Wright’s book included a substantial discussion of forgiveness, and he made several interesting points. I’ve noted that there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the concept of forgiveness, and that it’s often mis-understood, first and foremost, because forgiving is often equated with forgetting: “Forgive and forget.” But they are not the same thing.
Second, it’s simplistic to think about forgiving someone as “letting them off the hook,” or to see forgiveness as something that only benefits the alleged perpetrator. And, Wright further points out that forgiveness does not equate to tolerance, inclusivity, or indifference. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we don’t take evil seriously after all; it means that we do.”
Wright favors the concept of “restorative justice”. A bringing together of the offender and the victim, their families and friends, and the larger community, to determine a way forward. Forgiveness is, at its core, is about freeing both parties. Forgiveness “releases not only the person who is being forgiven but the person who is doing the forgiving.” Moreover, “forgiveness can mean not only that I release you from the threat of my anger and its consequences, but also that I avoid having the rest of my life consumed with anger, bitterness and resentment.”
Forgiveness, while it’s not about forgetting what happened, is a striving to act as if it didn’t happen. It is a way of repairing the relationship.
As an extension of this idea, Wright says that forgiveness is not about clearing an “emotional overdraft.” He adds, “If you try to love someone simply in order to be loved in return, what you are offering isn’t love, and what you get back won’t be love either.”
And finally, he points out that love is not a feeling, as so many of us mistakenly believe. It’s a choice, a call to action. “What ‘love’ means first and foremost is taking thought for someone, taking care of them, looking ahead in advance for their needs, in the way that you would take careful thought about, and plan wisely for, your own life.”
I think what Wright is trying to point out is that love and forgiveness are linked. Perhaps it is because in making the choice to love, we open our hearts and thus pave the way for forgiveness.
Easier said than done. But well worth the effort.