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Session 3: Forgiveness

We go into session number three knowing it’s going to be difficult: we pretty much agreed at the start of the course forgiveness could be the hardest of the habits to practice. As we were divided into groups to discuss what forgiveness ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’ at the start of this session, people were still generally unanimous in thinking this way. We also found that forgiveness is not quick: there’s generally a lot of work involved.

We looked at the case of a priest, Fr. Michael Lapsley, who had been the recipient of a letter bomb; which took both of his hands and one of his eyes. The blast also shattered his ear drums. As the letter bomb was carefully disguised in-between some religious magazines, it was clear that this attack was calculated, and deliberately aimed at Lapsley. Lapsley described original feelings of “hatred and desire for revenge”, but went onto say that nowadays if his attacker was to confront him and ask for forgiveness, his first question would be “have you stopped making letter bombs?” The question shows that on some level forgiveness has to be a two person thing: can you really forgive someone who is still active in attacking other people? Should that person learn from what they’ve done?

Lapsley went on to hint that the attacker would also have to take some responsibility for his actions, by paying for his carers or something similar. We came to the consensus from this that forgiveness is not condoning the actions. We also came to the conclusion it’s not forgetting. If the idea of forgiveness is to acknowledge what someone has done, and then try and move past it so you bare no ill feelings towards that person, then forgetting is just counter-productive. We also discussed how we may be able to forgive some people, such as partners, more easily than others, such as friends.

            These discussions could have potentially gone on to 9:30 or later if we had the time available. Everybody has experience with people hurting them in some way or another, although some have had it worse than others. I have to admit, I haven’t really been tested in the area of forgiveness yet, but I did find it intriguing how everyone’s different experiences brought out a variety of responses in the discussions. As we look forward to relationships next week, I reflect that the discussions are becoming livelier each week. We’re half way through, and the course is not only looking good, but getting better.