Monday, April 29, 2013

Forgiveness, Part I

On my way into work this morning, I was scanning through radio stations and ended up listening (why, oh why did THIS catch my attention?) to a woman explaining how her fiance cheated on her so she found a friend and cheated back and that because of this "getting even" she is now very happily married to that same fiance.  She said, "My motto is, 'a lady's best revenge is forgiveness...after she's gotten even.'"  Huh.  People continue to astonish me.  Just in case it is not clear, let me describe my problems with this:
1.  Definitions of "lady" - "a woman who is refined, polite, and well-spoken." or "a woman of high social position or economic class".  Generally speaking I don't like this term because it has, historically at least, referred to women who are chaste or pure, and I think lifting that up is problematic and leads towards a dualistic view of women as either virgins or sluts.  However, if a person IS going to insist on using that term, I would think it would not be claimed by someone who would be acting out revenge, especially not in this particular way of cheating on someone.  
2.  I admit, it may be an old fashioned way of thinking, but I guess I just can't see any justification for cheating on your partner.  
3.  How does this revenge build trust?  "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" may be popular, but it does not build us up.  And it is distinctly unchristian.  As Jesus says, "You have heard it said, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'.  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."  Or, to use a non-christian saying, "two wrongs don't make a right."  If I were either party in this marriage, I would have a very hard time trusting the other.
4.  Revenge and forgiveness are in stark contrast to each other.  The top three definitions of forgiveness are: A. To excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon.
B. To renounce anger or resentment against.
C. To absolve from payment of (a debt, for example).
All of these definitions include letting go of the need for revenge, letting go of the anger and hurt and wrongs that another has done to us.  Forgiveness means not forcing "payment" in the form of revenge.  We all make mistakes.  If our partner becomes the "enforcer" - making us pay for each of these mistakes, it isn't a partnership so much as a controlling or legalistic relationship.  It becomes a relationship based on making sure everything is even, and focuses on wrongs rather than on the good things, the gifts, the graces, the love.

Tomorrow I will talk about this more personally, but for today I want to say that I know this isn't easy.  It isn't at all easy to forgive without seeking revenge.  It isn't at all easy to be so deeply wounded, hurt, devastated and not somehow strike back.  I get that.  But I maintain with all my heart and being that the persons we hit when we strike out are ourselves.  The person I harm when I seek revenge is none other than me.
The woman on the radio this morning said she was happily married now that they've both cheated, and I pray for her and her husband that indeed, they are happily married.  But for myself, that "eye for an eye" would only be destructive and devastating of my own being as I would then struggle with guilt on top of anger, and shame on top of feeling betrayed.  I pray for all of us that we might seek a better path, a path towards forgiveness, a path towards peace, a journey towards fuller wholeness.