Friday, March 10, 2006

Forgiving those who are not sorry



OK, here is where the spiritual rubber meets the spititual road for me.

Let's say someone is sorry for what they have done, and they approach me sincerely asking forgiveness. That I can do. I no longer live out of that wound. My resentment goes. I am in fact thankful. Moved.

Then let's say soemone did something ordinary-sized that hurt me or someone else a long time ago, and they are no longer around. My letting go can happen, even if they do not apologize. It's not always a walk in the park, but it is possible.

Then let's say something bigger and meaner happens. Acts of Cruelty. And the person is not sorry.

This is where my spirit goes into fetal (or is that "fist") shape.

I want to lead a good life. I know I am commanded to love. To love even those who persecute me or anyone else. I am called upon to forgive, not once but 70 x 7. But I don't always answer those calls.

When I speak of being forgiven by God, I can speak about unconditional forgiveness, given to me even if not merited or sought. I tell people there were no qualifying exams given by Jesus at the foot of the cross to see who did and did not get forgiveness. And when I speak of God's forgiveness, it feels like what I am describing is God's promise to love me even though I am not perfect, not whole, not full of only virtue. I say and know that Calvary was about God not letting my sins stand between us.

It's one of those cases where "I can take it, but I sure have trouble dishing it out."

I try to talk myself out of forgiving, start refining what forgiveness is. Start ignoring that it is a giving to someone else.

I tell myself it isn't my job to fogive everyone. To love everyone. To not let their sin or mine stand between us. S'not my job, mister.

But isn't it? Is it right to be selective about who is allowed into the heart of forgiveness and who is not? What does it mean if I forgive someone that I think is heinous? If Christ died for everyone's forgiveness, what right do I have to withhold mine?

And then, what does it MEAN to forgive, if after I forgive I want nothing to do with that person. What have I given them?

I keep thinking of Holly Cole's song, in which she catalogues a list of low-down and dirty things that her lover has done saying "Who'll keep on wanting you..etc..." You expect her to say "I will"..what she says is :

God will but I won't
God will, but I don't
That's the difference
between God and me.


It is supposed to be amusing -- but tonight it just makes me even more pensive.

23 Comments:

Blogger P.S. (an after-thought) said...

I think that when we think something is in the past, that we've gotten over it, that we've dealt with it with FORGIVENESS, not just with putting it behind us, we can be terribly shocked when it comes up again. And coming up is an apt metaphor; it comes up like vomit.

I was quite saddened and angered by the resurgance of some "past" bad feelings last Nov. when a certain person just ignored a bad situation I was in. So this wasn't a heinous crime. It was more like a sin of ommission, from my viewpoint. I think the other person was oblivious.

So this is not in the horribly bad sin category that you are talking about, but it does illustrate that the 7 x 70 is a very practical command and that we need to ask for God's help in the forgiveness process.

I still haven't been able to deal with this in a constructive way; your post makes me realize that I need to do this, not ignore the problem again.

But I can still forgive even if the other person can't get his part of this "fixed." I can only forgive with God's help, I know.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Miss Eagle said...

Dear Mata, you have challenged me once again. I have posted at The Eagle's Nest at http://eaglesplace.blogspot.com with a poem I wrote in 1996. I have one major issue - around events in 1998 - which has not been reconciled between the parties to date in spite of my seeking it. It took quite a toll on my life - internally. I have fought this situation in my life and prayed and sought God because I know that unforgiveness will have an outworking in my own life. This has been a battle and it is only in the last couple of years that I have not thought of the main figure in this situation every day. As I have read this ten year old poem, I can't recall what brought me to write it - but I think, as I read it now, that its message is quite prophetic.

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it forgivable to say "I have never had anything major to forgive"? In other words - I have never felt I was a victim, was at anybody's mercy. Undeserved, incredible luck, I suppose, or is it an unrepentant perpetrator's mindset?

Emm

2:24 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

I am genuinely happy that there are those among us with nothing major to forgive anyone for I would like a world where everyone could say that. I am thankful for the comments here -- I am starting to think of forgiveness as a process, soomething that has to be done over and over -- like spiritual housework..hmmmmm..

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Pat Z. said...

Mata, That is so true about spiritual housework! Good phrase for me to remember on a daily basis.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Inheritor of Heaven said...

I think that forgiveness is for us. It doesn't matter if the other person cares or even knows. It is for us because it sets us free from judgements against the other person which would otherwise lead to bitter roots that entangle us in our own lives. If we do not forgive we are not forgiven. We come to be in bondage to that unforgiveness and it also allows the devil a foothold in our lives to further enslave us. Sorry for sounding so Middle Ages :) but the kingdom is all about forgiveness. Of course Jesus didn't say Father forgive them conditional upon their caring about it. There are those who will not be saved whose sins Jesus has paid the price for.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still at the point of anger and it is controlling my every thought. I'm still trying to figure out the whole forgivenesss thing even if the other party doesn't see what they have done wrong. All I want is an "I'm sorry". All I can do is pray about it untill I am at peace.

MBP

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I write this, there are tears in my eyes. I have searched the net for solace, and I have come across your blog. I, too, am struggling with the concept of "forgiveness", especially when the other party does not show remorse, contrition or any form of apology. I have been so angry, seething with anger.

My father was caught with another man. We were all shocked. My mother eventually went back to him and now INSISTS on defending him. They both act like nothing happened. My three other siblings, decided to act as if things never happened too, and they SHAME me for still feeling so angry and hurt.

On what planet is that kind of betrayal OK? My dad never spoke to any of us about it to say sorry. They all act as if it never happened.

I am so hurt, and I am so afraid of God. I do not know what to do. God can forgive, but how can I? I do not know how. My spirit is maimed and I am so angry. I feel so unloved, so ashamed and so mad that I am feeling this way when none of it is my fault.

I just want him to say, "Sorry" that he hurt us. I want him to say, "Yes I did an awful thing". I don't care if he is homosexual. I want him to admit it. Why is my mom being so stupid.

I am baring my soul online. I feel so alone. Dear God, please help me. I feel so lost. Black hole in my soul...

To all who are reading, I am sorry for this rambling. I hope someone out there understands what I feel. The hurt is so big, it is eating me inside out.

5:04 AM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Hi Anonymous person ...I am so sorry that you are in pain. It sounds like your Dad has some big personal confusion to deal with -- a confusion that has nothing to do with you. You didn't cause it, you can't make it go away for him. It must be very hard when no one around you is talking with you about it all.

It sounds like you do need to talk to someone about what you are going through --perhaps someone outside of the family. Is there a minister or clergy person or counselor that you can talk to with the absolute assurance of confidentiality? You might also want to contact PFLAG. Their site is here. They are an organization for parents and families and friends of gay people. There will be lots of people in PFLAG who know directly what you are going through and who will respect your feelings.

Even if folks are not talking with you about it, this has to be a huge stress on your whole family. I will hold you and your Dad and family in my prayers.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mata H,

I am so relieved that someone wrote back. I was beginning to feel so alone.

I have never heard of PFLAG, thank you for introducing me to them. I will check out their site and try to find someone who I can talk to there.

All the priests who are close to us, they are close to my dad too. So I am very embarrassed to tell them about our situation.

I cannot believe that my dad is gay and that he denies it. And my mom buys it hook, line and sinker... And they both, want to shove everything under the rug and act as if they are their usual normal couple.

Some days I feel ok, some days I feel so troubled.

I think the people at PFLAG would understand me...

Thank you. I believe that God is working through you. Imagine, from across the void, I was able to find someone who cares enough to listen. Thank you, friend. God bless you.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Dear Anonymous - I am glad I could refer you in a helpful direction. It is important for you to find a safe place with caring people around you to talk this through. Sometimes families get confused, and they can't address some things directly. That doesn't mean they don't love you -- it may mean that they just lost their way for a while. This has to be a big issue for your whole family, and people will move through it at different rates. I will continue to hold your entire family in my prayers and wish you the best of luck. May God bless you.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he was between two criminals. One asked for his grace. The other laughed. One was forgiven and the other was damned to hell. Did Jesus forgive the unrepentant? Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it looks like he did not forgive the unrepentant. He offered forgiveness to any who come to him with sorrow. Those who don't are separated from him and his forgiveness, by choice. I think that it's the same for those who knowingly wrong another person and don't regret their actions and apologize. Forgiveness in the sense of reconciliation is waiting for them to do their part.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Jesus did not damn the other man to hell. The other man asked Jesus to save them all from their current pain. Jesus didn't reply. The one with whom Jesus spoke asked to be remembered by Jesus when Jesus came into his kingdom. Jesus told him that he would be with him in Paradise. We really don't know how Jesus felt about the 1st criminal.

However, I think there is a difference between "forgiveness" and "reconciliation". There are some cases where forgiveness is possible, but reconciliation is not -- as with an abuser, for example. One may come to an understanding that allows forgiveness, but that does not mean that it makes sense to put ones self in harm's way if the abuser is not sorry. That's my understanding, anyway....

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been dealing with the spirit of forgiveness and just wanted you all to know that you blessed me with your discussion today

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really needed to hear this today. Its still hard to understand how to forgive someone who isn't sorry, and see them on a daily basis. Even if you've forgiven them in your heart, but they just think they've done nothing wrong, it still brings anger. Is that really true forgiveness?

3:25 AM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Hi Anonymous in March -

I have come to see that forgiveness means not living out of the wound. For me, the wound had become like one of a plant's roots that tapped into something foul. It fed me, but not with anything nourishing. I had to take that root and put it somewhere else. For me, I needed to see that the person who had done wrong by me was not a bad person, but a decent person who had "lost his way" spiritually. For some reason that gave me some considerable peace. It disarmed some of the anger and sad feelings. Does that help at all?

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been dealing with the issue of forgiving someone who hurt me, and will not apologize for his actions. I'm not as religious as I once was in my youth. And I found your discussion interesting. I know God teaches that we should forgive those who harm us. But that's so hard to do when an "I'm sorry" can be so comforting. The person who hurt me lives his life without regrets, and while acknowledging that he hurt me, and saying he won't do it again, he won't apologize for his actions. That is extremely conflicting, and tears my thoughts up. To me, it's no guarantee. I hope that you all and I find a way to forgive those that have hurt us. Thanks for the post.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous JJ said...

I came across your blog while seeking for some peace to my situation. I want to forgive my sister, but it's so hard. She is genuinely a bad person. She is filled with hate and jealousy and anger and though I did nothing to bring it on, she has done horrible things to me. I have a wonderful life outside of this and sometimes I wonder if this is God's way of "making it fair". Not only is my sister not sorry. she just wants to "move on and let it go". I find that awfully convenient for the one who did the hurting. She and her husband are leaders in our church. I went to the pastor and asked that he intervene (according to matthew, the right thing to do). Not only did he not intervene, but he actually protected them over me. I am so angry that I dont see how I can ever not be. I dont understand why God wont protect me...or at the least just make me feel better.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello All: Some very good thoughts on forgiveness, but really, where does repentance figure in all of this? Do those you forgive EVER have to show repentance?

A "friend" of mine, while drunk, had an accident which killed my brother. He has not, to date, even once apologized for the HUGE HOLE he has left in my and my family's lives (not to mention my brother's friends, etc.) And this person is now, of all things, a PASTOR, and he has yet to even MENTION it, much less be sorry or repentant for it. I believe it throws dirt on grace and repentance to "forgive" someone such as this. Christ has this capacity, I do not, nor do I think I should.

I think of these people who "forgive" the murderer who killed their little child, and protest the murderer's execution. Do these horridly misguided souls not know how they "hate" their children by acting this way? Do you think God expects them (not Him) to forgive this murderer, that is, truly, and not just in words? Is it really too much to ask of the offender the simple words, even if not heartfelt, "I'm sorry"?

Please don't tell me what Christ did - He was, and is, sui generis, but how, without totally dismissing what my now "pastor" (former) friend) did, do I forgive him? Did Jesus REALLY forgive ALL of those who were /are unrepentant, and if not, how in the world am I to do this, and, frankly, why should I want to, except out of a selfish desire not to consume myself with this horrid person?

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing with me is It's hard to forgive whoever it is using witchcraft on me.. either my ex boyfriend or my sons fathers sister who hates me with a passion... How does one forgive that?

5:37 PM  
Blogger sarah1 said...

I have been deeply heart by someone who i thought was my best friend.
this person truly showed me kindness and affection. although throughout that time when the person was nice i wasn't that great at all but i was always remorseful for what i said and did.
but as times went on the person showed me a completely different side.
the person become extremely i mean extremely dishonest and has shown no remorse.
i felt like i have been lied to for years.
i really and truly i want to move on and i want to forgive because i know forgiveness is the right cure.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so, so sorry about your loss.

I think you asked a few questions, firstly he absolutely should have apologized and its totally reasonable to expect him to. It may be that he became a pastor out of remorse, but is too cowardly to face your family. I don't for a second mean that that is a decent excuse for not apologising, what I mean is that we don't know how he feels about it if he never said anything- you should tackle him directly and ask him. If he is not sorry you should tell him how unacceptable that is and what he did to your family. You may also feel better for it, rather than bottling it up.

Forgiveness is not about excusing him or saying it wasn't terrible what he did. God doesn't tell us to forgive others because they deserve it, in fact there is no such thing as a person who "deserves forgiveness". Thats just a way of saying what they did wasn't that bad and we should "get over it". No wonder the idea makes people mad.

To really forgive is entirely different. It first of all is an acceptance that something terrible happened, rather than dwelling on "it shouldn't have". Of course it shouldn't have but sadly it did.

Secondly it is letting go of the rage we feel, so we can feel the full sadness and grief.

Thirdly it is understanding that we are not letting them off the hook. YOU cannot and are not punishing this man by hating him. Your anger eats you up not him.

He does not know what you are thinking, what you are doing or how you are feeling every moment you hate him. He may feel terrible he may not, but you are not affecting that. In the meantime your anger and rage will disturb your blood pressure, increase your risks of stroke, heart attacks, make you miserable and block any happiness and joy you may someday feel again. This man already killed your brother, don't let him destroy you too.

I once saw a lady who forgave the man who murdered her young daughter and asked that he get imprisoned for life rather than executed. She felt that to kill anyone in her daughter's name would be to violate the goodness and sweetness and beauty of who she was. It was an act of love.

None of this is easy, I'm strugging to forgive something so much less serious than you that I'm embrassed to post it. But I find asking God to help me, and a daily meditation where I repeat "I forgive you, I release you" works well for me. I would also suggest finding a good pastor and a good therapist to help you.

God asks us to forgive others whether they are sorry or not, because he loves us and wants us to be happy. Forgiveness also helps you remember your brother for the wonderful person he was and not the terrible way he died. Think about everything you loved about him, and try to live with those qualities in your life, that would be a beautiful way to honor him.

I really hope this helps.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus says if your brother asks you for forgiveness, you give it 70x7 etc. If someone isn't sorry then there's no requirement to forgive.

There IS a qualification test Jesus gave. Otherwise everyone would go to heaven. The test is asking God for forgiveness. God won't let us off the hook if we don't ask him to do so, likewise with each other. If someone apologizes then yes you are obligated to forgive (but not forget). If not then do as Jesus instructed when confronted by those who did not want his forgiveness: shake the dust from your feet and move on. You don't need to seek retaliation or revenge and usually shouldn't, but without an apology your not required to forgive.

3:21 PM  

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