I don’t like my blogs to sound preachy, so I’m apologizing in advance for this moment on the pulpit. But, I've had an interesting experience surrounding the subject of forgiveness that has made me think about it a great deal. Without going into too much detail, I have had a front row seat to a situation where lack of forgiveness has caused severe damage to several lives. In this situation, the person who had the power to forgive and begin the process of healing, instead stood in a place of perpetual anger, and caused a great deal of suffering to many closest to them, including their own children.
Seeing this play out, and being helpless to do anything about it, has me thinking about what forgiveness means to us, as human beings. There are two old sayings about forgiveness that have been on my mind a lot lately, and like many old sayings, they sound trite and simple after years of hearing them. They have become diluted with time, so I’d like to take them out and dust them off to re-examine their intended impact.
The first is To Err is Human, to Forgive Divine
In this saying, the act of forgiveness is attached to divinity, and divinity is the ultimate holy spiritual being. Divinity is represented in the forms of God, Buddha, Allah, or anyone held as sacred. Divinity is the ultimate good. Things that are divine are said to be associated with fundamental truth. Divinity is the opposite of “material” – rather than being shallow or unimportant - it is all-important and lasting. To compare forgiveness to the ultimate holy truth is not by accident.
The second is Forgiveness is a Virtue
In the Hindu faith, Forgiveness is a Virtue is a popular saying. Likening the concept of forgiveness to that of a virtue is meant to vividly illustrate the awesome power given to the idea of forgiveness. Virtue is a word with a Latin root that means man of valor. By English definition it is a behavior that shows the highest moral standard, and in Christianity “virtue” is one of the nine orders of angels believed to have the honor of having proximity to God. The angels of virtue are strong and are those through which miracles occur. Virtue is not a word to be taken lightly or discounted. In our language and culture, virtue is important and necessary to humanity, and forgiveness has been given equal weight to this lofty concept.
I also find it very interesting that neither of these sayings takes aim at the necessity to forgive. They don’t say – never mess up and you won’t ever have to be forgiven. It is stated that to be human is to “err”. Which will always put someone in the powerful position to be able to forgive. Those who do forgive are virtuous and divine. Those who don’t forgive, but choose instead to judge or stand firm in their anger and righteousness, are causing pain and destruction.
These two sayings, and the words used in them, suggest that humanity relies a great deal on the act of forgiveness. They illustrate that forgiveness carries great power. It moves us forward as a species. Even the smallest transgression needs forgiveness. Find forgiveness in your heart. It is a huge step toward making the world a better place.