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They Know Not What They Do

What is forgiveness, and how important is it really? defines forgiveness thusly:

forgive [fəˈgɪv]
vb -gives, -giving, -gave, -given
1. to cease to blame or hold resentment against (someone or something)
2. to grant pardon for (a mistake, wrongdoing, etc.)
3. (tr) to free or pardon (someone) from penalty
4. (tr) to free from the obligation of (a debt, payment, etc.)
[Old English forgiefan; see for-, give]
forgivable  adj
forgivably  adv
forgiver  n

I seek not to understand forgiveness in any religious sense, for I am not religious, but in a common world view of things. Is it necessary? Is it important? Also, and perhaps most importantly, is forgiveness something that is done more for ourselves, or for the other person(s) involved? Does forgiveness need to be an internal, as well as external, act? Does someone have to ask for our forgiveness in order to provide it to them, or can it be unsolicited? And, finally, does everyone deserve forgiveness?

These thoughts occur to me from time to time. There are many occasions in life where we have both the choice to forgive, and to accept forgiveness from others. We are none of us perfect. I have wronged others, and they in-turn have wronged me. In many ways, we are probably not aware that someone has forgiven us our trespasses, nor that we have trespassed. This does make me wonder if forgiveness is a very personal act.

In my own life, there are those whom I could forgive, whether they be peers from school who made life hell on a daily basis through their bullying, or my deceased father whose hand was quick with the belt and whose words were often poorly chosen, to certain political opponents who've lacked graciousness and thoughtfulness. In all of these cases, I have forgiven, yet have not forgotten. One wonders if that is truly forgiveness?

And what of my own trespasses? How many have I wronged? How has it affected them? I am aware of some instances, but very likely not aware of many others. Is that normal, or particularly callous? Part of me wants to know the answers to these questions, part of my does not. Because, to be blunt, the past is past. Perhaps that is what forgiveness is all about?


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