Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. – Mark Twain
Wait, I must have misread that. Did that title really say I should never forgive anyone? In fact, didn’t it just say to never forgive anyone deserving?
To make sense of this we are going to have to unpack forgiveness and everything that precedes it.
It would be hard to argue against forgiveness itself. After all, it is prominently recommended in the most brilliant part of the greatest teaching ever spoken: the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount. Gandhi recommended forgiveness too, and so did Lao Tzu and Buddha and Confucius and Krishna and, well, me and probably you too.
So…I Can Forgive But I Can’t Forgive Deserving People?
The problem isn’t with forgiveness. The problem is with what happens first.
You may be thinking, “I know what happened first, that dirty so-and-so did this and that to me.” In that scenario and from that perspective, it certainly doesn’t seem like they deserve forgiveness.
So wouldn’t you be one magnanimous saint to forgive such a wretch. Hold up on the pat on the back you are giving yourself though, we are going to take this apart in a moment.
We are not here today to talk about those who did you wrong. We are here to talk about those you misread, misunderstood, or misjudged. After all, they never deserved your wrath or retribution.
It would be hard to call you saintly for forgiving them. It would be more like a restoring of justice because they never deserved your verdict in the first place.
In either of these scenarios, if you merely forgave them you would have missed the source of the problem. Forgiveness is just first aid here, a bandage, a tourniquet.
What if you could avoid the injury with the bleeding and the pain altogether?
Forgiveness is only about the Symptom
A hasty judgment is a first step to recantation. – Publilius Syrus
Never forgive someone because they deserve it. If they deserve it, how did you dare to judge them in the first place?
Instead you need to let go of your judgment and as a result the necessity of forgiveness vanishes. Oh, you may need to let them know that your judgment is gone but that is not the same as offering your forgiveness.
Finally, forgive yourself for judging them — and then of course let your self-judgment go.
I am not recommending that you stop paying attention or that you stop assessing. Pay very close attention and assess every detail.
Just don’t take the next tiny but destructive step of moralizing. Each of us will stand or fall before their own master: you, me, and everyone who ever committed some slight or infraction, some sin or villainy against another.
We’re all in that third group after “you and me” by the way. We can be pretty hard on ourselves about that too. But it’s not even for you to judge you. Nothing is gained at all by such judgment.
See what is there, then move past it. Life is too short for regrets. Worse yet, life is too long for regrets.
Let’s See, Judgment or Freedom: I’ll take the Freedom Please
Justice and judgment lie often a world apart. – Emmeline Pankhurst
Imagine your life without the burden of being the judge and jury, the cop and executioner. Imagine the freedom. Imagine the time that is released that used to get sucked up in ruminating and grousing. Imagine letting go of that tension in the pit of your stomach, of the tightness in your chest, of the stiffness in your jaw, of the pain in your…neck.
Or you can do the same old, same old. Have you noticed that no one really cares about your judgments or verdicts?
That’s a source of suffering too, feeling like your opinions are not given the respect they deserve. We forget that having respectable opinions makes it a lot easier for others to respect them.
Nobody likes to be judged.
Now for the Afterparty
So you need never forgive a deserving person again, starting right now. But you may have a little cleaning up to do.
Free yourself of your past judgments. Release those you have held imprisoned. Even those whose wrongs are undeniable can be regarded warily but without judgment.
If you will do this, you will release others from bondage and unburden yourself. Your ledger full of infractions, misdemeanors and felonies can get pretty heavy and unwieldy. Lay it down.
You may slide back at times. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
Just let go of the judgment, clean up with anyone you have to, and wrap it up with forgiveness for yourself.
After all, you deserve it.