Sunday, 6 May 2012
Forgiveness may not be the priority.
When I think about the suffering of others I can weep, and often do. When I think about the suffering of children at the hands of an adult, or adults it goes beyond tears. I have friends, the type who are so mild and gentle that I want to wrap a protective glove around their mug of tea to ensure their sensitive hands don't melt away with the heat, ironic then that they can suddenly transform into barbarian despots as they explain, in some graphic detail what they would do to someone who inflicted pain on their child. On one level I admire their capacity to be so direct and focused on how they would punish the perpetrator of such a crime, on the other I feel a great deal of discomfort at the idea that hurting someone else, inflicting pain on a fellow human being could somehow make right their wrong. I do believe adults who hurt children should serve a custodial sentence for their crime, and be kept away from all vulnerable members of the community indefinitely. But what of forgiveness? The heaviness in my heart contains a sadness as deep as Loch Ness and as grey with confusion, but not anger, or a desire for revenge. Confusion prevails as I know that on this subject there will always be more questions than answers. One can never put oneself into the head of another, understanding what has driven them to wound another so deeply. So what can we do? We can stop trying to understand their motives for a start. That in itself is a futile occupation which will, in time, drain every drop of energy from you. If you are close to someone who as been hurt this way pay attention to where they are now. Are they well? If so, celebrate their capacity to overcome an atrocity. If they're struggling then ask what you can do to help? Are you able to guide them in the right direction to get the help they need? Be there for them, and encourage them to speak to you and others they trust. Healing the victim is a much more powerful and useful way to focus your energy than trying to forgive the perpetrator. That may or may not happen in time. Don't tie yourself in emotional knots trying to find the capacity to forgive and excuse the unforgettable actions of another. As C.S Lewis said, "Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive."