Sunday, June 19, 2005

Answering The Question

So, here are my thoughts on the whole trust and forgiveness thing:

My gut reaction was "Well, duh, of course trust is part of forgiveness." It seems so logical that in order to forgive someone you have to have some measure of trust in them. But then I read Jill's comment and realized that the whole point of forgiveness has nothing to do with trust. Or, phrased differently, trust in what? Trust that the person is sorry? Someone doesn't necessarily have to be sorry for me to forgive them (although it does make it easier). Trust that they won't do it again? Again, it would make it a lot easier, but it wouldn't necessarily be impossible (difficult, very difficult, yes) to forgive someone who you suspect will continue to make the same mistake.

An excellent bit of dialogue in, of all things, a Harry Potter fanfic hits the nail on the head:

"The things I have done are unforgivable," he said through gritted teeth.

"Correct. Absolutely correct. But you don't seem to understand that that's precisely the point of forgiveness."

I'd stunned him yet again with that -- gratifying, that was, and this time I took the advantage.

Easy, Hunter. You have to put this calmly and logically, or he'll never understand. It's obviously a totally alien concept to him, no matter that he bandies the word about.

"You regret your crimes, you never want to repeat them -- you've repented, in other words. I'm not saying that you should stop making amends. I think you have an obligation to do so, in fact. The extent to which you'll go to achieve that is a matter for you and your conscience -- or your code of ethics, if you like, since I suspect you think you have no conscience.

"But the problem is that forgiveness has nothing to do with that. It's not a reward for repentance, or for paying off a debt. None of us deserve it, no matter the degree of our crimes, and it can't be earned. It can only be granted. It's an act of love on the part of the pardoner, and you have nothing at all to do with it. It's neither your decision nor your responsibility, and not one single thing you've done can alter or negate it once's it's given."

He stared at me, speechless. I took a deep breath before going on.

"Albus has been offering you forgiveness from the minute you walked back through his office door -- but you won't accept it. I don't think you'll ever find peace with yourself until you do, because as long as you insist on thinking of forgiveness as some kind of reward, you'll deny yourself it. You don't really think you can ever repay that debt, I suspect.

"Albus once told me that guilt is innate in the decent sorts of human beings, and it's true, but you refuse to accept your remorse as what it is -- a sign that you are a decent human being. I can't convince you of it. Albus has tried for years and evidently failed, and you've more reason to trust him than me. So you'll have to deal with that yourself, when you're ready. If you ever are."

(On a side note, this is from an excellent piece of writing that just happens to be a Harry Potter fanfic, called Brave New World. Read it, you will like it, especially if you're a Snape fan. I tell you, if I didn't already have a thing for Alan Rickman, this story would have made me develop one, as I can only see the Alan Rickman version of Snape in this story. Then go and read the rest of her fanfic, which is all superb and engrossing and just happens to be set in the Harry Potter universe.)

Anyway, trust is not necessarily part of forgiveness. It's helpful in some ways, as it's difficult to forgive someone who's unrepentant and unwilling to see the error of his ways. But forgiveness at its most sublime is a gift given to one who can and maybe even will hurt again. In many ways, forgiveness at its most sublime is nearly independent of the person being forgiven.

Not that I live up to this ideal. I am a woman who tends to hold grudges. It takes a lot to get me truly and righteously angry, but once I am, I find it difficult or impossible to forgive. And when I've been deeply hurt, the difficulty in forgiveness is inversely proportionate to the amount of trust that I had in the person who hurt me. What can I say: I'm falliable.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home