Forgiveness. It’s utter bullshit.
There. I said it. You can hold the applause.
If you believe in forgiveness, I’ll be the first to tell you that you’ve needlessly bought into a concept that has made innumerable self-help gurus and talk-show hosts rich at the shameless expense of our limitless gullibility. To uphold forgiveness is to believe in something as meaningless as “the golden rule”.
Wait. What? Now he’s attacking the sacred golden rule?! (Hint, hint: Subscribe at the bottom of the page, because that one’ll be out next week!)
Disagree with me? Have I got you fuming in front of your screen? Or hopefully laughing? Please, I encourage you to continue reading. This is gonna be fun, I promise. If afterward you still want my head on a pike, I highly encourage you to write a best-selling book about why I’m full of shit. It’ll invariably drive more traffic to my website.
Okay, let’s get down to it. Forgiveness doesn’t heal anything. It can’t. It isn’t a magic wand we wave to make everything okay again after someone screws up big time. If it were, our world would look a lot different than it does, wouldn’t you agree? People would be doling out this mystical fluff left and right as if it were free marijuana that grew with the tenacity of dandelions (my favorite wildflower). In short, we’d all be chill as f*ck.
It doesn’t work that way though, does it? And why not? The gurus tell us it’s because we need to constantly work at it until it becomes second nature. They explain to us repeatedly that as hard as it may be, not doing it eventually weighs us down and ultimately serves to hurt only ourselves. Probably something akin to being constipated (yet another reason why I liken the word to cow dung). Then, when we try with all our might to forgive others more (and fail miserably), they write a follow-up book in their oh-so-popular series: The Umpteen Quintessential Steps to Becoming a Better Forgiver. Ugh, gag me. And finally, when their frivolous, recycled advice leaves us exhausted, exasperated, and depressed, we hand over our credit card yet again for the book that tells us that we should Forgive but not Forget.
Pardon me, but…what in the flippity fluckity flick does that even mean?
Forgiven…But NOT Forgotten. It almost sounds like a made-for-television Thanksgiving horror movie, doesn’t it? Mind your manners this time, or grandma’s gonna carve something else with that knife. Holy Toledo! To think I could have had a career in B-movie film-making!
But in all honesty, the reason why we struggle with this concept has nothing to do with our inability to reconcile or see past bad behaviors. It has everything to do with the fact that despite what the dictionary may say, there’s no such thing as forgiveness. We made it up. Why? Probably because it sounded good. Maybe we needed a guiding principle to keep us from murdering people that did us wrong.
Ahhhh, yes! Good ol’ revenge. A head for an eyeball, a tongue for a tooth! I hope we’re past that now. Countless reasons exist for why we shouldn’t turn all vigilante and stab our enemies in the face when they piss us off. Jail might be at the top of the list for some of my readers. Personally, I can’t stand the sight of real blood, but that’s me. Maybe you just don’t know what you’d do with the body. And that’s totally fine. Whatever reason keeps you from murdering people you don’t see eye to eye with, myself included, works just fine. (Seriously though, if this blog entry makes you that angry, you can stop reading now…and hopefully seek some professional guidance.)
So what important role does forgiveness allegedly play in our lives? Why can’t we lead civilized lives without it? The latest word on the street is that it’s actually for our own benefit. That if we don’t forgive the people who’ve wronged us, we’ll ultimately explode with pent up aggression, suffer a heart attack, die of pancreatic cancer, or some combination thereof. In other words, you do me wrong, and then I am obligated to “do” this magical thing in return so that I don’t have a nervous breakdown.
Ummmmm….no. I don’t buy it. Why? Because I’ve personally never forgiven anyone in my life, and I couldn’t be happier or healthier. Don’t believe me? Check this out. I go for three-mile runs almost daily, practice yoga, eat a strict vegan diet, and can do a hell of a lot of push-up variations, not to mention hang upside-down for hours on a stripper pole in a near front split. (If that happens to excite you, please subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already done so. If it doesn’t, then why in God’s name are you still on my website?)
But hold up. What if you’re a personal friend or family member of mine reading this, and, on the off chance, I happened to tell you once upon a time that I forgave you? Okay…hear me out, because I’m only gonna say this once: I likely forgave you because you asked to be forgiven, and I wanted to get you out of my hair as quickly as possible – as you can clearly see from my list of weekly activities (shamelessly) noted above, I’m a very busy man!
Which leads me to my next point: Don’t ever ask to be forgiven. Not only are you asking for a pink and purple unicorn, but in doing so you’re giving the other person a lot of power. And that’s unnecessary, not to mention highly foolish. It’s like you’re making them your God, and only they have the power to sprinkle fairy dust on you to absolve you of your wrongdoing. That’s not how mistakes work. That’s not how life works. I’ve got a much better idea for you. Instead, simply apologize. Immediately.
By the way, that might be the most powerful advice I ever give you. You’re welcome.
The minute you realize that you’ve made a mistake, one that’s impossible or nearly impossible to cover up, apologize! The last thing you want is for someone to put you in a position where you’re forced to say that you’re sorry, especially for something you know you screwed up in the first place. You’re almost guaranteed a double sentence! As for following up an apology with a harmless request for forgiveness? Don’t be ridiculous. They can forgive you and still not pardon you! I don’t care what Roget says. Those two different words aren’t automatically interchangeable. (Questions? Refer to the title of this blog entry!)
In all seriousness, apologizing is the mature thing to do. Fess up to your mistake! As long as you’re sincere in your efforts to improve and not make the same mistake again, you’re apology is worth something. It doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t make the same mistake again. Personally, I usually end up making the same mistake at least four times. You know…just to make sure. And I also understand this phenomenon to be very true of many others. I’m optimistic, but I’m not stupid. Take for instance those who eventually quit smoking for good. Most people I know who quit the cancer stick had to make multiple attempts. And yet we all know from the get-go that smoking is really, really, really not a good idea. But I totally get it. I do. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I had to gorge myself on cheese before I realized that all that marbled, melted cheddar was making me fat, lonely, and miserable. I did this for YEARS! (Don’t judge me. Not when you’ve been swiping through this whole thing on your iPhone with Flamin’ Hot Cheeto stains on your fingertips.)
So when someone tells you that they’re going to make a valid attempt to, say for instance, be on time in the future, or that they’ll be better about not swearing in front of your precious virgin-eared children, or that they’re going to wash the dishes after they dirty them from now on, cut them some slack and forget the whole forgiveness charade. As long as you know they’re trying to improve, that’s what counts. At the same time, when you apologize for your transgressions, don’t be a half-ass in your attempt to make things better. We’re not dumb. We see through it. And we’ll give you hell for it if we know you’re not truly serious.
But…that’s all just the small stuff, you say.
Now what about for the big stuff?
That’s where forgiveness gets to be even more pathetic and lame. If you punch me in the face because my blog made you angry, like hell I’m gonna forgive you. You’ll get a call from my attorney. (I will milk every drop of blood from my broken nose if that means I can give up blogging and retire in the Canary Islands. Just kidding. I’ll still blog when I’m retired, but you can bet your ass it’ll be extra tasteless and self-amusing).
For real though. Say someone really messes up. Like on a national scale. God forbid, someone murders dozens of innocent victims in the chaos of a dark crowded room (because that NEVER happens in America!).
“Forgiveness does not mean forgetting”, the gurus proclaim as they line their pockets with our ill-spent dollars. “Release your anger. Let go and let God.” Cha-ching. Cha-ching.
Really? That’s the best they’ve got? They’re making millions off of recycled, meaningless clichés and adages.
When it comes to something as big as the Holocaust or slavery in America, there is no forgiveness. None. There was never any such thing in the first place, despite the fact that we assigned it a name.
So what verb do we use if we can’t actually forgive? What about the pain, the anger, the resentment? Doesn’t it have to go somewhere? Don’t we have to channel it, to turn it into something beautiful? Something that, up until now, we called forgiveness? The answer is no.
That’s all. If you constantly replay the bad shit over and over in your head, if you review the ugliness day in and day out, you’ll make yourself sick. Literally, I’m not joking. Your body and mind will deteriorate long before you reach your golden years. That’s what happens when you internalize the ugliness, even if you’re in no way responsible for contributing to it.
No, you don’t need to forgive anyone. You also don’t need to forget it ever happened. But you most certainly don’t want to relive it. (That’s PTSD, and there is plenty of legitimate help for you if you suffer from it.) The sooner you leave behind the crappy feelings that unfortunately resulted from any wrongdoing real or perceived, the sooner you can get back to doing the great things you intended to do all along before the proverbial shit hit the fan. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got wonderful and new ideas to express to strangers on the Internet, exciting music to make, sweat-filled miles to run, and shiny brass poles to climb…well…you get the point! If there were such a thing as forgiveness (I still maintain there isn’t) then you might choose to identify it as the ability to continue on living your life beautifully despite any possible ugliness that comes your way. (I only put that last sentence in here to satisfy my dissenters who have nonetheless followed along up through to this point. Thank you for playing!)
Now what about me and how I deal with those who wrong me? What if you do me dirty and want to truly make amends? I’ll tell you right off the bat, don’t ask for my forgiveness. Because what you’re really asking of me is to never bring up your mistake again and rub it in your face. HA! What you fail to understand is that I would do no such thing. Unless of course, later on you gave me a reason to.
I’ll simply move on, thank you very much.