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April 11, 2008

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Leila
Thank you for the note about forgiveness. It's hard, but needed. I've read your blog for quite some time. I, too, am a half-Lebanese American woman with many cancers, and appreciate your point of view, especially on the question of Israel. Don't know HALF as many interesting people, however. Janet

This is really lovely, Leila. Thank you for writing it. My son recently sent me this from Eduardo Galeono:

"The Language of Paradise"

The Guaraos, who live in the suburbs of Earthly Paradise, call the rainbow "snake of necklaces" and the firmament "overhead sea." Lightning is "glow of the rain." One's friend, "my other heart." The soul, "sun of the breast." The owl, "lord of the dark night." A walking cane is a "permanent grandson"; and for "I forbive," they say "I forget."

May you continue healing.

One of your most outstanding posts.
Forgiveness is the core exercise of the Christian faith and with practice becomes a way of life, although it never gets easy. It is an exercise of the will.

Thank you, John. I didn't realize you were still reading DEV. Nice to see you. Everybody go visit John at Hootsbuddy.blogspot.com

Woo! John Ballard (Hootsbuddy) blogged this post! I didn't realize until after I made above comment. well, gee, thank you John, I really appreciate it...

Should one forgive in the midst of the ongoing unrepentant practice of evil?

I don't know about that.

Hit the send too soon!

I can see how forgiveness works on an individual level, but on the macro level, I have much more difficult time understanding how this could function.

Clearly, I'm speaking of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Can a whole nation be called upon to forgive their wrong-doer in the midst of unrepentant wrong-doing?

It's clear how forgiveness functions on a person-to-person level, especially if the wrong doer has acknowledged and repented. I can see how it works even if there hasn't been acknowledgement.

But on the larger level... that's where I get lost.

~Judy

PS I guess that's why I was never a very good Christian!

There's no "should." If you think you can't forgive and you don't want to try, then you live with the consequences. Perhaps you feel that harboring unforgiveness causes you no harm. Okay.

This is all a matter of choice.

I say that for me, forgiving even the "ongoing unrepentant practice of evil" helps me. My hatred, resentment, fear and condemnation hurt me - these feelings don't hurt the one who does evil.

I forgive in order to release myself from the everlasting pain of resentment.

The cluster bomb example I use matters, because those bombs still kill people 18 months after the war ended. The bombs poison the land and make it impossible to farm, and they blow up regularly, maiming and killing innocent people trying to use the fields. This I have found unforgivable. This I must forgive if I am to have any peace in my heart and in my liver.

but that's just me. Your mileage may vary...

Re: being a "good Christian." I have never cared about "being a good Christian." I practice forgiveness in order to save my soul and I hope my body, too. Whether or not this makes me a good Christian is immaterial.

I do use Christian imagery when I talk about forgiveness. This is partly because it's my tradition, and partly because Jesus taught this message repeatedly and has much to say on the subject. Other traditions also practice forgiveness.

I don't suggest people do this so they can count themselves members in good standing of some faith or other. That doesn't matter, really. I suggest people do it because I have found it gives me profound psychic and emotional release; I hope that it also heals me physically.

Re: Palestinians forgiving Israelis - I don't call on any Palestinians to do anything. That would be presumptuous. I harbor resentments against Israelis and the state of Israel, so it's my job to excavate those and give them up. I also harbor resentments against Palestinians, Lebanese, Phalangists, neo-conservatives, Communists, Hizbullah and George W. Bush. All of these are mine to clean up.

What any one or group of Palestinians chooses to do regarding their situation is up to them.

I hope you aren't reading my comments as negative criticism. On the contrary, I appreciate your thoughtfulness in exploring these ideas on both the personal and broader levels.

I finally got around to following up this comment thread. Thanks for the promo!

You raise the central qestion: Should one forgive in the midst of the ongoing unrepentant practice of evil?

If we use Christ as our model his dying words suggest exactly that. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Thankfully I no longer work for him, but for nearly twenty-seven years I was subordinate to one of the meanest men in the company for which we worked. Without going into detail, it is sufficient to say that he was known by one and all to be insulting, sarcastic, abusive and unaccountably indifferent to the feelings of others. He kept his job because he was knowledgeable and well-organized...and his father was well-placed. Anyway, at one particularly stressful point a sympathetic customer who knew the situation said something helpful: "It will build your faith," she said. And she was correct.

I thought about that a lot as the years went by, and I had to forgive this man, sometimes several times a day, for what he said and did. In time I came to feel sorry for him, much the same way one feels sorry for any of God's pitiful creatures. I learned in time actually to defend him when talking about him with others, despite his ungrateful, relentless verbal and psychological abuse. (It was some comfort knowing that he was not just picking on me. He was that way to everyone at one time or another, scapegoating or insulting them for situations over which they had no control.)

You put your finger on the dynamic in your post. We forgive, not because of what forgiveness does for the perpetrator, but for what it does for us. When we fail to forgive we get infected with a corrosive, septic spiritual condition that poisons everything in life. Al our senses are affected, and we can no longer hear, see, feel or experience life without distortion. For me, it is the same dynamic that makes me oppose capital punishment. The reason has more to do with what it does to me than what happens to the criminal. In the same way that capital punishment caused me as a citizen to become a perpetrator of evil, unforgiveness also transforms me into someone I know I don't want to be.

It's easier said than done, of course. But that's the best I can do in a comment thread.

I was glad to hear you post on Mondoweiss. Even though we disagree on some political conclusions, I'm very happy to hear that you are bringing your best to the world.

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