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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

How far back in a person’s history, do you hold against them?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21145 points ) June 28th, 2011

You hear the words forgiveness, or forgive and forget, tossed around a lot. Is that just lip service? Too many it seems they hold who a person was in their past to who they are now.

If you know, say, an elderly neighbor, around his early 80s, a devout Catholic, nice to everyone, help out neighbors in really hard straights financially, and never has a bad word to say about anyone. His hobby is HO trains of which he has an elaborate layout in his garage, and when he has the door up most kids stop by to marvel at the trains. One kid takes something he didn’t think the man would miss, and it was an award and armband the old man had from when he was a member of the Hitler Youth in Germany. Would you still hold it against him? Would you black list him and tell your kids to stay away and give the old man the ”cold shoulder” from there on? Would you say he was just a kid then and that was so long ago who he is today so why make an issue of it?

What could you not let go no matter how long ago they did it or how long ago it was? Even if it wasn’t against you personally.

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22 Answers

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It would be really difficult to let go of any resentment felt towards someone who murdered a loved one, particularly if it was intentional (excluding euthanasia, if that was the loved one’s choice.)

YARNLADY's avatar

My sister borrowed money from my parents and me, which she never paid back. She once told me she needed it worse than I did. I forgave her, but I will never lend her money again.

In your example, there is no evidence that the old man committed any atrocities. Membership in the Hitler youth group was mandatory for every male teen in Germany for a time. Even Pope Benedict XVI was a member as a young boy. In fact, it was formed to replace the Boy Scouts. The group was never declared a criminal organization.

zenvelo's avatar

I’d have a hard time with a war criminal or a violent felon.

Your example of the Hitler Youth is not something to hold against someone. That was imposed on a lot of kids (including the Pope).

Pele's avatar

The Hitler youth was mandatory.

aprilsimnel's avatar

It’s been sometimes hard for me to comprehend, but all of us do what we feel is the best thing to do at the time. So forgiveness, sure. Reconciliation, which is what I think you mean? Depends. Did they do something serious wrong? Did they acknowledge their wrong? Have they tried to make amends for that wrong?

When you do something horrible to other people, yet do nothing to show that you’re sorry, then why should you be reconciled? People have nothing to gauge a person like that on except for past behaviour, and if for nothing except self-protection, one is going to be wary of such people. An old guy who was a war criminal and didn’t pay for his crimes means he meant to hurt people. Who wants to be around someone like that besides other sadists? And Hitler Youth doesn’t count. If your old guy example had been in the SS, that counts!

marinelife's avatar

It depends on what the thing in their past was. If they killed someone other than in self-defense, I could not forget it.

tedd's avatar

I wouldn’t hold someone having been in the Hitler Youth against them, as was pointed out it was Mandatory…. Not to mention its not very hard to warp the minds of young children. Such a person would have known no better at that age.

Now if they had been an active member of the NAZI party or something along those lines, I might ask questions.

stardust's avatar

I wouldn’t hold anything against someone having been in the Hitler Youth for the same reasons mentioned by above flutherites.
If someone had a history of pedophilia, I’d find it nearly impossible to see past that.
Otherwise, it depends on a myriad of factors including rehabilitation, acknowledgement of their wrong doing, etc.
There are one or two people in my life whom I’ve not forgiven for things that have happened in the past and naturally, it hurts me more than them.

FutureMemory's avatar

I can’t forgive spousal abuse. A man that physically harms a woman is lower than the dog shit I scrape off my shoe.

Coloma's avatar

I don’t hold grudges against anyone, but that doesn’t mean I would invite them into my life.
People change and holding the past against them is unfair.

Of course as others have mentioned, pedophiles and abusers and murderers should be avoided, these leopards rarely change their spots. However something like being involved in some cultish scene as a youth doesn’t qualify for lifelong bias, neither does a one time crime that does not involve violence or murder, or a one time affair or a one time act of irresponsibility.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. and no, I am not religious, but, wisdom is wisdom

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t forget anything.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@aprilsimnel
Reconciliation, which is what I think you mean? Depends. Did they do something serious wrong? Did they acknowledge their wrong? Have they tried to make amends for that wrong? Easy, you are not getting singled out but you mentioned ”reconciliation”. I meant forgiveness, not harboring resentment, hatred, distain, etc over someone that has injured you or done an act contemporary society would deem evil, or a major crime. One can reconcile with another without really forgiving them, more like declaring a truce to hostilities but not any real friendly feelings over it. Similar to the dispensation the US is in with the Native Americans for the most part. Closer to political than heart felt.

I know there are a few things I would find hard forgiving someone for, even if what they did was not done to me. Those who tortured and killed Emmitt Tills I would find hard to forgive. When you do something horrible to other people, yet do nothing to show that you’re sorry, then why should you be reconciled? Being sorry is not a requirement of forgiveness, in the classic sense of forgiveness. You could be on vacation and mugged and beaten badly, you may not ever see the attacker face to face but if you feel or choose to forgive him, you do so because you wanted to extend forgiveness, you do not have a verbal apology or acknowledgement of remorse from them. Imagine if compassion was encumbered to your personal like of the person, or cleaved to their perceived worthiness. A hooker or skid row bum in need would not be helped because they do not seem to have much worth or importance as a human to many people.

An old guy who was a war criminal and didn’t pay for his crimes means he meant to hurt people. Who wants to be around someone like that besides other sadists? What if he was older, and in an SS battalion towards the end of the war, or maybe working the trains that carted the Jews away to their death in the camps. Who he was then, and who he would be today are two different things, right? Would him saying ”I am sorry I was wrong” really have that much of an impact? Many two bit criminals have left incarceration and said they were sorry but it made little to them being unilaterally excepted publically, officially and personally back into society. One can say, “and old guy that was a dope addicted thief, but think he wasn’t wrong”, ”an old woman who ran a brothel in her college days and was proud of it”, ”an old guy who killed a woman and her son driving drunk, but blames it all on his drinking buddies”. I am sure everyone has something in their past that might not have been a crime but someone, somewhere would hold against you. Would you feel that was fair?

Reconciliation would help you be in a working or functioning relationship with them, which is better than walking around with a chip on the shoulder, but it will never have a path to friendship. Justice for the most part dose not need forgiveness, but again, one can forgive even if the expected ”justice” is not seen or ever known.

That response is for everyone but you breeched the term reconciliation so it ended up in your answer. :-)

Judi's avatar

I can forgive, but it doesn’t mean that I am stupid. It is a lot easier to forgive someone who is repentant, but I know that for my sake, I am a better, healthier, happier person if I forgive even when the person doesn’t think they need forgiving. That doesn’t mean I would let this guy babysit my kid, but I wouldn’t treat him like he has the plague either.
OK, now that I have read the other answers, and understand the Hitler youth a bit better, being mandatory and all, I might let him watch my kid if I didn’t have any other indication of him being a bad guy, and I knew him really well. The awkward part would be making my kid take the arm band back and apologize for the theft.

MilkyWay's avatar

I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did , as long as you love me.

flutherother's avatar

The kid that took the Hitler Youth award should be made to return it. You should then ask the old man about it, I’m sure he could tell you a lot.

athenasgriffin's avatar

I don’t hold someone’s past against them at all, unless it intertwines with mine. If they have hurt me or mine… well it depends on if I believe they have changed.

At the same time, I don’t need to know anything about someone to dislike them. I listen to my intuition about people.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

First of all, I don’t believe in Forgive and Forget, 9 times out of 10 you’ll be made a fool of that way.

In your example then I might very well hold it against the man but I’d also try to keep in mind circumstances, details and the lapse of time. I wouldn’t keep my kids away and I probably wouldn’t tell them about the man’s history either. Now, if the man had been a Nazi politician, Nazi prison or ghetto guard, Nazi camp employee… I’d turn away.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@collective Some pretty interesting answers, and some unexpected, digging deeper for clarity off the answers given:

• If you knew the person for _____ amount of years in good standing before finding the skeleton you would nullify your relationship over those years off something that happened longer than ______ year ago?
• If the issue in question was not a crime it makes it more or less forgivable?
• There are conditions to forgiveness?
• You would not be able to forgive the present person because you will lock them to a past that happened X amount of time ago, even if you decided not to have a close social relationship with them?
• If you do not think forgiveness should be extended to people based on their past why is not vengeance OK for people based off their present?
• The same way you would harbor something against another for things in the past if someone harbored something against you that happened ______ amount of years ago when you are a totally different person they would be in their right?

Just to narrow things down to a keener point. It is almost like forgiveness in a clinical sense is a pretty useless trait for man to have.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

*If I knew the person awhile before finding out about the skeleton then it still depends on what that skeleton is.

*The issue doesn’t have to be a crime but if it’s against my beliefs of what I’m willing to still respect and value then…

*There ARE conditions to my forgiveness and/or tolerance.

*I don’t feel forgiving someone for something I feel is horrible and wrong has anything to do with how much/to what degree they’ll be in my life.

*Not forgiving and leaving be is not expending energy. Enacting vengeance would require energy, negative energy and also some self reckoning and justification on my part. I’m not one to go on the offensive because more often than not it’s just crap on top of crap.

*The despicable or disagreeable things I’ve done, I accept what’s come of them. I may not like it but I must allow people I’ve hurt/offended/damaged to put themselves first. There are people in my life I leave alone even though I think I’ve grown/changed/evolved or whatever. Shite happens.

I’m not sure who came up with forgiveness as a noble or esteemed trait. I can see in general where it would hold a community together, preserve it and even strengthen it but there are some things I feel cross the line and to be expected to forgive those things seems futile and even foolhardy. I blame the Christians for coming up with “forgiveness of all” makes you the better person.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I blame the Christians for coming up with “forgiveness of all” makes you the better person. That is to say what, that Christians maybe keeping people from unchecked vengeance too is not a good thing? Forgiveness equals some kind of character flaw? If you would not mind elucidating your phrase as to make it more clear, please.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central: I don’t know the origins of how “forgiveness” became such a holier than thou trait but I do remember many many Christians (I don’t what kinds) blabbing about if you can’t forgive, even horrible things then you’re less evolved as a person, less truly Christian.

This when I was a kid and I always thought it was loaded with… wait for it… hypocrisy. Do I think emphasis by Christians on forgiveness checks wanton vengeance? Who knows. In my mind the comtemplating vengeance gives people more pause to weigh and ponder before action. I see more people’s kneejerk reaction to “forgive” though, almost like they don’t want to be caught allowing themselves to weigh and justify not forgiving. I don’t believe you have to hold a grudge in order to be “once bitten, twice shy” when it comes to what things make sense to forgive and what things just get chalked up to mental programming.

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