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A New Perspective on Forgiving and Forgiveness.
By: Rev. Dr. William Wong

 

An alternative title to this article might be “How To Keep From Being Victimized Again Because of Forgiving”.   These thoughts on the concept of forgiveness don't apply to all the little things we daily need forgiveness for.  This new thought and concept apply only to very deep and very serious wrongs done to others, usually loved ones:  Child abandonment, wife beating, incest, the violation of trust by priests, teachers and ministers, to cases of extreme psychological or physical abuse.  It applies to cases of manipulation where the manipulated are not allowed to have their own lives or the freedom to choose.   These thoughts on forgiveness and forgiving have formed themselves in the crucible of both my personal experience and the experiences of friends and loved ones.   These thoughts on forgiveness and forgiving have formed themselves by watching the forgiven not change, and the forgiver open themselves to continued abuse as well as physical, psychological and spiritual damage.

Where do our current Christian based ideas on forgiving come from?  They come from priests and ministers interpreting scripture to their own advantage.  It cannot be denied that for almost 2 millennia many Christian clerics have abused their position in society.    To keep the common man from extracting retribution for their foul deeds, clerics and their theologians interpreted the New Testament in their own way using what benefited them, their organizational structure and the power elite.   They did this by ignoring scriptures that did not benefit them and emphasizing those that did.  Remember the church teaching on the “divine right of kings”?  In the case of the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD entire portions of Christian scripture we re-written or thrown out.  From the current crop of Roman Catholic homosexual pedophiles to con you and take your money Pentecostals like Jim and Tammy, the current concept of forgiveness benefits those needing to be forgiven and continues to endanger and abuse those who have done the forgiving.

From the 3rd century onward, Christian ministers have been seeking forgiveness for their faults.  According to the Catholic book, The Lives of Saints, St. Ambrose took pity on two “beautiful and angelic” English boys being sold in the Roman slave market. So he bought them and took them “everywhere he went”.   That must have been the first recorded case of Roman Christian pedophilia.  (It must be said that Eastern Orthodoxy with its married priests has no such problems.  The scale of the pedophilia problem is exclusive to the Roman church and its crop of “celibate” male priests).

The current notion is to forgive and forget; to behave as if the transgression had never occurred.   One Baptist preacher taught from the pulpit that God forgot a sin as soon as he forgave it.  One has to question this near blasphemous statement in the light of Christian doctrine:  God is all knowing and all-powerful.  Would or could an all knowing God forget something?  Could God have a lapse of memory?

Forgiving and forgetting allows the abuser to act as if nothing wrong had ever happened and this allows the cycle of abuse to continue.   This concept comes from St Paul (“not by acts but by faith”) and the Paulian concept of being cleansed by the “blood of the Lamb”.  Forgiveness came from Jesus crucified and since Paul regards good acts as empty, then nothing need be done to make up for the injustice committed.  But those who adhere to St Paul, ignore the teachings of Saint James and Saint John who taught about good works, acts and love; love being the driving force to repent and carry out good acts.  Under St Paul, a transgressor need do nothing to atone for his sin, he just needs to be forgiven and it's over; very easy for the sinner.   With James and John the sinner needs to do more than just say he's a follower of Christ.  His deeds (i.e. good works) need to go hand in hand with his faith and prove him to be an example of the Christ, who went about believing and always performing good works.   Jesus said, “By their WORKS ye shall know them”.

If there is no atonement, no deep fundamental and soul moving change in the heart of the transgressor, then there has been nothing that has changed the behavior pattern of the abuser.  Nothing to keep the abuse from occurring once again.  Forgiving and forgetting puts the victim once again in the clutches of the abuser and open to further abuse.    

The true definition of forgiveness is that the forgiver passes to God the right to take retribution on the sinner, (Vengeance is mine, I will repay sayeth the Lord).   And while we are exhorted to forgive seven times seventy, does that really mean that we deliver ourselves to the abuser seven times seventy to be abused and damaged in body, mind and soul again and again and again?   Pedophile priests, incestuous parents and spouse beating mates would love this to be so.  But that does not fit with the Christian concept of an all loving and all caring Father who desires only the best for His children.  

So what is my take on forgiveness for the child abandoner, the wife beater, the incestuous relative, the manipulators or the violators of trust?  It's simply this: Forgive but don't ever forget!  Don't ever allow yourself to be put back into the position of weakness, of hurt or fear.  Don't allow those who scared your body, mind or soul to continue to be active in your life as if they had done nothing and had always been model citizens.    If there is no deep soul change in the abuser there has been no break in the cycle and the abuse will continue.  We see this with spouse abuse day in and day out.  The wife with the broken nose, internal injuries and battered face forgives the crying and pleading husband.  Once the damage is forgiven and put behind, the behaviors that led to the prior abuse re-manifests itself and creates new incidents of abuse.    There was no deep true change in the husband.  We see this with the pedophile priests.   Their hands were slapped, usually by equally homosexual bishops, and the priests were admonished not to do it again, or get caught again.  Then these abusers were sent off to other parishes.  With these and all easily forgiven abusers there is only the drive and desire to do what they want to do, and nothing of the recognition on the part of the transgressor that his actions were #1 wrong in and of themselves, (malum en se), and #2 deeply damaging to his victim.   There is not a care or thought given to the victim, his feelings or his welfare!  This is truly criminal behavior and a criminals mind set.

So when we forgive, we allow God to extract our “pound of flesh”.  God can balance the scales far better than we can anyway.  We should then pick up and cut off all ties forever from the abuser; taking ourselves out of the abusers orbit, out of his town, his work, his realm of existence, out of the abusers life altogether.   In remembering the abuser and the extent of the abuse we don't allow ourselves to be put into a similar position by that person or anyone else ever again.   We should also look to invite people into our lives who are not like the abuser we've just left behind.   Women in particular continue the cycle of abuse by continually choosing to be with men just like the one(s) who'd hurt them before. That cycle must end and a reevaluation of what one looks for in a confidant, friend or lover must be undertaken, then those changes set into the victims mind and soul.   What is needed in this instance is a deep and fundamental change in the victim to keep them from becoming a victim again!

When we forgive and forget we set ourselves up to be hurt the same way by the same people over and over and over again.  Break the cycle, forgive but don't ever forget and rebuild your life with out the influence of the abuser.  Refuse to be a victim!

A note here needs to be said on what is required to be fully forgiven.  Western Christianity is based on Paul and Augustine (two with a history of being abusers); Orthodox (Eastern) Christianity is based on James and John.  In Western Christianity we are taught that once we are forgiven that's it, we need to do nothing to balance the scales and make up for the harm we might have done.  Again, this is the Paulian notion of grace, faith and the blood of the Lamb.  But if we look at the root of Christianity, which is Judaism, and the writings of James and John we see a different perspective.  Remember, Jesus was the grandson of Joachim, father of Mary and priest of the sect of Bet Hillel, the minority and at that time “out of power” sect of Judaism.    Given this lineage Jesus would have been taught the Hillelite principles of his faith, which included atonement of sin in order to receive full forgiveness.   Part of atonement was voiced by Jesus when he said to the prostitute “go and commit this sin no more”.   So, for true forgiveness to be in place, there cannot be any like repeat offences!   Some bible translations hold this verse to say “and sin no more” but that’s not its true reading.  Not ever “sinning” again ever is well nigh impossible.  Jesus is specific when he said, “Commit THIS sin no more”.   In order to “commit THIS sin no more” there must be a change of heart bringing about a change in attitude which engenders a change in being and action.   If we take the words of the close disciples of Christ to heart that “faith with out works is dead”, then we get past the easy out given by Paul, and we see that we have to make up for the harm we've done, possibly not with the one we abused, but by performing good works benefiting others.    

Paul makes it too easy to fall back into abusive and victimizing ways.  Making recompense for ones harmful actions makes the abuser more aware of the harm he's done, more aware of the severity of the damage he's inflicted. While on the path of atonement he'll also learn a little something of what it takes for a victim to get over the hurt, get past the mind and soul scars and try to rebuild a life. 

For the victim: get away from the abuse and the abuser, get on with life, remembering that God wants you to live it with joy, true love and abundance.

Forgive but never forget!

 
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