Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

Bridge over Troubled Water

This post originally appeared at Finding common Ground. I have cleaned it up a bit since its original post. I realize this one is a bit foofy.

You, and only you, are 100% responsible for the way you react to everything.

You are never 100% responsible for someone else's actions, but when it comes to the way you respond to events or people, no one controls what you choose to do. Someone may say to you, "You make me do this". This is never the case, its simply laying blame.

You may make me feel angry. Something can feel unfair. An event may feel hurtful. Someone or something may genuinely, physically and emotionally hurt you. But none of those things force you to a specific action, ever.

Only you can decide your response.

The choices of reactions are many: retribution, justice, escalation, withdrawal, depression, and outright tantrums are all common, and perhaps easy, responses to negative events that happen to each and every one of us. More often than not, emotion trumps rationality. Everyone is susceptible.

How about forgiveness? How do we find it in ourselves to forgive people, or look past events, or even forgive our own mistakes? Is it possible to forgive someone for rape or the murder of a child? If so, why should we forgive such an evil act?

The Buddhists teach that forgiveness is the path to a healthy mind and positive Karma. That being able to forgive horrible acts will lead you on path to enlightenment. Other religions teach other aspects of forgiveness (and sadly many of them focus on how you can receive forgiveness from God, rather than how to dispense forgiveness to your fellow human).

Depending on the degree of the insult, the amount of effort to forgive can be anything from trivial to insurmountable. Frankly, there are thresholds and mechanisms by which forgiveness can be had, but they depend on your willingness to accept that sometimes forgiveness is not required.

If, for the moment, we focus on the actions of others that do not result in lasting harm, we can perhaps find a mechanism by which forgiveness comes easier. Actions such as these include deceit, lies, gossip, rudeness, and many misunderstandings. In general, these negative actions of other people do not let you end up with permanent harm or unresolvable hardship, although obviously they can. It is best to recognize the cause of the negative actions and then, by defining it, find forgiveness. Doing this will lead to stronger and longer relationships, happier outlooks and a generally positive life. Basically, if you don't end up in jail, maimed, or in the poorhouse, why be angry if you can find a way to forgive? There are a variety of reasons for people to do bad things to you, here are three examples.

Hanlon's Razor:

Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.

Clark's Law:

Never assume malice when ignorance will suffice.

Selfish Success:

People do things a certain way because that is what has yielded good results for them in the past.

Understanding that these may be the underlying reason that someone acted poorly towards you makes it easier to forgive them for that action and to help them understand how these things affect you.

Actions by other people that leave you in significant hardship or receiving harm, perhaps don't need to be forgiven. One may ask how does forgiveness for these action help humanity? How does it reduce suffering and increase happiness? That answer could very well be that forgiveness does not accomplish that goal and should not be dispensed. Forgiveness for negative actions that result in permanent harm may not better humanity, community or even family. Instead another form of closure will be needed. I personally think jail is pretty good, I wish jail time for horrific deeds resulted in a lifetime of breaking rocks in the winter, but I guess we don't all get what we want.

"Water under the Bridge", is a healthy attitude can be achieved by remembering that if the result of someones poor actions is not long lasting, then you are truly not affected affected by it, no matter how much it may feel like you are. Understanding the mechanism by which the person is choosing to act help for you to achieve forgiveness. But it is not your only choice and no one says its required. Seek closure, not necessarily forgiveness.


On 11/24/08, 5:23 AM , Buffy said...

Forgiving someone when they have done you a serious harm is better for you than walking around consumed with anger and resentment.

Plus, often when someone does you a serious harm there is a cause behind it which needs exploring. If we are too busy being angry and bitter and wanting to see punishment we can't see clearly enough to analyse (either as an individual or as a society) what has caused this wrongdoing and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again.

On 11/24/08, 5:53 AM , Techskeptic said...

Forgiving someone when they have done you a serious harm is better for you than walking around consumed with anger and resentment.

Yes but that is presuming the forgiving is the only viable option with respect to doing nothing (i.e. walking around with anger and resentment).

Justice would help. The work has to be done to feel good that the justice delivered is enough. If someone hurt my daughter, my heart would tell me that this person should be wiped out, but the work must be done so that my head tells me that the punishment and justice was delivered properly.

I am very anti-death penalty. This doesnt make me immune from the emotions that exist that have created the death penalty (well, "eye for an eye" doesn't really help either).

Sadly, not everything has a cause or a reason. I am not sure that understanding the cause or reason is a personal responsibility. It is certainly a responsibility of a society, so we may reduce this sort of harm. But that effort must be done without the victim. Being a victim of a crime doesn't make you an expert on the crime, only the personal outcome of the harm.