Three personal conference thoughts on forgiveness

The 2019 QUG Conference on Forgiveness inspired these personal thoughts.

1 My take on forgiveness:

Still in my teens, I heard the expression “Tout savoir c’est tout pardonner”, “To know all is to forgive all”. I knew this was true about me — I had mild Aspergers and my mind worked differently, and my actions were constantly being misinterpreted according to some canon known as “convention” that made no sense to me. Talking to me about “Convention” was about as useful as talking to a blind person about “Sight”. When you do know, you will probably find there is nothing to forgive.

Therefore I knew the saying was true. The next step was that if to know all was to forgive all, how could I withhold forgiveness just because of my own lack of knowledge?

But there was another step. I also came to understand that people just are as they are. If it is true of gay people, it is true of everyone.

So I began to accept people as they were, and that what they did was a consequence of that, and (very much so) of their previous experiences often at the hands of those who had power over them. That does not mean that everything people do is all right. What it does mean is that they can be regarded as mistaken or victims themselves. These conclusions have enabled me to be a much less angry and much more peaceful and loving person.

This looks rather facile to me when challenged with difficult situations, but so far it has worked for me.

2 Forgiveness begins at home

Forgiveness, like charity, begins at home. If we cannot forgive ourselves, we will be unlikely to be able to forgive others. We see the world around us through the web of all our previous experience in life. Having a good understanding of how all our previous experience has shaped us and formed our value systems is a great help in determining all our actions in the world, including forgiveness. As Socrates is thought to have said ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’.

3 A visit to Rwanda

I visited Rwanda in 2002 and saw some of the memorials to the genocide of 1994, when more than one million people lost their lives in just 100 days.

At one memorial, however, where numerous bodies were preserved in lime, I felt it was not right to take any photos: but I will never forget room after room of bodies preserved in a school where people were hacked to death by their fellows.

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