There are a lot of great words out there about forgiveness.
Failing to forgive is too heavy a load to carry.
Failing to forgive is more about you than it is about the person you won’t forgive.
These are good words and good sentiments, and I can’t really argue with them. But sometimes, it seems like forgiveness will cost you too much.
How do we forgive the person who shot Gabby Giffords and killed and wounded so many others?
How do we forgive the soldiers who opted to pee on the bodies of dead Iraqis?
How do I forgive that person I loved who let themselves die in secret rather than seek any sort of medical attention or help?
It seems like forgiveness in these cases is too simple. You’re sorry you did those things? You repent? Well, that’s good. I guess. But it’s too late.
Is that fair?
Death, often times, seems like the great eraser. When Ted Kennedy died, many said that he had lived life well. And it was true -he had done a lot of amazing things. But he also left a woman alone in a car who could have potentially been saved. A car at the bottom of a lake, where she died frozen in desperation. Did his death and later good deeds erase that? That seemed like too much to forgive and forget for me.
Now, many are mourning the loss of Joe Paterno while others are raising their fists and saying his life and legacy should not be celebrated. It’s unclear to me just how much Joe knew. If someone told you that your partner, your right-hand man, was doing the unthinkable, would you be able to act in the way you see most fit? One hopes to never be in such a situation. And yet, JoPa did turn a blind eye. He admitted as much. And many children, many families, probably suffered needlessly as a result. Death opted to take Mr. Paterno before he had a chance for any make-goods. He died, as Hamlet says, in the midst of his sin.
What does forgiveness cost us in this case? How much of our own hearts and feelings would we have to sacrifice to let bygones be bygones now that the man has died?
I strive to live life the way Gandalf describes it. Who am I to dole out death and judgment? I strive to live my life based on what philosopher Jamie Sams says – when you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you.
And yet, if I say I forgive everything, I’m not being honest. Some things are too hard to forgive. Some things should not be forgotten, even with the broad sweep of mortality’s end.
Sometimes forgiveness is a gift we cannot give. Sometimes it is a load we cannot put down. I think that is the epitome of the human condition. Don’t you?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dalboz17/2892904007/ via Creative Commons