I've been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately because it's what we're talking about at Wellspring next week. I've always thought a lot about it though, because I had a childhood memorable for many rotten things, and I spent a lot of years angry.
I think that forgiveness has always been a rather undefinable word for me - I've never been quite sure what it means to me, but as I did one of the assigned readings (which I had a lot of issues with, by the way), it occurred to me that it's really a mindset. Forgiveness has a lot to do with:
1. Assumption. If we assume we know someone else's intention, we're already setting ourselves up for a future problem. Even if someone is horrible to us, we don't have any idea what in their history has led them to make the choices they are making in their relationship to us. That doesn't negate their responsibility for making those choices, but it does give one pause for thought about compassion and the idea that we can only really know such a small part of any story - our part of it.
2. The way that we self-identify as part of our moment by moment stories has a huge part to play in how, or whether we "forgive" someone. Let me pause for a moment to say that I think that for me, forgiveness is really about letting go, moving on - it doesn't have to absolve anyone of guilt, it doesn't require the other person to apologie - it's all about how we identify ourselves in the story. If we're a victim, if we're angry, if we are hurt - those are all valid reactions in the moment of a story, but we don't have to hold on to those roles forever. We can move past who we were in that moment, and refuse to identify ourselves in ways that continue to hurt us.
Outside of thinking about forgiveness in the context of Wellspring, I've been struck by the stories about AIG employees who are the focus of a lot of (justifiable, in some cases) anger.
It frightens me to think that these people need security to protect themselves against potential death threats. They are being targeted by neighbors and strangers alike. Then again, I share Jay Leno's fear about the tax that Congress is imposing on those bonuses - does this mean that the government can just target someone and do something like that? It sounded to me like Obama didn't really approve, but he didn't make a strong statement one way or the other.
Remember, we only know what the media tells us about these people - that is even less than a little part of the story - and for those making death threats, they're not even in the AIG story.
A lot to think about.