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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I WILL FORGIVE YOU IF YOU APOLOGIZE


I have a friend who admits to taking money from another person. He has been told to leave his church for two years because of that behavior. My friend thinks there are extenuating circumstances, which justify his action. His critics have not heard his side of the story. Some people have said they would forgive him if he would only apologize.

The interesting question for me is, “Can one demand an apology before forgiving another person? Is an apology a quid pro quo for granting forgiveness? Is an apology wrung from a sinner a valid apology? Can forgiveness be granted without an apology, a confession, and an amendment of life?”

I believe an apology is not worth anything unless it is freely given. A forced apology is as worthless as information provided after coercion or torture. An extracted apology as a necessary condition before forgiveness or reinstatement into the church is coercion and should not be believed.

An apology with reservations is worthless. An apology must be freely given. If it cannot be freely given, one can ask why this is so. Why can’t it be freely given? Then those asking for the apology might seriously listen to my friend and try to discover why the apology cannot be freely given.

When both sides are wiling to be in dialogue with each other about what the alleged crime really entails then perhaps understanding and even apology and forgiveness is discovered.

As for forgiveness, it can only be given freely. Jesus said “forgive until seventy time seven” that means endlessly. It was the church that set up the elaborate legalistic system that says to be forgiven one must make a confession and promise amendment of life. Jesus did not set that up. His teaching about forgiveness saw it as an outpouring of love toward all people including the sinful and outcasts.

4 Comments:

Blogger RWC said...

There is a modern confusion between the act of forgiveness, i.e. eschewing revenge or retaliation, and attitudinal or psychological forgiving, which is involved more with acceptance and/or re-integration into social contexts of the person forgiven. The core question to me is always "Is there any form of retaliation or retribution here?" It would seem to me that demanding an apology before forgiving is somewhat retributive in the sense that the ostensibly injured party is withholding the act of forgiveness, i.e. retaining the "right" to revenge (which includes the societal tool of going to court, or comparably in church politics denying inclusion in congregational life, which frequently boils down to being simply a substitute for revenge). I see this as quite independent of the multiple benefits to both sides in the psychological process of forgiving, letting go of hostility and retained anger over the real or imagined acts and motivations of others.

djb

8:28 PM  
Blogger RWC said...

There is a modern confusion between the act of forgiveness, i.e. eschewing revenge or retaliation, and attitudinal or psychological forgiving, which is involved more with acceptance and/or re-integration into social contexts of the person forgiven. The core question to me is always "Is there any form of retaliation or retribution here?" It would seem to me that demanding an apology before forgiving is somewhat retributive in the sense that the ostensibly injured party is withholding the act of forgiveness, i.e. retaining the "right" to revenge (which includes the societal tool of going to court, or comparably in church politics denying inclusion in congregational life, which frequently boils down to being simply a substitute for revenge). I see this as quite independent of the multiple benefits to both sides in the psychological process of forgiving, letting go of hostility and retained anger over the real or imagined acts and motivations of others.

djb

8:28 PM  
Blogger RWC said...

I agree fully with your belief. An apology must come without coercion, threats, or demands. A person who chooses to harm themselves first, by making a decision to do something inflicting, harmful, not only to themselves but to another must come to the place inside to do what is best for themselves and the one harmed. A life cannot be rushed. ?I ask, isn't apology about recognizing one has harmed another and themselve? Isn't meant to be healing and releasing? If forced how can it be. If it is given in guidance then it can be suggested to be considered, only that. Would Christ demand an apology!
When I read this article I thought of Gandhi who chose peaceful measures in the face of horrible behaviors from another culture forcing his culture to become something they his culture/society did not want.

8:37 AM  
Blogger RWC said...

1. Forgiveness is for the benefit of the forgiver. When I "can't forgive" I am putting myself in pain. When I forgive, it frees me - and really has nothing to do with the forgivee.

2. I believe an apology is not worth anything unless it is freely given. I say "amen" to that.


3. Unconditional forgiveness means coming to a realisation that there is nothing to forgive.

4. I agree with you -- a forced apology is worthless! What about people who have passed on and there is no expectation of an apology anymore?

5. I deal with this forgiveness issue a lot in my life. Just when I think I have forgiven someone (and I am talking mostly about old issues like people from my childhood) they keep coming up again!!! These old issues are embedded in our bodies and almost have to be dealt with on a somatic level -- like primal therapy!!!! How do you put old issues from year's ago to rest? That is a whole other subject.

Present day issues with people sometimes it is not possible for the two people to engage in dialogue and move towards forgiveness unfortunately. Defensiveness, old baggage, whatever, keeps this from happening.

9:15 AM  

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