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Author’s Note: This is the second of a series of articles based on the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi beginning, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
In order to talk about injury and pardon, it is necessary to define each of these words.
According to www.merriam-webster.com, an injury is “an act that damages or hurts; it is a wrong; it is a violation of another’s rights for which the law allows an action to recover damages.” For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll look not at the legal aspects of an injury but at the hurt caused by one’s actions.
Pardon is a word in our society that has been so imbued with legal connotations that it is necessary to completely nullify for this article its legal definition: “the excusing of an offense without exacting a penalty.” We choose instead the dictionary’s definition of “the excuse or forgiveness for a fault, offense, or discourtesy.”
To choose “forgiveness” as a synonym for “pardon” is again to load the discussion with all types of emotional baggage gleaned from the writings of the wisest and most foolish of men and women of all ages, backgrounds, religions, and political leanings.
To some people, the act of forgiving must include the complete forgetting of the offense. To others, forgiveness means to dismiss the hurt caused by the offense but to acknowledge that forgetting is impossible. Psychologists would assert that forgiveness means to release the resentment against the offender. Jesus admonished that one should forgive the offender seventy times seven; most human beings are totally incapable of this kind of forgiveness.
Some forms of religion teach that one must believe in divine judgment that will eventually punish the offender or that “karma” will prevail. Those who are able to grasp this concept and espouse it wholeheartedly are most often those who are able to learn to forgive. Forgiveness is inevitably the encompassing of a capacity for loving. Loving someone who has offended or hurt you deeply is tough.
Acknowledging the hurt caused by the murderer, the rapist, the slanderer or other “sinner” is the first step in the process of healing. I read of a case where the father of a young girl, who had been murdered by a boy who did not even know her and who killed her for seemingly no reason, had sat in the courtroom every day of the trial. When the boy was sentenced to life in prison, the man said that he was going to visit the boy in prison, not because he was going to try to exact revenge or even to expect that the boy would eventually feel remorse for what he did. The father was going to look at the boy and talk to him so that somehow he could learn to forgive him and learn not to hate this murderer. He did not want to be consumed by anger for the rest of his life and suffer the consequences of ill health that hatred can create in one’s own body.
Forgiveness does little or nothing to or for the person who is forgiven. Forgiveness is about the healing of the one who forgives.
Francois de La Rochefoucauld said, “We pardon to the extent that we love.”
When anyone is consumed by hatred, anger or grief, the person is in a state of torment. The torment is not something that affects the person who committed the “unforgivable act,” but tortures the unforgiving one.
Here are a few of the illnesses that have been scientifically linked to lack of forgiveness or hatred: asthma, autoimmune dysfunction, coronary artery disease, cysts, depression, headaches, heart attacks, high blood pressure, insomnia, intestinal disorders, low back pain, sexual dysfunction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, paranoia, and ulcers. Not worth letting one’s life be consumed by another’s misbehavior, is it?
To put this into a larger perspective, glance at the national political scene as it has been heading. The media is full of people who daily vilify every fault and foible of anyone who doesn’t agree with their point of view. We have become a divided society depending on one’s political or environmental or even fashion or musical perspective!
We can survive as a nation exactly as is described in the much-quoted phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall.” We can agree to disagree without pointing guns at each other. We can take criticism without accusing others of exacting blood. We can work together to find solutions to our problems without lying about the opposition’s heritage or worthiness to be alive.
We don’t need people who justify their positions by saying the person with whom they disagree should be killed.
Our society depends on our ability to express our feelings but it doesn’t need blood-letting as the end game for differing points of view. People who become so fearful of someone who thinks differently are those who literally become terrorists in our midst. Encouraging this kind of thinking by appealing to unbalanced minds is ultimately to injure the public consciousness.
Each person has to ultimately learn how to forgive. It is not the work of a small mind to learn to forgive; it is higher order thinking and requires the acquisition of compassion.
Where there is injury, let me sow pardon. Help me learn to forgive others and eventually to forgive myself for the mistakes I have made. We are most likely to be unforgiving of the faults we see in ourselves.
We must learn not grind our brother’s faults over and over in our hearts to the point that we ourselves become sick. If there is any virtue at all in this person who has offended us, if there is anything to praise, let us remember these things and cast all hatred forever away.
Author of Tennessee Literary Luminaries: From Cormac McCarthy to Robert Penn Warren (The History Press, 2013) Sue Freeman Culverhouse has been a freelance writer for the past 36 years. Beginning in 1976, she published magazines articles in Americana, Historic Preservation, American Horticulturist, Flower and Garden, The Albemarle Magazine, and many others. Sue is the winner of two Virginia Press Awards in writing.
She moved to Springfield, Tennessee in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Bill a retired attorney. Sue has one daughter, Susan Leigh Miller who teaches poetry and creative writing at Rutgers University.
Sue teaches music and writing at Watauga Elementary School in Ridgetop, Tennessee to approximately 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She also publishes a literary magazine each year; all work in the magazine is written and illustrated by the students.
Sue writes “Uncommon Sense,” a column in the Robertson County Times, which also appears on Clarksville Online. She is the author of “Seven keys to a sucessful life”, which is available on amazon.com and pubishamerica.com; this is a self-help book for all ages.
Web Site: http://culverhouseart.com/
TopicsAnger Management, Famous Prayers, Forgiveness of the unforgivable, Injury, Mass Shootings, National Conscience, Pardon, Recovery from Injury, Solution to Terrorist Actions, St. Francis of Assisi
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