do we revel in stories where a person who has suffered great loss forgives the perpetrator? How does it happen that holding a grudge is a worse faux pas than the original sin? Is it because everyone prefers to be excused for their crimes rather than be held to account for them? Or is our call for forgiveness actually tacit acknowledgment that once the damage is done, there truly is no making it “as good as new” so you may as well “get over it”?
The winner (truly) takes all.
Why are we willing to let people who have broken what we say are “the rules” keep the spoils of their bad act? Is it because we think of victims of injustice as losers? Is that why we chastise them for being “sore”? Do we worship winners even if they are takers, absconders, grifters, abusers, thieves, mean?
When we do demand recompense, we usually require only that the aggrieved person be “made whole”. “Don’t get mad, get even.” But why does the transgressor have the right to a full reset? “An eye for an eye,” we say. But why should the victim and the miscreant be equally blind? Isn’t the victim entitled to just a scooch more than the criminal?
Victims are urged to not only forgive, but also to forget. (!) They are expected to help erase the record, and even their own experience, of the damage they sustained. If there is no record of the events, then there’s no proof of the crime. If there’s no proof of the crime, there can be no assessment of guilt, and thus no recompense or punishment – even as the damage continues to fester.
Forgive the person. Forget the crime. Forego reparation. Forge ahead.
“Everyone loves a winner.” We let winners win - no matter what it was they took.