The politics of forgiveness

It was a conversation with a Russian friend some years back which made me stop and think.

He could be described, charitably, as a bit of a lad, a playboy, even a bit narcissistic and he’d left a trail behind him.   A handsome bstd who attracted women like fireflies.  Now, as he’d aged a bit, he told me that some of the things in the gospels were quite canny, e.g. turn the other cheek and also that notion of forgiveness.


In Judaism, if a person causes harm, but then sincerely and honestly apologizes to the wronged individual and tries to rectify the wrong, the wronged individual is religiously required to grant forgiveness:

“It is forbidden to be obdurate and not allow yourself to be appeased. On the contrary, one should be easily pacified and find it difficult to become angry. When asked by an offender for forgiveness, one should forgive with a sincere mind and a willing spirit. . . forgiveness is natural to the seed of Israel.” (Mishneh Torah, Teshuvah 2:10)

Then again, we’ve ditched the Judaeo-Christian tradition now, have we not and so we’re reliant on the compassion of the rationalist. 😉

About the same time my Russian mate said that, Dr. Phil McGraw [of Oprah infamy], brought out those lifelaws and two were:

Lifelaw 2 – We create our own situation.

If we consider that we are no longer children, then we ourselves must answer for our own life – good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, happy or sad.

If we don’t like our job, we must answer for it. If our relationships are on the rocks, we must answer for them. It is never completely the other person’s fault. We, ourselves, may also have contributed to this situation.

Although we might accept this in theory, we nevertheless believe that in our particular situation it’s different, of course – we can prove that it is the other person’s fault. This is actually our problem.

Sometimes we then start gathering friends and colleagues together who will agree that we are innocent and that the other person is guilty. In the end, this is a waste of time and energy and helps maintain our self delusion.

However, if we can accept that we may possibly have erred, even a little and that only we, ourselves, are going to get us out of our own troubles, then we can start working on them.

Perhaps forces outside our control did cause our situation but if we allow that situation to continue or if we remain in it – then that’s our own fault.

At the same time, if we choose thoughts that create low self-esteem or which make us angry, this achieves no lasting result and leads us to become alienated and bitter.

To a point I accept that and it’s true as far as the State goes – they do what they’ve learnt works and it’s the fault of us, collectively, for letting them.   But surely it’s not the fault of me personally?   I have no power to alter the behaviour of my fellow citizens, esp. the left-liberals.  On the other hand, by not opposing the State earlier, then I and all others are very much guilty.

By the way, what a great quote from Robert A. Heinlein, via Bob G:

“Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.”

Lifelaw 3 – People do what seems to work.

We all occasionally indulge in negative behaviour without truly understanding why we do it.

It could be that we make nasty comments, which give us some satisfaction for a short time; it could be smoking, which relieves our stress for a short time; it could be self pity, which helps us cope with the injustice of what has been done to us.

The hard part is identifying exactly what results we get from this behaviour. These results can develop into something extremely unhealthy, such as self-hatred, distorted self importance or simply vindictiveness. There may be a fear of rejection, of not being noticed or from a desperate desire for others to see us as “cool” people.

This fear can be so strong that we’d do anything to avoid it. And we keep on with these behaviours … until one day perhaps, we wake up and start to come out of this negative spiral.

Now whatever you think of PMcG, there is wisdom in this. Where it falls down is that not everyone is as fully functioning as him and dare I say it – that sort of attitude is more often found in the alpha male and female [in the female more stridently].

Concerning that turning the other cheek and forgiveness – it always puzzled me because I never saw Jesus of Nazareth as a namby-pamby person – seems to me he had quite a deal of courage and yet he speaks of this turning the other cheek. My Russian friend said it was a brilliant defensive strategy. He’d included the Bible on his reading list [remember this was godless Russia] and was struck by a few things Jesus had said.

People expect you to act in certain patterns. For example, if they attack you, get close and personal, try to get inside your head, then if you respond, to mix analogies, it’s like Emperor Palpatine urging Anakin Skywalker to give way to his anger.

Cherie and JD are always on at me about the efficacy of a soft approach.    As a feisty warrior type, I find that tough to do but I do see the huge value of this forgiveness thing as a strategy.    As Dr. Phil said:

Lifelaw 8 – We teach people how to treat us, through our reactions.

Whether we like it or not, people treat us as they do because we have unconsciously, by our reactions, taught them which types of behaviour get results and which don’t.

If they get what they want, then they keep that behaviour in their repertoire; if they don’t get it, they drop that behaviour and start a new one.

The good news is that we can re-teach people how to treat us by changing our reactions to them.

Lifelaw 9 – There is power in forgiveness.

If someone hurts us, either that person never knows he’s hurt us or else he knows and just goes away and leaves us to suffer.

Where once we were going along happily, now someone has made us angry, depressed and seeking revenge. This then makes us bitter.

Does this person pay for his crime against us? No way. Do we pay for his crime? Yes, every time, through loss of balance, loss of mood and loss of health. In the end, he wins and we lose.

Only we should choose how we feel. Forgiveness is the way to say:

“Nobody is going to hurt me and control my feelings, even in his absence. I make the choice whether to be hurt or not. In the end, he is the unfortunate one, not me.”

By rethinking the meaning of forgiveness, we can become emotionally freer, calmer and generally a more pleasant person. Power over oneself is the key to a calmer, more balanced life.

My goodness that’s not bad.    Not being a naturally forgiving person, more inclined to patiently take someone apart step-by-step, I must nevertheless force myself to forgive and then to even try to forget, a la Cherie and I believe when she says it does accrue results in the long run.

That’s why I no longer personally engage with lowlifes [oh dear, there I go again], sad cases, er people who are doing nasty things because to engage, as Margaret said, is to give them the oxygen to continue.


Yo man – that’s quite good. Don’t know about you but I feel more comfortable taking on The Man and wearing the flak than sitting around drinking tea and being sweet.    Makes life shorter but each to his own, eh?    And the Bible steps in again here:

One last thought – is that overweening ego, is it mad eccentricity or is it just an inferiority complex, a la Napoleon?   LOL.

8 comments for “The politics of forgiveness

  1. September 23, 2012 at 11:24

    “By rethinking the meaning of forgiveness, we can become emotionally freer, calmer and generally a more pleasant person.”

    I think part of it is understanding the other person too. Often people who attack you are not hitting out at you personally, but at their own demons.

  2. dearieme
    September 23, 2012 at 12:21

    “we’ve ditched the Judaeo-Christian tradition”: we never had such a thing. It was a Christian tradition: all the ‘Judeo’ bit came through Christianity, not independently. Some of the Christianity was distinctly unchristian, but that seems to have nothing to do with Christianity’s Judeo roots nor with paganism. Sui generis.

  3. JD
    September 23, 2012 at 14:03

    The Latino Breakfast Club sounds interesting.
    Where can I find it 🙂

    Or perhaps it refers to the Sol y Sombra I used to see los viejos in Madrid having with their breakfast.

  4. Amfortas
    September 23, 2012 at 14:51

    By their fruits shall you know them.

    Dr Phil is full of shyte. He is all sweetness and light with the ladies (his audience), even the shanks, but when it comes to men it is “Suck it up”, “Be a man”. The violent man is defined in his book as the one who wants to be with his children and fights the falsely accusing ex in court. The ex however is feted as being a heroine. Dr Phil has a good line in hypocrisy. He is paid to forgive the unforgivable as long as it is a woman doing the hitting. He is only interested in men turning the other cheek and is quite happy to encourage women to sock a chap on that chkek too. And use the phone to have him dragged off to jail by stand-in thugs.

    Heck, james, I have higher qualifications as a Psych than he does and far more real experience. Not that I claim ‘authority’ as he does. He demonstrates his hypocricy in order to reap millions from the gullible and the biased. It isn’t to gain Grace.

  5. September 23, 2012 at 17:22

    Right, so good to know that. 😉

  6. Revolution Harry
    September 23, 2012 at 20:12

    I’ve been meaning to ask for a while exactly what you mean by ‘Judaeo-Christian’ tradition James.

  7. September 23, 2012 at 21:21

    I do have something to add to this, it is a post a wrote on forgiveness a few years ago. It isn’t appropriate to link back… I will update what I wrote, some of the links are broken.

    Would you like me to give it you to post here? or shall I post it on my own blog?

  8. September 24, 2012 at 19:53

    From some sermon title somewhere:

    “Some give and forgive; others get and forget.”

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