Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Enduring Life while Trying to Forgive

With all that we endure as a result of bad decisions; What God ordained outcome will justify and/or give glory to the convoluted and polluted lives that we live? While thinking about your answer please consider that life for so many is so overwhelmingly complicated at no fault of their own e.g. generational lingerings, geographical location, genetics, etc. Or, is it just tough for them because of someone else's poor decision making i.e. President Bush and Congress? However, those of us in complete or perceived control of our destinies with every thought and action still face consequences as a result of a decision that had MISTAKE written all over it. Thus leaving me with this additional question: How do we truly redeem ourselves if the mistake disrupts one's life completely or tragically affects another person’s life? Redeemed in the sense of getting back to where we were: Comfortable spiritually, emotionally, and/or FORGIVEN. We can't be forever BROKEN and UNFORGIVEN. Right?

Are we not worthy of TRUE forgiveness from our fellow humans? Does it depend on how damaged we are in spirit? Does it depend on how much we have poisoned our souls? Does it depend on the level of pain we have inflicted?

I have written about forgiveness on countless occasions. I have preached a sermon entitled: Forgiveness. Why? I even dedicated a chapter in my book on the concept. Nonetheless, as I get older (turned 38 on July 3) I am reminded that forgiveness takes courage. One must be courageous or either crazy to forgive a lunatic for raping his/her spouse. I can’t imagine having to contemplate a decision of that magnitude: Forgive or continue to harbor hatred/resentment. The latter, from what I am told, can kill you. They say uncontrollable resentment and hate eats away at the core being of a person and eventually negatively infiltrates the mind to the point the individual is unable to decipher when he or she has been totally consumed by their pain. That to me is complex and upsetting. Why upsetting? Well, if what I have shared is true, the individual permanently scarred has only one healthy choice, and that is to FORGIVE. In my reality that is one of life’s unfair dilemmas.

I recall a man asking me one day while I was making my Pastoral Care rounds in a hospital, “So, you mean to tell me that I must forgive her in order for me to be healthy spiritually, and also physically?” He was perplexed and deeply concerned by my divinity school suggestion (a trained response). He went on to say, after I answered with “Yes, God wants us to forgive.” - “You preacher-types are all the same. None of you are prepared to tell me the truth, and that truth is I should not forgive her for what she has done and continues to do. You are telling me that religious bullsh*t because you think it is the right thing for me to do. Do you really think it is? You and your unrealistic preacher thinking!”

He was right, and he remains to be right: I did tell him to forgive his wife, who had spent their life savings gambling, because I did believe it was the Godly thing to do. But, then and now, I have no factual basis for my response. None whatsoever! I can only refer to what I have been told, and I can even quote some health practitioner’s advice, “eliminate the hate or die.” We gonna die anyway. Right?

So, today as you think about all the questions I have befuddled-ly conjured up please consider that forgiveness cannot be accomplished the necessary way it should if you have not forgiven yourself. ‘Where did that come from, Muata?’

What do you stand in the need of forgiveness from yourself? Answer that then try to forgive that guy or that girl who has broken your heart. (What, did you think that yours was not supposed to be shattered? Who told you that crap?) Then ‘stick’ to your forgiveness (that means don’t bring it up again unless necessary) because if you don’t you will carry it like a burden, and then you will…what?

My answer:

Die an unforgiving and unhealthy creation of God.

That was not His purpose for you. But, we all should understand that we are not experts on this. He is. And, we also need to understand that we are spiritually and morally feeble humans: Mistake Prone. Reach a hand out in spite of that mistake!

This stuff ain’t easy!

Should the words Forgive and Forget be synonyms?

Written by Muata. Inspired by “I can forgive – but I can’t forget.”



FREEDOM said...

Very good piece.

Our bible study lesson tonight was about this...Loving your enemies. Matthew 5:43,44, 45

It says, "43- Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44- But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and perscute you; 45- That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

I Forgive for my sake, so that I do not harbor all that negative, evil energy inside of me. But as the link suggested you have to confront the person so that you can forgive them and set boundaries in the future.

There are some things that I have forgotten, but my mind does try to bring them back to my remembrance, so that I can be bitter or not help someone out. But as I keep reading my Bible and other spirit filled books or cds and do not allow resentment to take root in my heart. Once I can face the pain and move pass it then wait can hurt me?

I agree with you that people who are hurting tend to hurt others. So why not choose to love them thru their pain. Sometimes, TIME is all that is needed to heal a broken heart or to reunite one another back to that place of PEACE!


Muata said...

Reader Responds:

Forgiveness and forgetting are not synonymous. In my view, it requires a good MEMORY in order to practice forgiveness. You cannot release someone accurately from the penalties of a crime you cannot remember or choose to NOT RECALL.

Dr. Martin King Jr. notably once said " we will either learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools".

At the heart of learning to live together is the necessity of developing character formations in humility, honesty, integrity, mercy, kindness, purity and patience.

With these character traits comes also the need for skills in communication, conflict resolution and compromise (ok lets call is congenial collegiality so no one feels like they are losing anything).

Even with all of this in place there will still be a need for specific 'energy' originating from without the scope of people involved but of necessity expressed through them which will regularly need to be infused into the community if the people are going to possess the wherewithal to stay in the same room together and live in some kind of harmony.

That energy allows people who have injured, failed or otherwise breached their relationship and concomitant responsibilities to each other to be restored. The process by which that energy is appropriated and relationally transacted is called FORGIVENESS.

Whatever else forgiveness is it is also RELEASE and RECONCILIATION.

In legal language it is judicial dismissal of either the entire charge and case brought against someone or at the very least rescinding the penalties. It is an executive order authorizing full pardon and reinstatement to either the previous or a more advantaged standing/station or position. It is a legislative act establishing new parameters of relating and a penumbra of perquisites for previously injured parties with mandated reparations from prior antagonists.

I can't speak for anyone else on this site. However, I know why I as an ordained and licensed Baptist clergy person continue to have issues with this concept.

I have served now over 25 years in the life congregations of folk who recognize the necessity of FORGIVENESS for the functionality and integrity of all manner of human relations - only to regularly witness how dismally far we fall short, and the horrific consequences of the fallout thereof.

I have lived most of my life in a nation which on the one hand has diabolically laid claim to Christian faith as a part and parcel of its heritage and identity and yet recalcitrantly refuses to acknowledge its need to do COLOSSAL REPARATIONS to all people of African descent especially those who have US citizenship.

I have had my heart broken by people in power (who claimed to be acting in Jesus' name or Allah's name or Buddha's spirit et al) and my capacity to trust and believe contorted and twisted by so many layers and levels of 'so called friends' and lovers that one begins to wonder what is the use in being available to even transact this energy in the first place.

I think a part of the answer to this dilemma lies in Jesus' statement:

NLT Matthew 24:12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.

The only real CHECK against the spread of SIN and its influence on the very ethos of the human spirit and its capacity for life, love, laughter et al is FORGIVENESS. Release from the abiding power and progressively pervasive and perverting influence of SIN.

Show me a place, a people or a person who refuses to release or be reconciled and I will humbly share with you the painful fact that you are looking at what happens when SIN goes unchecked.

For the benefit of those who might ask, I am not advocating that people remain in abusive relationships. At the heart of forgiveness is what Amos calls the flood of righteousness and justice. What I am however naming is the resistance to releasing and reluctance for reconciling.

In my humble opinion, there are no strata of relations in the created order which can afford UNFORGIVENESS.

In my understanding of things, FORGIVENESS is an inextricable part of the identity and government of the Lord of the Universe. For any part of that universe to reject its needs for forgiveness is tantamount to rejecting the Lord of the universe as well.

By His Grace ALONE, I Remain


Muata said...

Reader Response:

The degree to which one forgives of forgets is dependent upon the grievance leveled or injustice committed...

I do not find it necessary to forgive and/or forget in every situation and believe you can healthily move on without having done so...

however, there are lesser grievances that may render a person deserving of forgiveness... and/or forgetfulness of an act...

depends upon the circumstances IMHO...


Muata said...

Reader Response:

unforgiveness hurts. It's painful and it only hurts you. Why hold on to such pain, anger, anguish...it's taxing on every level. Forgetting is never an option really...if something hurt that bad or harm was done, how can you ever really forget, but you can forgive in order to "move past" it. People think forgiveness is about the person being forgiven and it's not, it's for you and about you. It isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it is necessary for individual health and well being.


Muata said...

Reader Response:

I don't believe that it is necessary to forgive someone. Just because "they" say it eats at the core of one's being so on and so forth I don't believe there is any factual basis for that either. People are fed what to do and not to do and people believe it without any real thought or fear of going against what "they" (the blind majority) say. I'm not sure that forgiveness is always the healthy thing to do. As well, what is forgiveness? What does it mean and how does one do it? Just by saying, "I forgive. . ." doesn't mean one has actually done it. No, forgive and forget should not be synonyms. I've been on those pastoral care rounds and I refused to feed bulls--- to the patients because that was not always the right answer. Reality was. I didn't break anyone. I chose to make them think for themselves. I wasn't God, but, of course, you know and understand that as a chaplain (or minister) people see you as the one who speaks for God often being equated to God whether they realize it or not. With that being said I believe God (if God) would be realistic with that person and not feed them the bull that people have attributed to God. Forgiveness of self is a must.


Muata said...

Reader responses:

Interesting. That's for sure.


Great piece. Thought provoking.


I never have any response to most of your writings but: Umm! Keep writing. Have not thought this much in a while.


Muata said...

Reader DL Responds:

The 3 powerful words here are: eliminate the hate….cleanse the anger is another way of putting it. It takes a strong person to cleanse the anger. It takes an even stronger nation to cleanse the anger. Is Obama up to it? Or will he cave into special interests that thrive on anger and hate?


Muata said...

Muata responds to DL:

I am not sure. He may have good intentions-but you know as well as I that many politicians have tried to maintain their integrity, and failed. The Washington/Capitol Hill culture is so strong and nasty that one succumbs. And, those who maintain integrity for a while eventually end up in a mess. So, I hope he does make those who support him proud. However, I just don't see a lot getting accomplished over the next four years. I don't need to remind you that we have a democratic congress. What are they doing? They just recently refuse to sign President Bush's PEPFAR bill (HIV/AIDS Relief and Assistance).


Muata said...

Reader DL responds again:

Yes…and they keep funding the Iraq war while kids in America are going to school hungry…and they passed the expansion of covert citizen spying. It’s disturbing.


Muata said...

Reader AJ Responds:

Thank You. You don't know how timely this was for me. I'm making my way through your book. I say making my way as I have to put it aside when it gets to strong, then pick it up later when I've had some time to get past the shock. :-) Interesting to learn you have divinity training.


Muata said...

Muata Responds to AJ:

I am so glad I was 'right on time'. Yeah, that book of mine can be powerful. Thanks for reading and purchasing it. The divinity school education throws people. I went in to come out a pastor. Came out a critic of Christianity. That should at least tell you that I ain't playing: Something is DEEPLY wrong with today's Christianity. Actually, it has always been something wrong with it considering it is man's creation!


Muata said...

Reader Response:

I've read some of your blogs and emails...but this one was really nice.


Muata said...

Reader Response:

yet again you have a great topic for pondering & discussing!

The definition for forgiving that I came across and like is 'allowing room for error or weakness'. Yes we're human, yes we make mistakes, but that doesnt mean I have to be ok with your stupidity, weakness or poor judgement, especially when it has a direct affect on my quality of life.


Muata said...

Reader Response:

I guess if we truly forgive, we will not harbor that hatred inside of us that will continue to grow. The act will come to mind, but we must be spiritually mature to say , I FORGIVE. Forgiving is not easy; sometimes I feel like the other person(s) should be the one asking for giveness. But I go on and believe that God will bring the situation to pass even though it hurts the way people treat us for no reason at all; we have not done anything wrong to them. I guess it is part of the spiritual process; we shall overcome.


Muata said...

Reader Response:

To me stress kills. Unforgiveness can lead to some of the most devasting stresses because they are so covert, so intertwined with so much of our own personal makeup. Then a violation occurs and one has to measure the depth of the wrong and what justice in the situation would be to the victim or sufferer of the wrong. Justice doesn't always come when or how we want it.

It's the giving of control over to an outside source that causes the most profound sense of unease in an unforgiveness to me.

If there were lessons in forgiveness, it would be nice if all parties were open and showed up. Often we're all alone in the choice...'to forgive or not to forgive.'

By not forgiving, one is tied to a post. How one frees oneself usually creates it's own consequences. If peace of mind results, whatever the method, it's a small victory.

Some may say "What about the person who resorts to revenge as opposed to forgiveness?" To them I'd say, they suffer their consequences.

I hate stress, I'll say it again (maybe it's the Libra in me) and I recognize that some stress slips under the radar. Stealth stress. The most deadly kind. I strive to root it out and destroy it before it destroys me in any way. I'm also open for suggestions. That usually helps. Forgiveness is also a very powerful tool. It's like saying "I'll eat this wrong you've committed, I may not like it, but this time, I'll move beyond and it won't depend on you." Then you learn and move on. Hopefully to never repeat a similar situation, which is where remembering comes in.

Interesting discussion Muata!


Muata said...

Reader Response:

I was paralyzed by a medical mistake. I walk well for an incomplete-para at t'5. From the doctor's mishap I was rewarded a few mil. People say that my life is near perfect.
I walk, have a sweetheart, and a new baby. I own two automobiles that make many people just stop and stair, have two homes and eat at whatever restaurant I chose. Most importantly, I have good health. In the bliss of God’s blessing I am bitter. So you ask if the words “ Forgive and Forget be synonyms?” I say NO. Maybe if steam-cells are granted to aid in the healing of the spinal cord, then I can forgive but now, I will remain bitter.


Muata said...

Muata Responds:

There is a wonderful movie that I was forced to watch during divinity school at HU. I say forced because if I did not watch it I would have been unable to secure a passing grade.

Anyway, I was thankful that I sat and watched The Mission. A wonderful movie! I have provided a link to a NY Times movie review. Please read, and if you have a chance to rent/purchase the movie please do. If you have not already seen it.

I recommend it because in this film one of the actors (Robert De Niro) is seeking forgiveness for a horrible crime, and in his process of redemption he becomes a different man. A better man. However, he does have to 'pay' for his crime against humanity/sin.

Are we to 'pay' for the wrongs we commit in order to move forward or do we just participate in this shallow process of asking for forgiveness and then move on? Today, so many of us believe if we ask for forgiveness it should be granted, and then it (the hurt/pain) should be OVER or tossed to the side.

I am of the belief there should be a 'price to pay'. And, for some there is – but we rarely think about the consequences prior to doing something that will require forgiveness. Rarely. Thus the reason we continue to hurt each other??

When you view the movie, note what De Niro has to endure.



Muata said...

Reader Response:

I would like to throw my two cents into the discussion. Looking at Matthew 18:15-35, and Luke 17:3-10, I think that the teachings of Jesus on forgiveness require a person that offended another to ask for forgiveness before the person offended has to forgive. The Matthew 18 text does call for the offended person to approach the person who did the offending and show them how they were hurt. If the person accepts responsibility for their painful actions, forgiveness is to be offered regardless of how we feel. Jesus calls us to forgive when the person who did the offending ask for forgiviness. In the Luke 17 text, forgiveness when ask is to be offered out of obedience to God not if we feel like it or not. What we see is that when Jesus taught forgiveness he included the other person owning up to their painful actions prior to forgiveness being offered. I don't see any scripture that requires a Chrisitain to forget a painful action. I don't know how healthy it is to hold on to it, but forgetting is not part of the biblical mandate. Moving past the hurt, growing through the hurt, and allowing the situation to make you wiser is probably a better approach.