An alternative to Forgiveness – 3

In the last couple of blogs, I’ve outlined the way in which I see forgiveness between people often sold: as a kind of trial process. I’ve also outlined the way in which I look at the fallout following someone’s misdeed.

I’m happy with the way I handle that kind of situation inasmuch as it tends to help me save my bacon. However, it doesn’t help me go through the process of “Forgiveness” I’ve described. In fact, the clash between that process and my process has a tendency to keep me stuck going around in endless circles. I can’t “forgive” people on those terms. Then I can’t “forgive” myself for not “forgiving” them. Particularly in stressful situations, the whole thing adds an additional load I could really do without. In the long term, it tends to make things drag on when I’d rather leave them behind.

I thought the problem was with me; a manifestation of a personal shortcoming. That’s definitely a part of it, I’m sure, but it’s not the problem. If you can’t find an answer, if you can’t come to a decent resolution, it could be that you’re asking the wrong questions and trying to push yourself through the wrong process. I think that’s what I was doing here.

The real issue is that no part of the Trial of Forgiveness is essential to moving on from an event. None of it. That’s a myth I’d bought into without evaluating it. There are other ways out, other processes that can be followed.

First and foremost, a judgement is not necessary. It is possible to assess an event and draw the necessary conclusions without passing judgement.

As a culture, we seem to be getting increasing bad at risk assessments, and increasingly good at assigning blame. Our first question in a lot of situations seems to be “whose fault is it?” The answers we come up with aim at providing an answer in term of moral responsibility, rather than just cause-and-effect. We’ve gotten culturally so wrapped up in doing that, in fact, that we forget that it’s not necessary; that we can actually work out causes and effects and do damage limitation without passing any moral judgement at all.

Think about a risk assessment of the type one would conduct in a work setting. In a risk assessment, we look at:

  • the likelihood of a negative event taking place,
  • the seriousness of the results of that event taking place,
  • and what steps we need to take in order to avoid this.

For instance, I have a new crossbow, and three old dogs. If I allow the two to combine, two things could happen:

  1. skewered dogs;
  2. a chewed-up crossbow.

The likelihood of no. 1 taking place is high: I’m a crap shot, and dogs move. The possible consequences are severe. Therefore, I’m going to take steps to reduce the chances of that happening; I will only load and shoot the crossbow in the garage, sans pooches. The likelihood of no. 2 taking place is low, because the dogs are trained and the crossbow is not made of sausages. The possible consequences range from relatively insignificant (a nibbled crossbow) to severe (a dog with perforated or blocked-up intestines).  As it takes no effort at all to remove the possibility of that happening, leaving the crossbow in the garage where I fire it not being really a chore, I’m going to do that, too.

A moral judgement is not a required part of this exercise. I can evaluate those risks and hazards and create a plan to lower risks and mitigate the fallout without having to pass moral judgements upon the crossbow, the dogs, or me for having either or both. In fact, if I climbed upon a soapbox and started yelling at the crossbow for its iniquities, most people would think I’m being a bit odd.

Guess what: when our risks and hazards are centered around people rather than beasts or inanimate objects, same rules apply. A moral judgement is not essential. It may happen inevitably, because we’re likely to have different feelings towards a tornado and a person, but passing judgement doesn’t have to be a part of the process. In fact, making it a part of the process can seriously gum up the works.



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