Saturday, October 20, 2018


Today we are being confronted with daily issues which entail the dilemmas of zero tolerance towards inflicted evil, power abuse, injustice, forgiveness and reconciliation. There are becoming increasingly important and very easily misunderstood concepts. We all have gone through the experience of forgiveness and maybe we are still struggling with it as you read through this or some of us just don’t want to talk about it as the Italian could put it lascia perdere (forget about it). What does forgiveness among people imply? and above all in your life as a Christian or someone of good will.

Forgiving doesn’t necessary mean that we think we know what are talking about, so that we are never messed up or misunderstood, but it is all about creating an interpersonal connection between the enemies, recognizing and sharing the pains of the other, injury, judging and simply correcting the injuries caused. This will eventually have to lead to confession, restoration, and purification. This means that one has to be helped to understand God’s forgiveness and religious reconciliation. Forgiveness today crisscrosses different science disciplines: the world of therapy, church, society, politics national and international frontiers.

Forgiveness among persons, what it implies and how it works.

In life you will always find that you just have to forgive and create a path for peace personally because of what your values you have upheld in life and the sense of Christian upbringing. You forgive and reconcile because God too has forgiven you your many sins. (Monbourquette, 2000) states that you do justice as a human being because of the human reality of forgiveness, there is when you release how difficult things are when you have to forgive you perpetrator and reconcile and start walking on a new road. Without it life becomes impossible to live. Through that process we discover God’s exceptional force of mercy bestowed on the victims and perpetrator.

Forgiveness does fall from the sky

This is truly embedded in the entire existential, relational, social, religious and ethical context. One thing or another will always have to proceed it. (M. Buber, 1958:193-210). There is always the perpetrator and the victim. An affront, of an insult, an infidelity, forms of psychological or bodily harm, (sexual) abuse of power and violence.

There is a breach violated of the warm relationship shared, at the time may not be the case but only arises after the wrong doing. This we have to factor in when we have to be confronted with when we have to deal with forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is directed to the person who has committed evil, entering a special specific relationship with the one who has done evil, it’s a relational event. It is never directed towards evil, for it will remain unforgiveable but it is always towards the person in relationship to the evil. (D. Pollefeyt : 121-159).

Forgiveness is a conscious act of the will, which deals at a certain moment, in a vacuum, as, as it were to forgive. It is part of the process that takes place between two people. Forgiveness is exculpation, the one who has committed an offense is not excused by for he is not accountable, because of some psychological incapacity or due to variety of elements form his or her family or social history. Forgiveness is not possible if the guilty one cannot be held responsible for what he or she has done. We have to be held accountable for our decision making and behavior.

Learning the path towards inter-human forgiveness

This will require patience and humility in order to accept that forgiveness and it will comprise a number of steps and this will never be taken in a sequential manner. Sometimes it can be slow and uncertain, retracing the steps missed, sometimes we remain stuck on certain point hence not having the courage to go ahead. If you don’t forgive you will remain in that embitterment. One has to remain o the experience caused by the inflicted evil on the victim and allowing it work through the usual normal processes, you shouldn’t force it if you are not ready.

As a victim you have to come face to face to what needs to be forgiven and naming it as it is. This means you have to avoid generalizing everything, or attempts to neutralize the pain and discomfort quickly and easily. One has to face the real hurt where it lies and not to fall into the temptation of over dramatizing or underestimating what happened. The perpetrator cannot run away from concrete realities into self-protecting stories.

How we are to acknowledging and share the inflicted injury

All sorts of feelings that are negative, bitterness, disappointment, anger, revenge, hatred and the so forth, are normal reactions in the victim, sometimes denied or suppressed (repressed). We build up a defense of “you cannot touch me” “your attack cannot harm me,” “I am above all that” (L.Basset, 2007: 21-60). All these have to rise to the surface, the victim has “right” to these feelings as a form of self-respect. Trivialized when they are shunned, repressed or hidden behind a so called “understanding of the perpetrator, they need to be shared with someone, a confidant.

We have to  stop doing evil and rectify issues

The journey of self-discovery must start looking inside out of the self (victim), injustice must be stopped and rectified. The victim ought to approach the perpetrator about the wrong done, reproach the perpetrator about the wrong doing. At times the victim may want to do it in silence without saying anything or the perpetrator knowing anything about it. Injustice, insults, infidelity, pestering, humiliation, abuse should not be allowed to happen or continue, the evil has to rectified, which has to be completely different from revenge... Without addressing the bitterness within the victim could be the bed rock of cancer. The emotional acknowledgement of what has happened and the suffering caused forms the basis both for fair rectification as well as for the generous act of forgiveness, which one not only should want to give but also should want to receive.

Forgiveness is about reconciling with one-self

To avoid unburdening oneself emotionally, from negative and bitter feelings that remain at work underneath and disturb one’s inner emotional peace. Psychologically and therapeutic dimension of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a method of healing the injured. (Offended, insulted, violated) “psychologization” therapeutization of forgiveness, forgiving the guilty one. Forgiveness in the first place is about the one who is forgiven not the one who forgives, applied by the victim then that is a welcome bonus. (B. Flanigan, 1997). Forgiveness cannot be equated with healing, it’s about walking towards restoration. Only the victim can decide when the time to forgive has come. You cannot not be demanded or forced. It can only be given.

Learning to look differently at the guilty one

Diverting the attention from the self (victim) to the perpetrator standing in the shoes of the perpetrators, to see what picture could have been created, the perpetrator has his dignity. He remains a person not a demon, not simply an embodiment of evil. There should be a stop to the rebuking of perpetrator as a person, who has also bad and good qualities and the challenge of being human. Humility of the victim, sober knowledge and awareness of one’s own mortality.

You have to allow forgiveness take place.

One has to arrive at a point of feeling that she or he needs forgiveness. Failure and mistake, one will realize that it’s all in humans. True self knowledge is the acceptance of one’s own finitude or incompleteness. Humble towards gentle openness that knows how the temptation towards inflicting evil, sinning lurks in every human heart. An act of letting go and surrendering can be magnanimity experienced by both the victim and perpetrator, as a freeing gift that opens new paths to relationship. Then there is no longer any winner or loser. (Lafitte: 92-95).

Forgiveness brings about liberation

We have to be confronted with one personal responsibility and seriousness of guilty that clings to us often. This may urge us to escape from it by means of forgetting it. “What is the past is the past” but into “diversion of amusement” “To forgive and forget”. Forgetting only brings a brief delay or deferment, without ensuring a final removal of the guilt.

Forgiveness is a very special form of memory. The perpetrator receives once again the breathing space and new opportunity to become different, this doesn’t mean to become innocent being, as if nothing has happened differently the same. Forgiveness is a unique form of redemption insofar as it allows the perpetrator to enter into new relationship with his own act. Actions already done, can’t be undone, but the missteps committed no longer exercises a destructive influence, but the misstep committed no longer exercises a destructive influence onto the actual self- experience of the perpetrator.

No forgiveness without confession, restoration and purification

The perpetrators must confess and acknowledge in an authentic, tangible and perceptible way what he has done or inflicted on the victim. Inner and outside form of confession. Only when the perpetrator acknowledge his misstep towards the victim can the victim make his or her desire to forgive effectively. One must acknowledge that has done evil and injustice to another person and also accept that this evil is to be settled and that the victim has the right to do so. (S. Gormley, 2014: 27-48).
The desire becomes effective when it expresses itself in the confession and request for forgiveness directed to the victim. Committing an evil means the perpetrator is defiled right from the core, it affects one’s mentality and manner of living, so that the future doesn’t relapse into wrong doing, avoiding certain contacts or occasions, building up new social milieu, living or working elsewhere, they are easily consequences that intimidate people. The help of the others as individual or community will also help, therapeutic help and spiritual direction is indispensable.

Forgiveness is unconditional

It can only work when the perpetrator shows remorse, regret, it belongs to the order of gratuitousness. It cannot be imposed or requested by confession, neither doesn’t it wait for confession, in order to offer its gift, readiness of the heart and mind. The peak of love that desires simply to offer itself freely and nothing to everyone. Only when forgiveness is a conditional, is it truly forgiven, in the full sense of the word, exceptional and extravagant stronger than the impossible.

Forgiveness belongs to the order of the irrational: forgiveness is insane and must therefore venture fully lucid into the night of incomprehensible. (Jacques Derrida). Extravagant, gratuitousness of forgiveness can only be effective among people when we do not isolate it from its psychological cultural, historical and ethical context. Linking it to forgiveness with magnanimity, amnesty and the attempt at understanding the perpetrator, as well as with intolerance with regard to the evil, retribution, punishment and restoration.

It can be the result of negotiation and consultation, of give and take, of a strict calculable reciprocity. On the side of the victim it can be given freely and for nothing, one on the side of the perpetrator can be requested and not enforced. Forgiveness can be given and not given. The victim avails the possibility of not yet granting or even simply refusing the requested forgiveness. The victim and not the guilt one can determine the moment to forgive. (Gen 50:17, Matt 18:15-17).

Service to others and a greater commitment to avoid all trappings of evil, while continuing to be patiently and humbly open towards the victim. (E. Wyschogrod, 2006: 157-168). Forgiveness according to the Jewish tradition has three times attempts when asking for forgiveness. Every time you get three friends to ask for forgiveness from the victim and he refuses, you change and look for other new three friends, at least three times. (3x3x3).

Forgiveness is a promise

Forgiveness is related as a promise, unique form of promise. The quality one should know that there is still a future, that everything about his life has not yet been said and done, he may nurture a trust in that future. Every promise is an attempt at finding an answer to the human heart, with its dark sides, where by no one is absolutely certain, to know what I will be tomorrow, (Arendt: 243-244) but also from the unpredictability of others, it’s impossible to foresee how people shall act tomorrow, for they are free beings who can make different choices.

Our future is like a chance in lottery, counter attacking this double darkness of myself and others. Establishing an island of stability within a sea of possibilities that can go off in all directions. The hope and promise. The longing of the people and can thus never be fully trusted, uncertainty and despair, made and addressed by someone else. Promise is an external speech-act, that comes towards me, frees me from the disquiet and doubt of the present towards the future so much so that I dare to entrust myself to it (Psalm 31,3-4, Deut 32,4, Lk 6,36, Matt 5,45, 6,12). If God gives us the means and Grace of His love to do so, even though as finite and sinful human beings we will always remain wanting in this imitation without as being crushed by our guilt.

Moving  from forgiveness to reconciliation

Reconciliation is after all applicable when the afflicted evil caused a breach in the relationship that the perpetrator and victim had previously. Reconciliation means to heal the breach caused by the wrong doing in the relationship so that the relationship can be taken up again and acquire a new future. Sometimes it’s difficult due to emotional feelings underneath, or simply no longer possible. (New marriage of relationship with children after divorce) irreversible or would be simply unjust. Hence, there should be no confusion between forgiveness and reconciliation (Monbourquette, 2000:217-217). Forgiveness is a state of the heart and mind by which one affords the other new opportunities for the future, one regains the inner peace and freedom in oneself at the same time. Reconciliation is rising to a new level of relationship.

The extravagance of God’s mercy

Forgiveness and reconciliation are together for God. Reconciliation from God always comes first, and precedes all human reconciliation towards God. “Out of the ordinary” loving bound with his creatures, even those who do evil. One must dare to acknowledge his responsibility and bad will. God judges and he is a just God. Judgment without mercy is inhuman. Judgment is never final. God repents and offers new opportunities by means of promise of new future, of a new covenant. (Cain and Abel) as well explained in by the sacrament of penance. Conversion must be expressed in deeds, likewise called to act of contrition. (D. Borobio : 2008)
You forgive because you are convinced and are willing to search yourself to see  the other rooms you have never opened, there are doors in your life which you have not opened to see the beauty that lies there-in. How many people do not see the meaning of life, or prospects of the future, how many have lost hope and  are plunged into  the destitution, by unjust social conditions. The family is the place we learn to forgive, confess and reconcile, a place of affection, intimacy, where one acquires an art of dialogue and interpersonal communication.

Books cited

BASSET, L., Holy Anger: Jacob, Job, Jesus, London/ Ottawa Continuum, Novalis 2007, pp. 21-60

BORGGRAEVE, R., “The Difficulty but Possible Path Towards Forgiveness and Reconciliation”, in LOUVAIN STUDIES, A Quarterly Review of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies KU Leuven, Spring 2018, pp. 38-63

BUBER, M., “Guilt and Guilt Feeling” crosscurrents, 8, No. 3 (1958) pp. 193-210

BOROBIO, D., “Sacramental Forgiveness of Sin”, in Concilium no.184 (1986) Oxford, Blackwell, 2008.

FLANIGAN, B., Forgiving Yourself, Paducan, KY: Turner Publishers 1997

GORMLEY, S., The Impossible Demand of Forgiveness, International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 22, No. 1 (2014) pp. 27-48

MOULE, C.F.D., Forgivenessand Reconciliation, and Other New Testament Themes, London SPCK 1998, 1-47

MONBOURQUETTE, J., (ed) How to Forgive? A step by Step Guide, Ottawa: Novalis, 2000.
PELLEFEYT, D., “Ethics, Forgiveness and the Unforgiveable after Auschwitz” in Incredible Forgiveness, ed Pollfeyt, 121-159.

____________.,Repentance, Reconciliation and relationship: The Silence of Jonah and Boundaries of Forgiveness”, in Reconciliation in Interfaith Perspective, (ed) Bieringer and Botton, pp. 28-39

ROBERT, D., Enright, Exploring Forgiveness Conference 1995

WYSCHOGROD, E., “Repentance and Forgiveness, the Undoing of Times” in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 60, no. 1-3 (2006) pp. 157-168

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