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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Forgiveness, how well can you actually do it?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26783points) November 26th, 2012

When it comes to forgiveness how well can you actually do it? What is the hardest thing you can forgive or what is the hardest thing you have forgiven? A friend of mine told me what his pastor went through after his son was murder viciously with a hammer. After the court trial was over he told the young man who murdered his son that he forgave him and would help him get rehabilitated if he got out; that the doors to his church would always be open. Could you forgive to that depth?

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30 Answers

Unbroken's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I love how your questions are worded so they clearly state your opinion and how you feel your answer is the only “right” answer. I will however add my opinion regardless because despite your stubborness you are intelligent and ask good questions.

That does sound remarkably forgiving and under any circumstances would take great effort and or martyrdom to achieve sincerely.

I am not saying this pastor is not sincere just not all the circumstances are in to come to a reasonable conclusion as to his motives. At this point it is a presumption.

Was the murderer associated with the son or the church or the pastor? What is the background of the boy? Does the church have an outreach program or a the faculties to properly rehab someone?
What is the defense behind the murder? How is the boy sentenced? What is the personality of the pastor and how does he cope with grief esp on such a public level?

This could be a healthy or unhealthy manifestation of grief, how much time has elapsed? Does he have ambition?

As to could I personally forgive to that depth. Well of course I haven’t experienced pain on that level. Is there a comparison chart that I should rank myself on?

I have been through major trauma’s of all different sorts. Some of them were easier then other’s to forgive and some I struggled with for years. But yes I have forgiven them all. I no longer carry all the weight and negative emotion that plagued me since early childhood. I wish I learned forgiveness much earlier, it did me much more harm then anyone else.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t think I could forgive someone for killing my child. I would like to say I am generally a forgiving person but I’m not. Time is a great healer and I have forgiven people significant ills after the passage of enough time but often I am not terribly forgiving. If I feel someone has treated me badly, it can take me a while to reach the point where I can let the pain/disillusionment or whatever go. In the meantime, I am most likely to just cut people out of my life – permanently or temporarily.

zenvelo's avatar

The often-not-easy process of forgiveness is not for the person who has harmed another, but for the person that was harmed. It’s a way for the “victim” to move past the event that happened to them.

I am like @Bellatrix, it can take me a long time to forgive someone. But I am getting better at it. I can’t speculate on whether I would be forgiving if my son or daughter were harmed, but it is something I would eventually strive towards, if only for my own peace of mind.

Argonon's avatar

Oh my!
That’s just awful!
I wouldn’t be able to forgive someone for doing something like that.
I’m also the type to never forgive and never forget so it’s hard for me to do.

AshLeigh's avatar

I have never tried to forgive the man who murdered someone close to me. I’m mad as hell, and I can’t say I could do what that pastor did.
I might be more open to forgiveness if I thought he might be sorry.
I might be a little less angry f I felt his punishment fit the crime.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ve never had to forgive on that level, so I can’t answer this specific question!
Other than that, I think I’m pretty forgiving. Life is too short.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Forgiveness is hard sometimes. I tend to forgive more than not, and the only times I’ve not forgiven is when someone has made such a grave faux pas that it really has made my blood boil.
I guess everyone has a different level they’re prepared to go to before they decide that they just cannot possibly begin to consider forgiving someone for a wrongdoing. Much the same I would expect that everyone has different ideas as to what ‘small things’ are forgivable (e.g. the tiny white lie), and what bigger things are not.

hearkat's avatar

I have forgiven those who harmed me in childhood, whether directly by sexually abusing me, or through neglecting to protect me from being abused. That does not mean that we have close relationships now. Trust is not unconditional.

I have never had to forgive anyone of murder. I have had to forgive my ex-husband for killing himself (slowly, through alcohol and drug abuse until his liver gave out at 38) and the pain that has caused our son. I have had to forgive my son for attempting suicide. I have had to forgive myself for many things.

Forgiveness is not easy, and true forgiveness to the depths of that in your example requires a degree of humility and empathy which many people can not imagine. I certainly hope to never be tested to that extreme.

majorrich's avatar

For small things, yes I can and have completely forgiven people for ‘sins’ committed against me. There are a couple that I cannot seem to let go of and am sure I would do physical harm to these people given the chance. I know where they live, I have their credit, I know where their children go to school. Over ten years I have collected enough information to utterly destroy them. I’m not even sure they know the extent to which I have prepared their demise. I want to remain blameless legally which prevents me from launching the plans, so the Law is their only savior. This is all for interfering with my ability to provide for my family. In the old days I guess it would be called the feud.

Coloma's avatar

I try to remember a sound mantra I heard some years ago that urges us to remember that those that harm others are victims in their own right. Victims of their backgrounds, life experiences, and levels of consciousness and if WE had the same backgrounds and level of development we would be exactly the same way.
My ego may get offended and make a lot of noise for a little while, but, yes, ultimately, I forgive quite easily as I understand this very basic truth.
I let go of a very childish friend a few years ago and while at first I was very angry at her manipulative ways and inability to have an adult discussion about her behaviors I soon found peace in knowing that she was a very emotionally unhealthy person and had zero ability to self reflect.

Her self esteem is so low that she cannot handle the smallest of confrontations or take any responsibility for her stuff because she is too fragile to own any shortcomings as it feels too threatening to her fragile sense of self.
I made the choice to let her go and while I wish her well I do not miss her company at all.
I think it is always best to be aware that those that cause harm are really not in their right minds and therefore, it is never of a “personal” nature, no matter how much you believe it to be.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Coloma It’s sad when friends you’ve had for years start becoming bitchy whiners. You can’t help but wonder if you’re just now seeing it, or they’ve really changed.

Coloma's avatar

@Dutchess_III Yes, hindsight is always 20/20, and while I am a supportive friend I will not tolerate manipulative behaviors and mind games. Baby be gone! lol

augustlan's avatar

I think I’m pretty forgiving. I forgave my childhood abuser and those who didn’t protect me from him, and it helped me move on with my life. I chose not to have those people in my life, but I don’t wish them any harm.

cheebdragon's avatar

If anyone did that to my kid, I would probably be as forgiving as the guy in this movie.

bookish1's avatar

I am pretty bad at it, I suppose. Bad when it involves people close to me. I don’t like being kicked in the face by the people I was made to trust and rely upon.

@Coloma: I admire the sentiment of compassion for everyone that you are promoting but… the way you describe it, that point of view allows no room for agency and I think that is a huge problem, as a humanist and a historian.

NB: I have a sinus infection and am on cold medicine. But I still think personal agency is important. What’s the point of morality at all, if humans are utterly conditioned by their pasts and environments, and have no room for choice?

kitszu's avatar

I think that ‘forgiveness’ is somewhat circumstantial. The person, the situation (and its variables). What you can and can’t forgive is in the same vein as what you are or are not capable of doing. Would you give your life for a loved one, a stranger? Could you kill to save a loved one, to save yourself, to save a stranger? Situations that are so complicated, you can only know what you would like to believe yourself capable of doing. That said, ‘to forgive or not to forgive’ aren’t the only options. It’s possible to decline one and bypass the other, by which I mean, you become indifferent to the damage done and move forward.

JLeslie's avatar

Generally I am very good at it. Maybe some of the time it is more like denial? I can kind of push things to the back and ignore them. Many times forgiveness comes when I feel I can empathasize with the other person, see their perspective.

Something like someone murdering a loved one of mine I don’t think I could be forgiving. It would depend on the circumstance. In cold blood, a random murder, I think I would have a very very hard time letting go of my anger and forgiving the person who did the crime.

Unbroken's avatar

I also like compassion. @Coloma
But I too disagree with the helpless victim role.

I think James Hillman said it best. “I’m the result of upbringing, class, race, gender, social prejuidices, and economics. So I’m a victim again, a result.”

Ph D Ofer Zur pointed out the power of victomhood.

We all have issues to overcome. We all have stories, they shape us and influence us but not to the effect that our future is predestined. We have a choice on how we guide ourselves.

Compassion comes in handy because none of us our perfect, people respond better to it and not only that you would probably desire such treatment, but you could be one of the few people that gives it to them.

Hope, courage, self confidence and respect blossom from such food.

Coloma's avatar


Oh, don’t get me wrong, regardless of having compassion for anothers issues there are still consequences.
I am just saying that it helps to remember that people who do evil things are often “victims” of their own poor development. They are not “helpless” victims, but they ARE damaged enough by their own backgrounds and pathologies to be unconscious that they HAVE a choice.

Choice implies conscious awareness.
Hence unconscious, but not without responsibility.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

I believe in forgiveness. What that means is that I believe that the only way we can move forward when we are hurt by someone is to forgive them. I have a very very good memory though. I never forget. I also don’t believe second chances are always deserved.

Berserker's avatar

I’m a terrible and horrible person, and I forgive easy enough; when I get bored with hating the person who wronged me.
That said, I’ve never had anything real hardcore done to me, certainly not like having my kid get killed by some fuck with a hammer. If I experienced something like that, I expect that forgiveness would be something really hard for me to do.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

I am not a forgiving person, in general. I definitely don’t forget, either. I probably should try to be more forgiving, for some of the reasons others have listed (life’s too short, easier to be at peace, etc.), but it’s just not me.

bookish1's avatar

Here’s a song that is about how addictive it can be to hold onto a grievance and nurse it, rather than moving forward to forgiveness. I’ve been listening to it as medicine.

cheebdragon's avatar

I wonder if it would have any impact on the crime rate if violent offenders had to face the same fate as their victims….

Unbroken's avatar

@cheebdragon, there are tons of sadists and masochists out there, not willing to bet that they aren’t ever enmeshed in the same person.

Also, doesn’t that make you just as morally corrupt as the first offender? That is my issue with the death penalty or one of them. No matter how humane or if you add switches and buttons, there always has to be a person responsible for taking multiple people’s lives.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I love how your questions are worded so they clearly state your opinion and how you feel your answer is the only “right” answer. (Interesting) Elucidate please, how and where did I inject my feeling about the matter in the question by how I worded it? Did I say ”Would you forgive the despicable, heinous, low-life maggot that murdered your son?”, or ”Would you forgive the murderer of your son to save your soul from an abomination?” Those would be injecting a thought into the question, and as far as my believing my way is the only way being written into the question, I can’t see that, please point it out so I can see if we are seeing the same thing or not.

@MollyMcGuire I also don’t believe second chances are always deserved. When are second chances not deserved, and who judges or determines that? Is it universal or regional, each get to decide on their own based off the desire or whim of the populace?

Unbroken's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I do feel I owe you an apology for that. Please refer to your private messages. I was reading through the eyes of a person who has seen your last couple of questions and in context of that your last blurb seemed a challenge, as in there is no way you can measure up to this great example…
pastor went through after his son was murder viciously with a hammer. After the court trial was over he told the young man who murdered his son that he forgave him and would help him get rehabilitated if he got out; that the doors to his church would always be open. Could you forgive to that depth?

Far too much inferred meaning, I do regret that I not only jumped to conclusions not based on fact, but that I was rude.

kitszu's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central It’s a question that preempts the story that explains the reasons for the question itself.

Coloma's avatar

Well…my ex husband very arrogantly said, when his philanderings came to light, that everyone deserves a second chance. I agreed, but said it just wasn’t going to be with me. haha
I forgave him but I had no desire to invite the Cobra back into my bed. lol

kitszu's avatar

@cheebdragon I would be afraid if law enforcement officials were capable of swallowing the sickest parts of humanity well enough that they could replicate them. That said, try punishing a sociopath with an overdose of their own medicine and see how far it gets you.

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