Forgiveness is justice for adults


A declaration on someone's Facebook wall, a few days before I started writing this paper: "Forgiveness is a bitch!" - And it was instantly clear what the writer meant. We all know how forgiveness can be a healer, but if she doesn't deliver what she has in store, it can terribly hurt.

From the above paragraph it may be clear that in this and other papers we will look at forgiveness in a interpersonal or even inter-friendly context. In other words we will address the forgiveness of mistakes, not crimes. Friends don't turn into villains overnight, they usually just make unintentional mistakes.

Forgiveness is a perplexing phenomenon at times. When someone makes amends, you might think that person 'deserves' forgiveness, but you can never be sure if you will get it - it does not depend on you when - if at all - you will be forgiven. At the same time, forgiveness has this amazing promise, to help us overcome mistakes, even "cover" someone's mistake (or, with an old, poetic phrase: "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow"). We are essentially facing of one of humanity's deep dilemma's here. We are also getting a glance into the very heart of Christian faith too - although this is not saying forgiveness belongs to Christianity, or even to religion - but clearly in religion there has been a profound focus on compassion and forgiveness, long before scientists got interested in it. So the least thing we could admit is that religions such as Christianity been like a prism - and of course you had to know how to use the prism. The discoveries themselves though do not belong to religion, they belong to mankind as a whole.

What we want to do here is thinking about forgiveness as in normal relationships with people we know, like friends, or relatives. If mercy and forgiveness are seen as gifts of God (the 'theological' implications so to speak), it must also be a gift to all Gods creatures regardless any 'theological interest'. Even Christianity after all is not theology, it is a dynamic religion. Christianity should be either a way of understanding humanity (all human beings "creations of God" as a matter of principle) or it will be an exclusive exercise and therefore not capable of framing adequately such ideas like forgiveness. But Jesus, apparently, was one of those people in the past who may have seen things more clearly than most others in his lifetime - although he stood in a long tradition of coping with the spiritual dimension of life.

A CONTINGENCY PLAN

I'd like to quote something from a conversation with a Christian friend on Myspace years ago. This was written somewhere around March, 2010:

There is a perceived correlation between ... Forgiveness [and] absence of residual hurt and confusion ... [or between] forgiving and forgetting. This is an especially tricky conundrum and has perplexed people of faith and good will, for millennia.

The idea that something can be forgiven does not mean that the act or words are now acceptable or bear repeating. Ultimately, I believe that everything is-forgivable. We’ve often heard that old adage bandied about: "Of course I can forgive but I cannot forget." Well, that is perhaps true. Honest human beings are hard-pressed to will things out of memory. But I believe that we can choose where to place our focus. The question is: is the debt really cancelled? Allow me to explain. The idea is not to say, "This or that did not matter" — when this or that DID matter. Simply assigning a lower significance to the issue, or compartmentalizing and "rising above" the issue — is not forgiveness. So... what or where is the difference?

The difference is that when one says that the "debt" has been cancelled — it is paid in full. It may not be brought up again for re-payment or re-conciliation. That’s what forgiving means. So I, for example, would no longer be able to rehearse a perceived injustice, or nurture the sense of sadness or loss. Likewise, if the debt has not been fully cancelled — then that fact must be acknowledged, up front. Ahhh, but here’s the deal. It’s a contingency plan. If there is any hope of having my own debts forgiven, then I am mandated to do likewise. This is, at once, a huge responsibility and a tremendous freedom. That’s the way I see [these issues] in my life. ... to reconcile what happened and the motivation behind it ... to process the breach of trust and reach equilibrium, as far as understanding what happened. ... The debt has been cancelled. Let us speak of it no more.
Author: Kris A. Soare., AZ.

Now when I turned back from unbelief to faith and Christianity somewhere around 2005/6, I had a very different approach to my childhood beliefs, much more philosophical and rational. I restated the meaning of Christian faith for myself - but I was missing confirmation that I was on the right road. Reading things like the words I just quoted was very helpful. And yet, reading those considerations, you may feel tempted to ask how forgiveness can succeed under such conditions. Doesn't it feel a bit rigid, when you start thinking of it? If these things are such a "tricky conundrum", how would we ever put them into practice on a regular basis? What about the idea that the debt needs to be "paid in full"? This one seems like a big show-stopper because it seems to potentially justify stretching out someone's debt almost endlessly - because in such interpersonal cases, it is - apparently - the victim of the mistake who will assess the extent of this debt. This seems very prone to all kinds of very personal, arbitrary ways of forgiving, or what are we to make of it?

What to think of this "contingency plan"? How can we ever trust there will be forgiveness if we make mistakes, if this is to happen under the conditions of a "contingency plan" supervised by the offended person alone? After all, the (unintentional) offender can only sit there and wait. Repeating amends a number of times maybe, but then, you can just sit there and wait. This seems scary - and it really is.

Maybe this explains why in Christianity it seems easier to depend on a mercy the source of which is to be found above, mercy from God? I can certainly see why this idea could be attractive as a theological facilitator for forgiveness. Yet, we cannot circumvent the simple fact that God is not never really supposed to do what human beings are supposed to do. For many of us, this is where it gets really scary, and where we may start mistrusting religion.

CONTINGENCY AND GOODWILL

From what I have learned, through a lot of pain and disappointment, human beings are weak when it comes to executing such a contingency plan - regardless the fact that it sounds like a beautiful concept. We can plan all that we want, but if the conditions in our mind (soul, heart) are not right, the plan won't do what it is promising. It will create false hopes and major disillusion.

Think of it: forgiveness essentially means dealing with hurt, with humiliation. It is a very human thing. But when it is being said "Ultimately... everything is forgivable", I can hear you asking: how long is the road to this "ultimately"? How exactly will we distinguish between a long deferred forgiveness and... revenge? The (unintentional) offender cannot possibly know this, he is not in play. To him the "contingency plan" is a sealed book - although in optimal situations there may be an ongoing discussing of course. But if there is only a silent hoping for things to get right when the book gets disclosed, it can be tough, even humiliating - and the question is, how much humiliating? It could quickly become a lot more humiliating for the offender, than the offence was to the original offended. You see - in friendly relationships you have this odd situation that forgiveness is EXPECTED, and therefore, lack of forgiveness tends to reverse the play after a while. This is the particular tricky part about forgiveness when no crime, but only a mistake is involved. And it seems to me that many people do not really understand the difference, nor its implications. (Which is why I am addressing it in the first place).

So we could say that forgiveness, or at least the underlying basis of forgiveness, is in fact the ability - and goodwill - to revoke the right not to be hurt. We are talking about "hurt management". And this is an essential aspect of a concept of "having faith" in certain things (not necessarily Christian faith, I'm talking about faith as a more generic kind of concept).

This definition does not necessarily apply to people who are being mean with us, who have no good intent. It applies to friends, or relatives, or simply "connected people", people who are in some sort of relationship with us. Such people will make mistakes, unintentionally. Or, mistakes may happen intentionally, but still invoked by some misunderstanding. Temporary hurtful conditions, things that can be solved once we understand why they happened. Whatever it is, the conundrum remains: forgiveness offers hope, but may also torment people when it is not being offered.

But here is the point of departure: we somehow need a way to trust that these things can work out for the better. It's always better to hope that something may be forgiven, than to be desperate that it may never come. Yet, such trust will have to be met with real action at some point. It is like a contract: you trust the commitment to the contract. The "contingency plan" is a contract. Goodwill is presupposed as part of the plan. When people act like things can be forgiven, and then they don't forgive, we are heading for disaster, pain, destruction. So from one point of view forgiveness cannot come cheap, but from another point of view, the suggestion that all things can be forgiven cannot come cheap either. The whole contingency plan is an expensive commitment.

TIME ASPECT

We may wonder why some mistakes have hardly any impact, while other seem to be fatal in one way or another. This is because forgiveness is not simply a faith thing - not even for Christians. It seems to depend on very arbitrary conditions, personal matters and interpretation - and let's not forget that those interpretations can be mistakes all by themselves. Not to forgive may actually be the result of mistakes made by the victim of the original mistake. He or she may in turn make other mistakes - such as indifference, lack of understanding and empathy - and the consequences and hurt caused by that may largely exceed the hurt caused by the original mistake.

And one of the problems, for the original, unintentional offender to deal with, may be that those secondary mistakes can get covered up by the "original mistake". When this happens, the one who made the original mistake is almost doomed to be the big loser. He can't get it right - even while his mistake may have been just something quite simple, nothing complex to begin with. Again: this is the scary part of the whole undertaking of forgiveness.

And there is always the psychology in these things. If, for instance, person Y can't deal well with being hurt or humiliated, he or she will probably not be quick to forgive mistakes that hurt or humiliate. So you better don't make mistakes with friends who are not good at forgiving. You better know your friends. Again, forgiveness is an ointment with two sides: inside or outside the bottle. It's great to know there is this bottle with ointment - yet, someone else owns the bottle. You may quickly find yourself "at the mercy of the court".

We cannot, of course, argue that the victim of someone's mistake becomes an "offender" just because forgiveness doesn't come instantly. Such an approach would violate some of the essential notions of forgiveness - especially the fact that forgiveness is an aspect of love, not a commandment. So it turns out we somehow need to keep an eye on both sides of the problem. You can only ask for forgiveness, and the victim of your mistake will need to be given some room for dealing with what happened. Nevertheless, the time aspect often turns out to be very significant, tricky. It is not like in the ancient world of "ownership" where the principles of forgiveness originated: the Code of Hammurabi offered a maximum of 3 years for lost property to turn back to the original owner. Much less than the Hebrews, who figured it might take 49 years before return. In inter-friendly relationships we talk about tiny fractions of time though.

Forgiveness encloses giving back to someone his or her dignity. So here is a contrast: you can't just say one "MUST" forgive - because that seems to contradict the fact that the contingency plan is a "plan". But while forgiveness is not automatic, neither is it disposable. It can't be claimed by the unintentional offender but it can't simply be rejected by the victim either, especially not among friends (be it deep friendships or just the people you live with in everyday life). The contingency plan has to be put in place, it needs to come into effect - the victim of someone's error has a huge responsibility too. If the contingency plan turns out having a lot of "contingency" but no "plan", no moving forward, just endless extension of a vague hope, then there was no contingency plan - or it is a failed plan.

Non-forgiveness is a tricky thing. After a certain time - depending on how serious the mistake was - non-forgiveness will inevitably start to feel like a punishment. The withdrawal of love often causes intense mental pain, and pain changes people and their lives. There are serious consequences.

RATIONALITY OF FORGIVENESS

To some of us it may seem 'unnatural' to forgive. Especially while it may seem rational to protect yourself. But I believe it is more rational not to protect ourselves too much (that's where the "revoking the right not to be hurt" comes in), and train ourselves to see the two cases I already mentioned, that apply to inter-friendly relationships: (a) when an offender did not offend us intentionally, and shows remorse about what happened, or (b) when the offender shows remorse about what he did, even while his mistake may have been 'intended' at the moment it happened - but clearly being replaced by remorse later on, when he or she realized it was a mistake.

Now what exactly is "rational" about forgiveness? Well, the point is, most mistakes just happen. This is true for the (unintentional) offender who made a mistake, and it is true for the offended person who may now be making the mistake of not forgiving when the original offender is so clearly in need of it. In both cases there will be a situation that requests restoration of what can possibly be restored. But in terms of trust, the unintentional offender has only one option: making amends (and in cases of unintentional error, the offender will usually do exactly that, quite soon). He cannot choose to not make the mistake - it happened, and making amends is the only option. The offended person however has not one, but two choices: he or she can offer forgiveness, or not offer it.

Why would the offended person not offer it? Because he has been hurt, or he may feel humiliated by the mistake. The point is: he (or she) has "an argument" - but it is a very tricky one, which can be misused to hide an even bigger mistake than the original mistake of the "offender" (who actually is a friend - as we presuppose).

This creates a space, necessary to give the hurt or humiliation a place, and deal with it, process it internally - it's the "contingency plan" as we said. Just as lost property in ancients times required some time, a planning. But even in ancient times, the only real option that corresponds with amends was forgiveness. Jesus, who lived 2000 years ago, had a profound understanding of these things so it seems. He did revoke the right not to be hurt or humiliated. And today, 2000 years later, we can ask ourselves what we made of this, after 20 centuries. The reason why it is more rational to forgive is because this is the rule by the grace of which this thing, called forgiveness, actually WORKS. If you do not apply forgiveness to someone's mistake because you feel humiliated, then you are breaking the very rules by which error and restoration can be kept in balance, and hurt stops spreading forever. We are talking about lessons the roots of which have been laid thousands of years ago. It is rational because this thing has been tested a billion times. And yet, in friendly relations, we still struggle with this.

But it is so human. The problem may be something as simple as having too much of a conspiratist mind. So our friend may suddenly find himself "at the mercy of the court" and the court is going to plead guilty "with malice aforethought" while knowing all too well this is not true. Yet the plea is guilty, and it hurts the hell out of us - this is not how it's supposed to be. The problem, so we could perhaps state, is like this:

WE TEND TO PROTECT OURSELVES AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS.

And this is not how it works. Protection can always be someone's perfect excuse not to forgive. If this is how you think about it, then I would almost hope you will find yourself at the receiving end of someone else's "self-protection" as soon as possible. So you may learn how it is, when you need this hand reaching out for you and bring you back to a place where you don't feel like hating yourself.

Rationality in these things means: BE DARING TO ASK WHAT KIND OF WORLD IT IS YOU WANT TO LIVE IN.

If an asshole world is what we want, then we must not give a shit about forgiveness. If a love world is what we want, then we MUST learn to forgive, again and again - unless the same mistake happens so often by the same person that you can't believe in unintentional hurt anymore - in which case it becomes more comprehensible and obvious to be tougher in our dealings with such a person. But how many times does that happen with friends? Rarely. So it really is rational to forgive - more rational than not doing so. And this, of course, is not "exact science" - it's more like the science of being human.

COMPLICATIONS

We don't want to dive too deeply into the problem 'on the other side' of our subject now (the problem of not being forgiven). Our focus is on the fact that forgiveness is necessary, we need to do it, need to work on it actively. But it is useful to emphasize the fact that not doing it will cause damage. If you do not forgive, things may get complex very quickly, to begin with. This often happens when good things are NOT being done. Not doing the right thing has consequences.

For instance, if you do not forgive, you will somehow try to find some excuse for not doing it. Such an excuse may come in the shape of a charge. I mean, an additional charge, on top of the original mistake. Such charges may come easily and they are often "psychological" - anything that may 'justify' your lack of motivation to forgive may feel right and necessary to you. You will find errors in the one who humiliated you, errors that weren't there before - because when you were not yet humiliated, you did not suspect. Now that you feel hurt or humiliated, you suspect more easily. In fact you may "need" to suspect - because you "need" an argument to do something against the one who hurt you. This is all very human - but forgiveness was designed to cope with exactly those human things. And what happens now is, that the original offender will be pretty much defenseless against all new charges you come up with. If he would offer defense against "these additional charges" it would sound like his amends (for the "original mistake") were not honest. Which could then become the next psychological charge. Such a situation may spin out of control very quickly.

Under these conditions, strictly speaking, the offender is being deadlocked. Once the "original mistake" has been made, the offender depends on the other to either bind him upon the altar of his mistake, or bring him to the altar of mercy. The offender will find himself in a place without exit, as long as no understanding is being offered, and ultimately, no forgiveness, and no restoration for the soul.

Ultimately the one who is supposed to forgive may become our hangman, who 'approves' our guilt rather than approving our remorse. In actual practice, our own guilt may become our hangman, if we don't do anything about the difficult position we're in now. Moreover, in cases where the withdrawal of friendship was immediate, it's like our throat has been slit with one single gesture - or like a kid who is being thrown out the house because it broke a window. Depending on how strong or weak a person is, there may be little mental defense against such a thing. Being an apathetic asshole may be very helpful in such a situation (although really not a recommendation). You may feel bruised and feel like you can't handle this. The line has been cut off. "You have no access to updates", as a friend of mine said when I wrote her for her opinion, when I was in this situation. I had no access to relief. I was totally devastated.

JUSTICE VS. FORGIVENESS

Judgment is in fact what makes all these things ultimately fail. Not the world's mistakes, but the world's judgments is the ultimate problem that we need to come to terms with. Among the lesson learned by the wise men of the pasts, formulated in various ways, was the idea that mistakes are not supposed to place anyone outside the realm of mercy. But judgment does. Judgment, after all, is a poor expertise. Of course, it may seem clear that this may be true for friendly relations in which mistakes happened - and less so for situations when crimes have been committed. The latter is certainly a vastly more expensive case which demands much more effort, and certainly more compensation. In this article the focus is more on very basic situations, for instance friendships and the mistakes that people make. We will not examine crime scenes here. Yet, we must assume that there are general rules or principles underneath our subject. Justice, generally speaking, can be seen as a property of something bigger: mercy and forgiveness. If we were talking about crimes, this definition may still hold. It does not mean that justice should be annihilated by mercy. It means that justice is not the purpose, but a means towards a goal, and the ultimate goal is always restoration - as far as possible (and not beyond the human capacity to restore, and to forgive, for that matter). But the principle is important: justice should not be about retaliation, but, if possible, about restoration.

So when we talk about normal human relations and the occurrence of mistakes in such relations, we could formulate this as follows: forgiveness is justice for adults. Or, maybe more precisely: "justice of adults" - justice the way adults have learned to do justice: weighing pros ad cons against the overall condition of our world, our relations with people. When I told a friend of mine, she rephrased it for me as follows: "Perhaps forgiveness is a more sophisticated form of justice". This still resounds with me. Although I like a more 'radical' definition, because forgiveness is, after all, a 'radical' discovery of the human race. It deserves to be framed quite clearly in its radical significance (the word radical to be understood in its original Latin form 'radix', meaning 'root': the basic significance of the idea).

We could also formulate, in a more general way, the idea of mercy as being "distance to justice". Again, the same idea: a merciful attitude is an attitude that doesn't seek justice in the first place, when things happened to go wrong and no one really intended to hurt anyone.

However we frame it, the point is we should understand that no one deserves to be treated as if we deserve punishment if what we did was essentially making a mistake - not an attempt to hurt our friend. Think of two neighbors, one of them does something that seems to violate the rights of the other, and the other immediately calls the police: this is a guarantee for bad relations (supposed the relations weren't already bad). Among friends, justice is the enemy. Of course, 'judging' does not happen in court - but it is still within the context of justice, not mercy. It is choosing doubt (or security) over love, over friendship.

Cathleen Falsani wrote: "Grace makes no sense to our human minds. We seem so hardwired to seek justice, or our limited idea of what that means, and occasionally dole out mercy". People sometimes say "I believe in justice". I understand that - not believing that justice exists would be quite dramatic. But is justice something we should necessarily "believe" in? We normally "believe" in something when we think something is good. When we believe it is better for mankind to have this, or do this. This is why we have so long believed in grace, mercy, compassion. Because we have come to understand that the effect of applying 100 percent justice to a situation or person would be calling for his destruction, or at least severe punishment. (In a slightly different context we would call this retributive justice, as opposed to restorative justice). There are, of course, conditions in which we really desire justice to be done. In those situations we might want to understand that what we need is catharsis, but not revenge.

This is an interesting subject and very useful - but in the context of what we are considering here, we just need to understand that while justice in itself is a necessary tool to make societies viable, it is not what makes humanism and human relations thrive - and certainly not what makes friendships thrive. It is applying a fierce "contingency plan" where there is a strong need for a "mercy plan". This is yet another agreement, or 'contract', if you want. The agreement says that no one is the equivalent to his/her mistake(s).

So this is when people ask themselves: "who is this person who made that mistake?" And they realize that person is their friend, or maybe just someone we happen to know - but it certainly is a human being, with feelings and emotions just like us. And nobody is perfect. This requires a mindset hooked on common sense and understanding of our fellow man. It is something that mankind has figured out over a long period of time - partially if not mostly within a context of religious thought (and theology) but it is essentially a human faculty. The helping hand will only be there IF and only IF the victim is willing to take a share in the hurt - to bear a part of the hurt inflicted upon you.

This is of course just another way of saying, again: forgiveness depends on your decision not to claim for yourself the right not to be hurt. We don't like the idea of being hurt - but this is not about happy feelings in the short run. It's about what kind of society we want in the long run.

GOD AND MERCY

Religion introduces, as it were, the notion of a "third party" who is in fact "beyond" us - an objective third party who may act as an arbitrator. You may realize that this also makes perfect sense from a psychological point of view. Unless a victim is capable of actually PRODUCING the trust (in life) which is needed to be able to forgive, there will be no starting point for such forgiveness. Once suspicion comes in, propelled by fear or by lack of true love or trust - any 'gospel' (good news) will vanish - in fact it will ultimately come down to a willful belief that the victim does not truly repent and not truly feel remorse.

There may be all sorts of reasons for someone not to be forgiving - and they may all make sense up to some point, for a while. Again we ask: is it still part of the "contingency plan"? Your victim was hurt, or humiliated, and is watching you, perhaps hoping to get 100 percent certainty out of the play, certainty that your remorse is authentic and from the heart. But ultimately the necessary dynamics aren't there, things tend to get to a dead end. Even for the atheist, the role of a "third party", an invisible arbitrator, while not being god, will be the "common sense" in human beings. In case that a crime was committed, the third party that arbitrates is the judge. In interpersonal relationships, the judge is often our common sense. With or without god, the belief in "common sense" means to trust that both the perpetrator of a mistake and the victim are subject to a higher plan: making common sense. With emphasis on common. This is "the humanism of god" so to speak.

CHOOSE LOVE

Perhaps it comes down to making a radical decision - choosing forgiveness, because it's the only hope for viable, life-improving human relations anyway. You need to be a rebel and take the risk of doing something just because you believe it to be the right thing to do. It's a belief, like saying: TO GIVE IS TO RECEIVE. It sounds counter-intuitive in Western society, so it's pretty radical. But it can be tested. I know from experience that even wile I may rarely feel like being loved (love wasn't abundantly available in my life), I could nevertheless always give love to others. So love works under strange conditions. You can believe in those things once you have experienced something of it. Obviously we are created with such a potential.

A friend of mine used to say: "fake it until you make it". And I will be the first to admit that I'm trying exactly that. I belong to the species which, when faced with something beautiful but (almost) unreachable, I will, in the meantime, "fake until I make" it. Eventually I will even fake it even while I highly doubt if I could ever make it - because I have this sneaking suspicion that some things only happen when you believe in it. Yet, I'm not a 'new age' kind of guy - no fluffy cloud beliefs for me. But to "fake something" is not necessarily hypocrisy, or stupid. Hypocrisy is when you fake things with false pretensions. I am talking about faking something without any pretensions at all. This is about trying to follow good advice. Believing in certain tings that our ancestors did - because there is no reason to reject those things today, quite the contrary.

This is doing something that the ancients have been delegating to us in the past. This is how it could become true that "we are all family" - rather than choosing sides with, for instance, our own relatives, or whatever 'natural' connection. We can choose the best for all - not ONLY the best for just those who are 'close' because of family ties and all that, but the best for our fellow man. And yes indeed, ultimately it is about love. Forgiveness is a property of love.

My best friend used to say, several times: "Choose love". And I would add: for God's sake let it be inclusive love, not exclusive love. As long as exclusive love doesn't lead to real exclusions it may all look fine but guard yourself for the day when you will be facing its nasty surprises and you are not really prepared for it. Inclusive love anticipates by NOT being so willing to attribute negative attitudes arbitrarily to people.

Ultimately it is a matter of having faith in life and also contributing to make it more and more credible, so more people start to have faith in it. It only works if you start doing it. A "fan base" of forgivers has to be established - if 30 or 40 percent of us would become real forgivers, the world might perhaps slowly but finally REALLY begin to change for the better.

FORGIVENESS RESTORES

Last but not least: forgiveness seeks to restore. We will talk about that in more dept later, but I wanted to mention this already. Of course sometimes things cannot be restored - but in most cases there is always something that can be restored, and most often it is simply the friendship that needs to be restored. It may take some time, but forgiveness makes that aspect of restoration happen - and if it doesn't happen then the forgiveness wasn't real. Every honest person knows this, deep down inside. Forgiveness can't be just formal, or administrative. Think of it in a God context just for a moment: imagine a god who would tell us after a mistake: "Welcome back, you are forgiven - but get out of my hair now, I can't have you around anymore". You wouldn't buy it would you.

When I think of restoration, I think of the Hebrew expression Tikkun Olam: repairing the world. But it begins close to where you are: the friend you ignored for a long time only because he/she hurt you by mistake; the member of your family who has been the black sheep for far too long. To restore a person, there are these basic principles, such as (a) not making someone pay the full price for the mistake being made, (b) undoing (rolling back) the hurtful things you have said and done in reaction to your hurt feelings caused by the offender's mistake.

At this point we may realize how much easier it is to be a part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. I certainly realized this when friends of mine made mistakes. When you think of them as friends, you realize how our initial reactions are often worse than their mistakes. And we may come to understand how important it is to really develop more faith in our own ability to look beyond our personal hurt and humiliation. We are all in the same boat, we are all the same behind the eyes.

You can demand compassion and understanding, but then you need to be willing to offer it too. That's how it works. Such are the rules. This is how we grow up to a reality where love is being practiced on a regular, stable basis, and allowed to spread all over the place. That's how Christianity may roll, too, ultimately. And, hopefully, far beyond the borders of 'religion'.

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