KacyRay

Forgiveness

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Here’s a word people like to throw around without almost a single thought as to its implications – Forgiveness.

But how much thought do people really give this idea? Does anyone really ask any questions about it?

If forgiveness is defined as “the absolution of an unpaid moral debt”, is it an altruistic act?

What are the moral implications of the answer to this question?

Is that even a valid philosophic definition? If not, what is?

It is an inherently noble act?

It is always appropriate?

If not, when is it appropriate, and when is it not appropriate?

What value does the act of forgiveness have on the person forgiving?

You hear a lot of folks extolling the virtues of this idea, but very few people deliberating what it really means, or questioning it’s virtue. It seems people uniformly give rote approval to the concept, but never justify it or explain why it is a good thing.

I don’t recall any attention given to this idea in Objectivist literature, and I don’t really remember the idea appearing in Rand’s fiction. I suppose we can speculate on what she’d have had to say about it. What say you?

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Here’s a word people like to throw around without almost a single thought as to its implications – Forgiveness.

But how much thought do people really give this idea? Does anyone really ask any questions about it?

If forgiveness is defined as “the absolution of an unpaid moral debt”, is it an altruistic act?

What are the moral implications of the answer to this question?

Is that even a valid philosophic definition? If not, what is?

It is an inherently noble act?

It is always appropriate?

If not, when is it appropriate, and when is it not appropriate?

What value does the act of forgiveness have on the person forgiving?

You hear a lot of folks extolling the virtues of this idea, but very few people deliberating what it really means, or questioning it’s virtue. It seems people uniformly give rote approval to the concept, but never justify it or explain why it is a good thing.

I don’t recall any attention given to this idea in Objectivist literature, and I don’t really remember the idea appearing in Rand’s fiction. I suppose we can speculate on what she’d have had to say about it. What say you?

Forgiveness is the price we way (sometimes) for getting on with our lives.

Consider the alternatives to forgiveness:

rigorous justice,

revenge,

retaliation....

Sometimes we are in no position to get the justice we should have for wrongs done to us.

Revenge is an energy consuming motive.

Retaliation is fraught with danger and risk.

Sometime letting go of the wrong is the better course to follow even if it is not the most morally satisfying course.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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"It is against the sin of forgiveness that I wanted to warn you, Mr. Rearden." However, in The Fountainhead, when Keating and Roark first strike the deal over Courtland Homes, Roark says, "This erases everything." He meant, of course, Keating's moral debt. This was possible for Roark - I believe - because he had learned from Kent Lansing that an advocate can be a moral ally even without sharing all of your values. Had Keating been able to pull off his side of the bargain in managing the bureaucrats, he would have earned the absolution. As it was, he did not. At that point, Roark had only pity for him.

Personally, I am not one for forgiveness, but that rests on the deeper fact that I am not one for holding a grudge. When I was a boy, my Mom said that that was for girls: men learn to get along with people they don't like. Later, I read socio-biological explanations for the success of the male hunting pack. Also, when I was a boy, I learned from westerns that if a man say's he's sorry, that ends the problem. Bad guys get shot because they are never sorry.

However, the transgressor's apology pays the moral debt. And forgiveness, as defined, depends on an unpaid moral debt. That in turn depends on the recognition of the debt. Not counting it in the first place would be forgiveness and would be the act of the bigger person.

And it was against that that Francisco sought to warn Hank.

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Personally, I am not one for forgiveness, but that rests on the deeper fact that I am not one for holding a grudge. When I was a boy, my Mom said that that was for girls: men learn to get along with people they don't like. Later, I read socio-biological explanations for the success of the male hunting pack. Also, when I was a boy, I learned from westerns that if a man say's he's sorry, that ends the problem. Bad guys get shot because they are never sorry. However, the transgressor's apology pays the moral debt. And forgiveness, as defined, depends on an unpaid moral debt. That in turn depends on the recognition of the debt. Not counting it in the first place would be forgiveness and would be the act of the bigger person.

And it was against that that Francisco sought to warn Hank.

The carried grudge is one of the heaviest burdens to carry.

It is also not good for one's health.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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You forgive so you can get on with your life and end your own victimhood respecting the offender. Secondarily, to do him/her some good and maybe stop repeated offenses (against others as well).

--Brant

first the offense; second, shoot the bastard dead; third, clean your gun; fourth, forgive him

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Forgiveness is the price we way (sometimes) for getting on with our lives.

Consider the alternatives to forgiveness:

rigorous justice,

revenge,

retaliation....

Sometimes we are in no position to get the justice we should have for wrongs done to us.

Revenge is an energy consuming motive.

Retaliation is fraught with danger and risk.

Sometime letting go of the wrong is the better course to follow even if it is not the most morally satisfying course.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Well received. But isn't there another alternative to revenge and retaliation?

There are failures and wrongs that have been done to me that I find it very difficult to forgive - even wrongs from my parents, whom I miss very much and have worked very hard to try to absolve for their shortcomings.

And they aren't even major things like "Dad molested me while mom stood by". I'm talking about relatively minor things like "Dad never taught me how to fight". and "They made me go to a Christian school for 4 years". Things like that. I have trouble letting go of those things.

And if I still retain these deeply engrained resentments toward my parents, whose loss I still feel every day, you can imagine the types of deeply entrenched resentments I feel toward others I feel have wronged me throughout my life.

I think it's because letting go of an unpaid moral debt - for an insightful person - requires an act of blanking-out that isn't always an option. For example - I still remember a guy who jilted me out of a dollar in 6th grade. I still remember his name, and that dollar is the only reason I still remember him, and it's the only thing I remember about him.

But what I am I supposed to do? Although I have no use for the dollar now and wouldn't take it from him even if he offered it, I can't make myself forget that he jilted me out of it at a time when it actually meant something me.

I can't make myself forget these things. You can't force yourself to forget things (I don't think).

So what do you do when you know you have these lingering moral debts throughout your life that you cannot forget? You want to let go... but how do you do that? It' snot like you can will yourself to forget them, and you cannot force the debtor to repay them.

It's really easy to say "I forgive that person"... but what exactly are we saying, and doing, when we say that?

If we are saying "I relinquish you from that moral debt"... isn't that a self-sacrificial act? Isn't that basically accepting an injustice? Isn't accepting injustice antithetical to the values we (presumably all of us here) hold?

And would it be any different if we were to accept injustices conferred upon others? Consider this...

Murderers are rightly scorned and hated by society for the injustice they've inflicted upon the murdered individual. I personally would never forgive the Sandy Hook murderer even though he did nothing to affect me personally, because I know that there is an injustice committed that can never be repaid.

Now, how would I be perceived if I one day declared "You know what... that shooter at Sandy Hook... I forgive him. I relinquish him of the moral debt he incurred toward all those kids.".

I'd rightly be vilified for making such a pronouncement. But let's face it, the principle is the same. Absolving an unpaid moral debt is absolving an unpaid moral debt, regardless of the degree.

Just so you understand, I'm not arguing any point here. I'm actually in the process of thinking this issue through, so if my thoughts sound disjointed and under development, it's because they are.

Anyway - I agree that forgiveness has practical value. I just wish it was an art I was better able to perfect. I'm just not so sure it's up to me.

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Personally, I am not one for forgiveness, but that rests on the deeper fact that I am not one for holding a grudge.

This is how I perceive myself. But the harder I look inward, the more inclined to think that this self-perception may very well be a self-deception.

I do hold onto things longer than I'd like to.

However, the transgressor's apology pays the moral debt. And forgiveness, as defined, depends on an unpaid moral debt. That in turn depends on the recognition of the debt. Not counting it in the first place would be forgiveness and would be the act of the bigger person.

I'm with you up until the contention that a bigger person would fail to count the debt to begin with. I see no particular nobility in failing to recognize or take note of when you've been wronged. In fact, I think that recognition has survival value and an important skill.

I don't think there's ever a time I can remember where someone has offered me a sincere apology, one in which they offer a genuine acknowledgement of how they have wronged me, express remorse, and offer a sincere promise of not doing it again, where I have held any grudge or failed to forgive, regardless of how egregious the transgression. So yes, I agree that apologies pay the bills, insofar as moral debts are concerned.

But geez... how often do those come around, you know? For every case like that, there are countless numbers of cases where someone wrongs you and refuses to acknowledge it. Hell, sometimes they double-down and try to shift the blame in the other direction - making the injustice even more difficult to forgive.

Sometimes you never see them again, and no apology is possible. In those cases, you're just left with an unpaid debt. And as Ba'al said... Sometimes we are in no position to get the justice we should have for wrongs done to us. But the memory of it doesn't fade until it is good and ready.

This is an issue I still struggle with. Thanks for the comment.

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I think the proper social ideals here are benevolence, generosity, and magnanimity toward your fellow man -- based on empathy and compassion for him -- but not forgiveness, charity, or even kindness. Stay close to justice, and don't deviate away from morality. But it also depends on how you define these many related and confusing terms.

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In my birth state, there has been a concerted effort by Progressives to "ban the box" on employment forms, prohibiting employers from asking if you've ever been convicted of a crime. My main objection to this (besides the liberty interest of employers, which they don't recognize) is that doing so would deprive employers of highly relevant information. Even though the individual may have paid their legal penalty, the fact that they committed a crime still tells the employer something about that person. Remembering or considering something that somebody did isn't the same as "holding on" to it in an emotional sense. If somebody didn't return a dollar to you, that is highly relevant information that tells you something about that person. Forgiving usually has to do with emotional acceptance by the forgiver.

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Tool - The Grudge

It's tough, I know. I still struggle with it.

I think it helps to focus attention on how much of the other's behavior was born from the "upper realms" where some sense of free will comes into play, and how much is a result of biology, childhood conditioning, and environment.

You are a determinist, after all.

How can you hold grudges against people who are in your view no different than tornadoes?

Do you hold grudges against earthquakes?

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http://www.psybersquare.com/family/family_injustice.html

Injustice Collectors
by Mark Sichel, LCSW

"My father always had a list of people who he felt were "bad." These bad people, he felt, had insulted, injured, or treated him unjustly. I was often on that list; at one point, he would not talk to me for a period of five years. As he got older, his list grew and he became even more isolated, angry, and bitter. It was very sad to watch, and it was horrible to have to worry about it until he died when I was in my fifties."

Barbara* is a 67-year-old woman who is telling me about her difficulty in letting go of a chronic need to please people. She feels that her need to please others is highly related to having grown up with a parent who was an injustice collector. Barbara identified with her mother, who was a People Pleaser until the day she died, but her sister Eileen, on the other hand, inherited their father's destructive habit of collecting wounds, insults, slights, hurts, lack of respect, lack of understanding, and whatever other grounds either of them could use to place people on their "Bad List." Barbara and her mother are examples of People Pleasers; Eileen and her father are examples of Injustice Collectors.

"Eileen seemed to want to spoil every moment of happiness in everyone's life but her own. She always seemed to be able to manipulate a story and present it in a way that would portray her or her family as poor pitiful victims of whoever in the family seemed to be having a good day. For years, rather than get angry, I would, as I had learned from dealing with our father, quickly apologize and scramble to make everything ok again. I never really felt that I did anything terrible to Eileen, certainly nothing to merit her levels of rage, but whatever it was, I'd always make the peace."

Barbara told me that her sister's chronic drama would repeatedly take the form of hurling accusations at her or her husband or children, and then saying, "I'm done. I'm never speaking to you again." Barbara would immediately say she was sorry, and then spend inordinate amounts of time courting Eileen for forgiveness. Whatever Eileen accused her of did not make sense to her; nonetheless, she immediately felt that it was her fault. She felt overcome with shame and guilt, and in her self-blame would readily prostrate herself before Eileen, groveling to get through the episode and avoid an ugly scene at a family event.

When Barbara's oldest son Lawrence was getting married, he had decided to have a small wedding, and to that end, while he had invited his Aunt Eileen and her husband, he had not invited their grown children with whom he had never been closely involved. Two days before Lawrence's wedding, Barbara had received the dreaded call of rage from Eileen. This time, however, when Eileen shouted, "I'm never speaking to you again, instead of scrambling to fix it, Barbara simply said, "OK. Goodbye." She hung up the phone and never looked back.

"My father died a bitter, lonely and angry man, taking his precious "bad list" into the coffin with him. The funeral was sad for me, not because I would miss him and his atrocious behavior, but because by that point he had alienated everyone but my mother and sister, and we were the only ones at the funeral. I realized with my sister that she was going to play out the same ugly drama, and I finally decided that I didn't need or want to be part of that."

Characteristics of Injustice Collectors:

  1. Injustice Collectors are convinced that they are never wrong. How is it possible that they are never wrong? It is simple: They are always right.
    • Injustice Collectors never apologize. Ever. For anything.
      • Injustice Collectors truly believe that they are morally and ethically superior to others and that others chronically do not hold themselves to the same high standards as the injustice collector does.
        • Injustice Collectors make the rules, break the rules and enforce the rules of the family. They are a combined legislator, police, and judge and jury of
          • Injustice Collectors never worry about what is wrong with themselves as their "bad list" grows. Their focus is always on the failings of others.
            • Injustice Collectors are never upset by the disparity of their rules for others with their own expectations of themselves.
              • Injustice Collectors rationalize their own behavior with great ease and comfort.


The unfortunate outcome in the dysfunctional family is that either the People Pleaser has to become progressively more crippled and entrenched in their subservient role in the family, or else they become healthier and stronger and ultimately are accused of breaking up the family. The sad part about this drama is that once the People Pleaser has grown to the point where their self-respect is high enough to not grovel and shake in the presence of the injustice collector, the family remains divided.

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SB, I admit I usually find you long-winded and boring, but the above articles describes my family to such a T, I'm shaking. Does this mean there are others out there?

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Folks:

How different could we perceive our familiar pains if we understood that our parents had parents also?

Now, I have to admit, that my upbringing was quite excellent.

I also understood, at an early age, that my parents approaches to raising a child, free of religious repressions, and, free to ask and search for truth, was a high priority.

A...

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Forgiveness is the price we way (sometimes) for getting on with our lives.

Consider the alternatives to forgiveness:

rigorous justice,

revenge,

retaliation....

Sometimes we are in no position to get the justice we should have for wrongs done to us.

Revenge is an energy consuming motive.

Retaliation is fraught with danger and risk.

Sometime letting go of the wrong is the better course to follow even if it is not the most morally satisfying course.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Well received. But isn't there another alternative to revenge and retaliation?

There are failures and wrongs that have been done to me that I find it very difficult to forgive - even wrongs from my parents, whom I miss very much and have worked very hard to try to absolve for their shortcomings.

And they aren't even major things like "Dad molested me while mom stood by". I'm talking about relatively minor things like "Dad never taught me how to fight". and "They made me go to a Christian school for 4 years". Things like that. I have trouble letting go of those things.

And if I still retain these deeply engrained resentments toward my parents, whose loss I still feel every day, you can imagine the types of deeply entrenched resentments I feel toward others I feel have wronged me throughout my life.

I think it's because letting go of an unpaid moral debt - for an insightful person - requires an act of blanking-out that isn't always an option. For example - I still remember a guy who jilted me out of a dollar in 6th grade. I still remember his name, and that dollar is the only reason I still remember him, and it's the only thing I remember about him.

But what I am I supposed to do? Although I have no use for the dollar now and wouldn't take it from him even if he offered it, I can't make myself forget that he jilted me out of it at a time when it actually meant something me.

I can't make myself forget these things. You can't force yourself to forget things (I don't think).

So what do you do when you know you have these lingering moral debts throughout your life that you cannot forget? You want to let go... but how do you do that? It' snot like you can will yourself to forget them, and you cannot force the debtor to repay them.

It's really easy to say "I forgive that person"... but what exactly are we saying, and doing, when we say that?

If we are saying "I relinquish you from that moral debt"... isn't that a self-sacrificial act? Isn't that basically accepting an injustice? Isn't accepting injustice antithetical to the values we (presumably all of us here) hold?

And would it be any different if we were to accept injustices conferred upon others? Consider this...

Murderers are rightly scorned and hated by society for the injustice they've inflicted upon the murdered individual. I personally would never forgive the Sandy Hook murderer even though he did nothing to affect me personally, because I know that there is an injustice committed that can never be repaid.

Now, how would I be perceived if I one day declared "You know what... that shooter at Sandy Hook... I forgive him. I relinquish him of the moral debt he incurred toward all those kids.".

I'd rightly be vilified for making such a pronouncement. But let's face it, the principle is the same. Absolving an unpaid moral debt is absolving an unpaid moral debt, regardless of the degree.

Just so you understand, I'm not arguing any point here. I'm actually in the process of thinking this issue through, so if my thoughts sound disjointed and under development, it's because they are.

Anyway - I agree that forgiveness has practical value. I just wish it was an art I was better able to perfect. I'm just not so sure it's up to me.

You can only forgive the shooter, privately, for making you feel bad about the terrible thing he did. What'd be the need for that? You cannot forgive him for killing your child since you had no child that was killed. Practically and morally you are out of the forgiveness loop on that one. The justice loop is, however, available to the general public, short of a lynch mob.

--Brant

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SB, I admit I usually find you long-winded and boring, but the above articles describes my family to such a T, I'm shaking. Does this mean there are others out there?

Of course.

My father was/is an Injustice Collector. My mother is a People Pleaser. Now that I think about it, I suspect my current ornery personality is a result of my struggle to survive my father's IC tendencies -- if I was a weaker person, I would have become a PP like my mother.

I HAD to be a bastard to establish my own independent identity apart from his.

Hope this helps.

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Understood. My life's ambition has been to become bitch. Not the kind of goal they teach you about in The Seven Habits of Effective People. But I'm close. One more boring post from you, and I'm tracking you down.

,

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The act of forgiving does not necessarily have anything to do with forgiveness; the way showing respect does not necessarily have anything to do with respect.

What is forgiveness, really?

Forgiveness is the disassociation of a violation from one's concept of another. We can do this in one of two ways: by either redefining the relevant violation to non-violation status, or by reconceptualizing this person (the person has changed, and therefor is no longer the same as the one who committed the act).

If you really want to forgive someone--not just pretend you've forgiven them--you either have to reevaluate what they did, or determine that they've changed.

Was the violation as bad as you think? If it was, you probably wouldn't want to forgive the person.

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The act of forgiving does not necessarily have anything to do with forgiveness; the way showing respect does not necessarily have anything to do with respect.

What is forgiveness, really?

Forgiveness is the disassociation of a violation from one's concept of another. We can do this in one of two ways: by either redefining the relevant violation to non-violation status, or by reconceptualizing this person (the person has changed, and therefor is no longer the same as the one who committed the act).

If you really want to forgive someone--not just pretend you've forgiven them--you either have to reevaluate what they did, or determine that they've changed.

Was the violation as bad as you think? If it was, you probably wouldn't want to forgive the person.

Here's a forgiveness trick: don't tell the forgiven he's forgiven. Sometimes that's the way to both forgive and get revenge in one package. :smile:

--Brant

vicious me

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Thanks, you two. D. - it wasn't violation; it was full-blown abuse. Brant - I like your style.

D, you have the right take on forgiveness. It involves you and creating physical and emotional distance. Yeah, did that. There are occasional lapses (normal), but the trick is to look out for yourself. Haven't seen the abusers in 30 years; still some effects, but made it through. That's what forgiving is all about. Looking out for yourself. Do I hear the word selfish?

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The act of forgiving does not necessarily have anything to do with forgiveness; the way showing respect does not necessarily have anything to do with respect.

What is forgiveness, really?

Forgiveness is the disassociation of a violation from one's concept of another. We can do this in one of two ways: by either redefining the relevant violation to non-violation status, or by reconceptualizing this person (the person has changed, and therefor is no longer the same as the one who committed the act).

If you really want to forgive someone--not just pretend you've forgiven them--you either have to reevaluate what they did, or determine that they've changed.

Was the violation as bad as you think? If it was, you probably wouldn't want to forgive the person.

Here's a forgiveness trick: don't tell the forgiven he's forgiven. Sometimes that's the way to both forgive and get revenge in one package. :smile:

--Brant

vicious me

Inversely, always assume you've already been forgiven.

It makes Confession less entertaining for priests, though.

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