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  • Thomas Bien

Forgiveness, Part 2


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If you look into times when you have done something that has hurt another person, you can learn quite a bit. Most of the time, you didn’t really intend to do harm. Most of the time, you were probably lacking in awareness of what you were doing, or in the grip of a strong emotion that possessed your body and mind.

We can make the same assumption about most other people. Often they hurt us in an unconscious or unaware way, just not thinking about what they were doing or saying. Or else they were in the grip of a strong mood state.

Sometimes we hurt others just because we are in haste, feeling, as we so often do, the pressure of modern life to always be doing more. The word haste is related to the word hate, because haste involves a kind of violence. When we are in haste, we treat people and even objects without care, and can cause a lot of damage.

I wrote earlier that we need to recognize that forgiveness is a process, and approach that process with patience toward ourselves. I also wrote that we can help the process by reflecting on how costly a lack of forgiveness is, first of all, toward ourselves. It has been compared to taking poison and hoping the other person will suffer.

Here we offer another point of reflection. We can repeatedly reflect on the understanding that harm is most often caused by a kind of ignorance, by haste, or by someone being in the grip of a powerful mood state (and therefore not really knowing what they were doing.) From this perspective, the words of Jesus from the cross say it best—even if you aren’t a Christian: “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”

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