An alternative to Forgiveness – 1

I’m going to spend a few blogs writing way above my paygrade, again. I suck at forgiveness. I’m trying to work it out for myself, not because it’s The Right Thing to do but because it’s an essential part of recovery but not in the way commonly advertised; I don’t think so, anyway.

If anyone wants info on the confluence of the traditional Judeo-Christian approach to forgiveness and self-defence/violence, the person I’d personally speak to is Clint Overland. He’s good at that. I’m not. So what you’re getting here is “Forgiveness for those who can’t”. Let this be your disclaimer.

There are two aspects of forgiveness that come into recovering from violence: forgiving the person who brought on the violence, and forgiving yourself. If you don’t think the latter is a factor for you, congratulations; I hope you’re right. I don’t personally know anyone who’s not affected by that, but that doesn’t make it an impossibility. If you think that the whole self-forgiveness thing will be no use to you, bear in mind that it may be useful to at least some of the people around you.

Way I see it, forgiveness between people is usually sold as a kind of trial process. Someone’s Done Wrong, so you put them in the Defendant’s seat. Whoever got hurt gets to be the Plaintiff, though they may also be the Judge and Jury. The event is inspected and dissected and reflected upon, evidence brought forth, both sides examined with greater or lesser care, and after due deliberation a verdict is reached:

  • The Defendant may be found guilty, and some kind of retribution may be set in order for everyone to move on from the event. The Plaintiff may or may not have a say in what the retribution is; sometimes that’s set by the community or its leaders, taking on the role of Judge. Sometimes the Defendant gets to set their own retribution, and everyone just has to accept that.
  • The Defendant may be found innocent for various reasons (“they can’t help it” being a classic), with no retribution set and the entire system rebooting from start as if nothing had happened. That can often mean that any attempts at setting up future damage limitation measures are seen as iniquitous, because they hark back to an event that’s supposed to have unhappened. In fact, such attempts may be treated as demonstrating a “lack of trust” that can legitimately bring on future misdeeds; because not trusting someone who’s already fucked you over means that you are giving them the right to fuck you over again, obvs. (No, seriously, some people believe that.)
  • Or, in the case that annoys me the most, the Defendant may be found guilty, and still no retributions or future damage limitations set. And that process of accepting that someone has done you wrong and will quite possibly do you wrong again, and forcing yourself to live with that, is what is labelled as “Forgiveness” and classed as a virtue. And if the Defendant can’t get with that process, then it’s them who’s at fault now, and they get put to trial for that.

I can see a number of problems with this; in fact, I can see nothing but problems, which makes me terribly biased and a poor resource to follow; be warned. I’m going to hack at what those problems are in the next blog. Stay glued to your screens, and all that jazz.

 

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