“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) These words of Jesus are probable the most famous words spoken about the forgiveness, in the history of mankind. And we, the people, took them and made them into something totally different, just like we did to the man who spoke them.
We changed them into accusation, guilt and judgment, excuse and justification, and all kinds of other things, to free us from our evil deeds and injustice that we do on to others. And we do it again and again. And then, when we have been forgiven, we become strong, good, and blessed, and have nothing to be ashamed of, or regret.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we not stop and look at what we are doing and saying? What is forgiveness? We are so busy being important, creating something other than what is that we never get to see ourselves as we are. Perhaps we do not care about the true meaning of these words. Maybe we are not really seeking the full understanding of forgiveness; maybe we are not even seeking forgiveness for ourselves, but only a solution from bad conscience. Is that what we are doing, seeking absolution through forgiveness?
What are we doing when we ask for forgiveness and forgive? It should not hurt us to understand what the content of forgiveness is. And then I mean what it is, not what we would like it to be, which obviously would be what each of us would create in our mind, for our own benefit. But what it really is.
When we have violated other or stepped out of the norm the society sets us, an apology is required and subsequently we are forgiven. In our society today, it is regarded as honest and even noble to ask forgiveness and forgive. Our upbringing and the education of our children clearly shows the importance of this. This is even considered so important that people are forced to apologize against their will.
When we violate other, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and then apologize, then surely the one we have violated knows what we have done, because this would be his assessment of our actions. Otherwise there is no violation or forgiveness. When we ask for forgiveness, we are asking the victim to be reconciled with our violation and remove our guilt. If the victim refuses to forgive us, then we become offended and even angry, and then the victim might expect a negative response from us, and even also others. If the victim accepts our apology and forgives us then we become good people and even better people than before. We could therefore say that to violate others is just fine. At least it does not reduce our ego.
The content of forgiveness seems to be first to violate another and then require that the victim accepts and reconciles with our violation. This sounds right, maybe rational and perhaps we could agree on this definition. But something is missing.
Jesus forgave not; he asked the father to forgive those who had violated him, “…father forgive them…” (Luke 23:34) and he did that because forgiveness was not his to give. To forgive we must first judge, and it is never ours to judge others, neither for the better or the worse. And therefore it is not for us to forgive or seek forgiveness of others.
Beside, violation is never what is done with or against us, but only how we receive it.
If someone takes from us our belongings, either all of it or just some, we often feel we have been violated. And so we have, if we say so, but if we decide to give our belongings away, to this other, there is no violation. Is there?
I am not saying that to steal from other is okay, only that our ideas about it might be wrong. Understandable, yes, but wrong. We do not take all factors into account when it happens, neither the situations nor conditions of the one committing the theft, not the surroundings, time and place, when the theft was committed. We only see our own reactions, anger, and fear. We decide what happened, based on our ideas about the situation. It is our decision, our judgment on the acts of another, no matter how we feel about it, it is always our decision based on our ideas. We can turn it upside down and in many circles, but it does not change the fact that this is our decision. It all starts and ends in us.
If we are faced with having violated another we should bear the responsibility ourselves. And not insist that others do it for us. And if and when we feel others have violated us, we can do little other than refrain from doing the same to others. If we cannot let go of the idea of forgiving, we should direct it at us and forgive ourselves for not being able to let go of the idea that we have the right to judge and forgive.
To judge and forgive is not ours. Never. No matter what.