Recently, the Christian fundamentalist posted about forgiveness. I can’t help but wonder if he is seeking absolution for his sins, by expecting to be forgiven by those he wronged, even if he has done nothing to earn it.
It’s true that forgiving someone for a misdeed can be hard. Sometimes, it is cathartic to forgive. Sometimes, especially depending on what the original issue or problem is, it is not reasonable to expect forgiveness, and no one should demand forgiveness, for themselves or for others, without understanding why their actions were wrong.
The idea of this blanket forgiveness is a convenient way of being absolved of wrongdoing. Sexually assaulted someone? Just quote from the Bible: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 Jn. 1:9′
Murder someone? Quote the same line, or possibly: ‘And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Mt. 12:31′
Commit child abuse en-masse? Refer to the Bible quotes above. Pray for forgiveness, get forgiven, wash the slate clean.
So, these means, when confronted with their history, the abuser/murderer can say ‘I am forgiven’.
What of victims of such crimes? Are they duty-bound to forgive? No, not really. Sometimes people commit terrible hurt against other people, and the victims are left to pick up the pieces of their lives. It is not unusual for victims of abuse to lose themselves to drink and drugs, and they carry deep psychological scars. Their lives can be destroyed by men like Don Ogden, and some may never recover. If some can find it in their hearts to forgive, that’s fine, but others may not take solace from such an act.
People like Ogden do not get to inflict pain and misery upon people, and then expect all to be forgiven, irrespective of how much pain they inflicted. Such an attitude permits the abuser to twist the knife more, by implying their victims are somehow at fault. It paints the victims as somehow being unreasonable, because they do not forgive an abuser for a lifetime of torment. There is no indication of repentance or even acknowledgement of the inflicting suffering, which is the bare minimum the abuser should be doing to earn forgiveness. Even then, it is the victim’s choice to forgive.