Monday, June 29, 2015

Why not forgive?

I have written before about Bonds that Makes Us Free being a good book about self deception. It's also a good book about getting over and not succumbing to the feelings mistreatment that we regularly experience. I've been listening to the author's talk about forgiveness, which definitely comes from his religious perspective but also from a philosophical perspective. One of the main points is akin to the Maya Angelou quote, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” He talks about how evil wants a response, it wants to turn you dark inside, that's the whole point of evil. And I think this is true, at least of true evil and not just the sort of banal evil that we see of people just having lost their way in a deep moral confusion. Like I would say most of the Nazi force type people and the prejudice and hate that we see daily is banal evil, in which people honestly believe that their feelings of hate are justified in the moment, no matter how impossible that seems to more rational minds. In other words, I think that most people have to be sort of tricked into evil by being fed a distorted reality often enough and persuasively enough (e.g. X are our enemy, we need to defend ourselves against X).

So we have two types of evil (1) true evil for the sake of being evil (super rare, think Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars) and (2) evil that comes from confusion, a true "they know not what they do," at least not the full extent of what they do and definitely not in that moment because they've been led down a path of self-deception and confusion about the actual nature of reality (think Darth Vader). And true evil wants you to respond in an evil way because that is its goal is -- to twist your heart and mind towards dark things. And banal evil people don't really know what they're doing and the worst you could say about them is that they have allowed themselves to become pawns in something deeply dark and destructive. So how should you react in the face of evil? The argument is that it does no good to return evil for evil, as religious types like to say. Because for true evil, that's exactly the response they're trying to get from you. And for banal evil, those people are just clueless pawns who think they're somehow in the right, and you're not likely to convince them otherwise.

When I saw the family of Dylann Root's victims extend him forgiveness, I was really impressed -- not that it was necessarily a courageous or morally right thing to do (although I'm sure it was), but that it just showed a lot of wisdom. Predictably, somebody didn't like that reaction. In a NY Times op ed titled, Why I Can't Forgive Dylann Root, Roxane Gay says "I, for one, am done forgiving." Why? Basically because the problems have been going on so long and white people just want to pretend the problems don't exist and black people forgive to survive but that doesn't help either because the problems haven't gone away. But when has not-forgiving ever helped? Did not forgiving help with Germany post World War I? Is not forgiving helping with the sky high number of adult American men in prison? Could there be peace in Northern Ireland without forgiveness? In the former Yugoslavia? Does anyone think the Hutus and the Tutsis should have kept at it in Rwanda? Or that the French Revolution was particularly effective in its calls for blood to atone for the past sins of the aristocracy? Do we really need to annihilate our enemies? Or nurse lifelong distrust and hatred of each other?  

I do not mean to dismiss at all people's pain or to condone those that wrong others. But nor does forgiveness come even close to doing either of those things. Forgiveness still acknowledges the wrong and the hurt, in fact forgiveness is only implicated and imported in serious cases of wrong and hurt. And when you have been wronged, there are basically two choices: forgive or don't. So for people to say that they're done forgiving is frankly shockingly anti-social, even to someone like me.

I know that I am not a good person and not a reliable source for moral judgment. But if even someone like me could understand why it is absolutely vital that we forgive each other, than that suggests to me that (1) there's really something to this forgiveness thing and (2) that there's hope for everyone else to learn why too.


  1. Everything IS twisted around from where it should be. Up is down, North is
    South. And East is West. We can see this with P.C. and Satan's media,
    educational, political, disinformation propagandists. There is more evil then
    ever because the devil is really pouring it on to destroy Western ideas.
    Speaking of Roof, his actions (though wrong and cowardly) were only in response to the opression he felt as a white male in today's America. The white
    male is maligned as public enemy number 1 in today's America. Jews,
    Satanists (socalists, Marxists) and vile deviates, are using "race" and "sex"
    as a means to DESTORY Western ciivilazation. A beast with two horns named
    George Sorros, is funding billions of of dollars to radicalize and agitate folks
    over "red herring issues" like the Confederate flag and would even have you
    believe that the anus is for more then the elimination of waste material.
    It is the white guy that they want to genocide, and if things continue at this rate
    they will suceceed.
    You don't need "live" white guys to create the lovely lucious white female that
    the whole world wants. Geshia girls can be bred through artifical insemination.
    Once the white male has been eliminated. White females will be a "crop"
    the next generation of white women will grow up never knowing a free moment
    in their lives. Those evil, monsterious white men won't be around to protect

    1. Arrrrrrrrrr white women the best looking women?

  2. I suspect Sociopaths/psychopaths forgive easily once they become self-aware, a bit like Buddhist monks.

    why did I torture all those animals? i misapprehended things.
    why did I do all those other antisocial things? i misapprehended thibgs.
    did I choose to misapprehend things? of course not.
    do others choose to misapprehend things? of course not
    do i choose to hate people that frustrate me? of course not.
    does anyone choose to hate others, or does it just happen due to circumstances?

    people who believe their grudges or thoughts are justified misapprehend things and have an even harder time. do they choose that? of course not.

    if you wanted to make a case for sociopaths being more saintly than normal people, this is one way.

    1. This is a good tool. Buddhism provides some interesting keys.

      Particularly - replace the dichotomy of good v evil with wise (skilled) v unwise (unskilled).

      This works especially well in the broader context of humanity as a social species and each of us as individuals requiring to maintain our place.

      Let things come, let things go. Living in the present actually means the need for forgiveness (and guilt, shame, pain) is completely negated.

      The first thing I did after my socio ex dumped me was attempt to forgive him. That pain cut too deeply. In the end, I found that reconciling with harm is far more effective.

      This means taking care of one's own hurts, healing. Forgiveness is not required. Letting go helps, recognising and healing the pain is what facilitates moving on.

      In practical terms, this concept can be applied liberally for all our emotions. What we typically do is transform our raw emotions into "manageable" or culturally accepted forms. As Yoda says: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate. There are many such transformation permutations: quite often we transform fear of ostracisation into guilt or shame.

      Based on the premise that feelings are evolution's gift for navigating social contexts, I recommend allowing oneself to feel the raw emotion. It takes time but nothing in life need be a race. Once the emotion is done, you find you have listened to yourself, then can apply the more rational, clear-headed processes in formulating a response.

      All of this works wonderfully for me. That's how I healed and opened up my being to a larger range of experience.

      Good and evil are purely human constructions. The bottom line is our existence depends on surviving in community - one only needs to honour the social contract sufficiently to do so. That's wise or skilled living.

      Lots of good stuff in Buddhism.

    2. Reconciling with Harm: an Alternative to Forgiveness and Revenge

  3. Stephen Kings fictive killers first letter to the retired cop from the book Mr Mercedes is brilliant. King is a genius and should get "high end" prices like the Nobel award, few other writers seem to understand people better than him. "Taunting" serial killer-letters are interesting, creepy stuff when really nasty folks wanna play "cat & mouse". The Ripper-letters and the Zodiacs writings are truly scary. To be able to create similar fictive stuff IS NOT cheap trash-writing..

    1. What if an author (not me of course) wrote a book called "The Keeper" about an down & out true crime-writer investigating sordid deeds nobody was quite sure were committed by man or fanged beast and one day received a letter:

      "Dear turd

      I may be old but my looks are still sharp. Haven´t you heard about that "curiosity" that kills cats, hehe? To poke in olde shite may result in brown stains, even on fine shirts. A friend of mine showed me my true "condition" awhile ago, this has only made me more "perfected". I strive not for earthly pleasures these days, I dominate minds HAHA! I flutter everywhere, I shift shape, I squat down n shit. So dont come here "a-snooping". I´m a "shorts-strutter"; the sight of my cute thighs may be overwhelming, so bite me Picasso. I CAN BE REASONABLE, BUT ONLY ON WEDNESDAYS! Past is past, forget that. Stop digging. No more of your drunken crap.

      yours truly & only
      Bee Keeper "

      Surely many people would love to read such a book...who is this taunting fiend, this fluttering elderly imp? Just fiction or modeled from reality?

    2. Ha! So i see you were still thinking of me back last June !

      Sorry but I haven't been watching and it is by pure chance that I find you here.....though really no surprise as it's quite the obvious place to find you (if I were actually looking that is) I really do hope you find peace. You think you dominate minds but it's only chemical it has no depth. They don't know who you are and what you are doing and the truth is you can't keep it up, eventually there are too many strings to pull and it all gets messy and it scares even you. I was the victim, but you suffer. Let it go, move on, you know I will never forget, and I know you won't either, but let's leave it at that, car maintenant je baise un autre et person regard. X oh and by the way thanks for the opening paragraph.

    3. I once loved a borderline who thought he was a creep, I got away and made his day and then woke from my sleep, I learnt a lot and for that give thanks as knowledge is for keeps, but I don't look back and can't attack those who's secrets that I keep. I feel secure in my new life as precautions have been taken, go where I want as is my right if I am not mistaken, not interested in open doors people make their choices, no regrets as there's no point it's all just horses for courses.
      If you have something to say then you can say it in rhyme but please forget the cryptic, it reads as mindless attention seeking and everyone hates a narcissist. lots of love Picasso

  4. Lately I've been considering whether I'm just an evil person, just a bad seed deep down inside. I've done my share of bad things, but that isn't really what I'm talking about. I don't feel like there is anything redeeming about myself, and I'm actually kind of okay with it.

    1. "I don't feel like there is anything redeeming about myself, and I'm actually kind of okay with it. "

      Redemption is overrated anyway.

    2. Are we redeeming for cash prizes?

    3. If so, I'm sure I could get into a redemptive mood. ;)

  5. I don't feel like I've ever been able to truly forgive anyone. Sometimes I say I forgive them and move on, but I still resent them for whatever they've done. I recognize that some degree of forgiveness is required in relationships, and the more important the relationship, the more necessary it is. But when someone has wronged me, I don't forget about it, and I'll always hold it against them.

  6. "But when someone has wronged me, I don't forget about it, and I'll always hold it against them."

    I'm the same way. The person that wronged me has to do something to make up for it. When they do, I feel about them the way I did before they wronged me.

  7. I actually don't understand forgiving or not forgiving in the context of the recent events in the news. To me there's no point, it won't bring back the dead and it won't change the outcome of whatever trial awaits the guy.

    Forgiveness, like so many things, is instrumental. It's a tool to handle social situations. If I fight with a coworker I might say I forgive them, or ask them to forgive me in order to patch up the workplace social environment and get everything moving again. But in the case of the recent shooting there's nothing to patch up.

    As for why one wouldn't forgive, it's so easy I'm a little surprised at you M.E. - it's about power.

    1. True forgiveness in my experience is the opposite of instrumental. Unless you mean that the knife is aimed at your own heart. It's not natural to forgive. It's divine. Extremely difficult if your loved ones are involved.

      Scarlet, What power? In the end whatever we exploit comes back to haunt us. Because all life is connected. Like it or not, we are One.

      Big Bang theory postulates all matter and energy in the universe began as one. One cosmic speck of immense Power created all matter, spacetime. We are literally stardust. The embodiment of Creation.

      Profound stuff in my book.

      Sadly however. The 6th extinction of species around the globe is happening because of human exploitation, the Midas touch, which would turn every living thing into an object for sale. Exploitation.

      All life being transformed into a commodity repels me. Life in the universe is rare, far as I can tell. That pretty much makes it sacred in my book. Especially since I have no conception of the source. I do know diversity is essential.

    2. Your book?

      That we are one with the universe, a thinking embodiment of the energy that moves the planets and expands the cosmos, is not a new idea.

      But I am highly interested in your application in this context, having seemingly reached a similar perspective of the value of diversity.

    3. Hi North (my favorite of the four directions, btw),

      The value of life's diversity is expounded by nearly every scientist I know or have read. The best example is the way in which an eco-system works: Take out a keystone species, whether a top predator or a lowly species of prey, and the system alters, usually drastically. Imagine an ocean without sharks. (More squid and jellyfish) Imagine the soil without those invisible micro-organisms which make possible the growth of all plant life.

      In terms of human diversity, it's a bit more complicated, not as easily divided into black and white. Why not genetically engineer sociopathy, mental illness, and/or other undesirables to eradicate these conditions? My argument would be is that these types of humans have always been around. They've been selected to survive by evolution. In fact, I think history has shown that the world needs 'mad' humans, who not only entertain and move us with their visions, but sometimes act like canaries in the coal mine. Those who dream of eradicating the Aspie condition, for instance, would also erase the gifts these people bring to society. I'm also suspicious of wiping out every disease known to man: Exposure to certain diseases (like the flu) builds immunity and though I've not had a flu shot in ten years or more and work with the most infected population you could imagine (outside a hot zone) I've have very few, very mild cases of the flu over the years. My friends who get regular flu shots are constantly sick with it . . . who knows why.

      I have always believed that a wee bit of 'poison' helps to inoculate the entire system: Hence I usually eat like a Buddhist monk, but not always. A little bit of junk food keeps my system up to date, current with the world in which I live.

      Science is a long, long way from knowing with absolute certainty the secrets of living beings. I think it's wise to preserve those traits that have managed to keep our species alive thus far. I for one do not relish the idea of all people being roughly the same. Pod people are like logged forests that have been replanted with only one kind of tree: boring. And we all know how vulnerable monocrops are to the slightest whiff of threat or change.

    4. Hi Faust,

      I ought to tell you I called my socio ex "Faust". He had to look it up ;)

      Hats off to you. It's rare to find philosophy from such a systems perspective in which humanity is simply another species. It is of course, the most sensible position to take, yet seemingly so difficult to make the leap because it means individuals are not special snowflakes.

      I relish your monocrop analogy. On the one hand it's stunning that humanity is blind to it's own diversity; yet on the other, the pretense of homogeniety allows the construct of rule systems and institutions that preserve society. And homo sapiens thrives because of its capacity to collaborate.

      Simon Sinek's Why Leaders Eat Last is informative in this regard.

      Whether history "shows" the utility of "mad" humans or not, the fact is diversity exists in the population. Science tells us what is rather than what should be. On this basis, existence is sufficient equaliser. It folllows, then, there is not an organism in existence that "need" justify its being.

      Self acceptance is the basis of freedom. In the Epicurean sense of pleasure being the absence of pain (I see it as the foundation of a wonderfully adventurous life), this freedom provides clarity: society is a context rather than a constraint. We must exist in society - wise action helps us do so, and even helps us strengthen society. Forgiveness - perhaps it is relinquishing control that one cannot possess in any case - can be a wise practice.

    5. Hi North,

      Great reply. I especially enjoyed the last paragraph.

      Forgiveness is different things to different folks, I suspect. For some, to forgive is a quid pro quo: the offender must first show remorse. For others, forgiveness goes much further. They let go of the hurt without expectation of ever hearing the offender say, I'm sorry. These second types are usually religious and/or spiritual, or at least high functioning humanitarians

      I think quite a bit about this topic due to my own present circumstances. Having been deeply betrayed (by a so-called friend) who then went on to threaten me, I'm at that stage where I want to forgive but find the anger is still too powerful. I know it's not wise to feel this way (anger and hate only bind us more tightly to the object of our distress) but, to be blunt, it will take more time and effort to move beyond the shock and pain before I can reach that place. I don't think this sort of slow-cooking forgiveness is unusual for people.

      The point is to keep working on it: We can't change anyone, only ourselves. And to change ourselves we must be willing to let go of things in ourselves that stunt growth. So often when this kind of thing comes up, I first try to forgive myself for being duped, for being angry or for wishing them harm. I like to put these negative feelings in a psychical washing machine cycle: wash, rinse, wring and repeat. Until I'm a clear point of a) seeing the offender's 'crime' from their point of view, understand their reasons, b) become indifferent to my own pain about the situation. Pain has the capacity to clarify a great many things for both victim and offender. Pain is a mirror in which we can see ourselves as we truly are. And the reward of knowing yourself is always pleasure.

      Pleasure brings us back to forgiveness. It's very pleasurable to forgive; a weight is lifted. As well, I think you're right: to forgive is to relinquish control, to give up feeling uniquely wounded, being the outraged victim. This leads to freedom.

      I still say the world needs mad people. :D Without them there would be no great magic or poetry, no connection to the invisible other than through science. Science as an art form dismembers, dissects and labels. It seeks to quantify. The art of imagination, on the other hand, always seeks to qualify, render meaning and make things whole.

      Having a bit of both brings me the most pleasure.

    6. Hi Faust,

      This was indeed pleasurable to read.

      I take your point about forgiveness being different things to different people.

      "They let go of the hurt without expectation of ever hearing the offender say, I'm sorry. These second types are usually religious and/or spiritual, or at least high functioning humanitarians"

      I am a pragmatic person. In my experience, there need not be anything special about simply letting go, although it is a practice taught in mystical traditions. Letting go is being open to the present moment, a recognition that the hurt is past and an awareness of your being in its present position in timespace.

      Here lies the power of narrative. We furnish ourselves with explanations for events that are novel or emotional or painful so that we can account for them in our internal models. These help us create processing shortcuts. But the shortcuts need not hardwire us into particular patterns if we simply use our narrative explanation to return us to the present moment, where we actually have everything we need: two hands and a brain, as good as anyone else's and the will to use them (as Once recently pointed out.)

      Immersed in the present moment, one can relax. The past is no longer. The future is vast possibility. Guilt, shame, forgiveness all simply melt away. In the present moment, we practice techniques wise techniques that assure our continued and enjoyable presence on the planet.

      I am sorry to hear you have been betrayed. As one who has betrayed and been betrayed, I can related to the depth of your learning experience. Forgiving oneself for being duped - in my mind, this is the most difficult. But return to self-acceptance. The experience is merely a datapoint.

      When I say merely, I am not discounting your point about pain being a mirror. Such pain is best mirror - seeing one's one blindspots is a most useful shock.

      I encourage you (and myself) to keep embracing that experience and the powerful neural energy it provides. Use it to choose more effective mental pathways.

      "I still say the world needs mad people. :D Without them there would be no great magic or poetry, no connection to the invisible other than through science. Science as an art form dismembers, dissects and labels. It seeks to quantify. The art of imagination, on the other hand, always seeks to qualify, render meaning and make things whole. "

      Wonderfully put. Synthesis creates resonance; resonance is meaning.

    7. Good Morning, North,

      Your comments resonate. :)

      Letting go can be as easy as seeing the light of a new day. Living with myself in this moment does indeed present many new pathways.

      "I am a pragmatic person. In my experience, there need not be anything special about simply letting go, although it is a practice taught in mystical traditions. Letting go is being open to the present moment, a recognition that the hurt is past . . ."

      Trouble is, some hurts last hundreds of years, in regions like the middle east.

      As an astrologer, I'm not always pragmatic. :D

      But, I do cheerily engage with skeptics of all stripes, many of whom are scientists. Please allow me to expand on your astute final comment. "Synthesis creates resonance; resonance is meaning."

      Resonance phenomena, cosmic magnetic fields combined with magneto-biology are being postulated as possible interlinked mechanisms for how astrology works. (It's a complicated, multi-link theory, involving biological clocks, genetics, geophysics and astrophysics, proposed by a British astrophysicist and astronomer, who wrote a book called, The Scientific Basis for Astrology.)

      Astrology is the art and study of "As above, so below." I would suggest that this is another way of saying: Synthesis/Resonance creates Meaning.

      Resonance has real physical effects: When the frequency of one force (the voice of an opera singer) matches the frequency of the wine glass, it shatters. Pour sand over a well tuned drum: hit the drum and distinct patterns will form specific to the note vibrations. Sound waves impact and rearrange structures; electromagnetic waves penetrate and alter matter.

      And so, "Synthesis + Resonance = Penetrating matter with meaning and Purpose. When we experience that feeling of 'rendered meaning' our lives become impregnated with purpose. That purpose, whatever it is, brings a certain of peace. No matter what others may think of our choices or beliefs, we are content. Finding new meaning often spark a personal restructuring of values and ideas, clearly the path for our ever-elusive purpose in life to emerge and grow.

  8. I suspect Casey may have phoned me again last night. The call came in
    in the general time period that the first "Casey" call came in.
    When the phone rang I looked in the window to see where the number
    originated. It said N.Y. It was not a famuilar N.Y. area code. I looked up this
    area code on the computer. It said Manhatten.
    Last I heard Casey WAS in Manhatten, squaring away her interview, but that was approximately a mounth ago. (May 30.) Who would be paying for such a long stay? The network? I'm going to dial the entire number and see if it's some
    hotel she's staying at. Or maybe it's "A' coming after me.

  9. There is nothing to forgive if the person who caused the harm is not sorry for what they have done. My daughter's bright future has been destroyed by a violent sociopath who tortured her at school. I will never forgive her.

    1. Hate binds you to the sociopathic person who hurt your daughter. Hate is like love in that way. Whomever we choose to love or hate we invest everything. We lose ourselves.

      I'd rather be free.

  10. "I know that I am not a good person and not a reliable source for moral judgment."

    Honestly, who is? All anyone can do is try.

    As I've already said in another post, 'forgive' is just a word to me. I pay more attention to the actions. If both parties genuinely want to draw a line under some event and go forward, it is possible to do; their actions will show whether or not that is the case.

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