I’ve not been best friends with forgivness for a while. Or perhaps best friends isn’t the word for it, but there is something about the way we use it, that rubs me the wrong way. I think we abuse it, telling kids to Say you’re sorry! for almost everything, and brushing it off afterwards, as if that’s that.
The Swedish author Ann Heberlein wrote a great book on forgiveness (in Swedish alas, the title being ”It’s not my fault, on the art of taking responsibility”, and it is thought provoking. She tells a story of a kid being bullied at school. When the bullies wanted to say they were sorry, the victim of the bullying refused to accept their apology, and all of a sudden the tables turned. Suddenly the bullies felt like they were the victims, as their victim refused to forgive them. The original victim of the bullying was more or less ostracized by both kids and adults at the school because she would not accept the apology.
That story gave me a lot to think about, I tell you. There is power in forgiveness, that way we use it, and somehow I feel we might be misusing it?
Who am I to tell someone to ”say you’re sorry”? And who am I to tell someone to accept that apology?
But I got some new insight into the concept of forgiveness during the first SuperCoach Academy weekend in Santa Monica, when Michael Neill said something like this:
To forgive means to make like it never happened. When you forgive, it means that you essentially go back in time to before what ever it is you forgive took place. If you are not willing to do that, there is no forgiveness.
That was a new take on forgiveness that I have not pondered before. It makes my thinking tumble along, doing a cart wheel or two on the way to more understanding and insight. Putting it into the Heberlein story on the bully and the bullied, I guess the victim of the bullying simply wasn’t willing to act like it never happened. And hence, forgiving her assailants wasn’t an option.
Have you ever thought of forgiveness in this way?