A few years ago, my employer sponsored a two-day management seminar and one of my take-aways from it was the rapidly spoken: “What we are now is the result of where we were when.”

“When” refers to what the presenter called a SEE, a Significant Emotional Event.

Most of my SEEs in the last few decades have come from homilies at Catholic Mass. Most recently, our priest explained that answering Jesus’ instruction that we forgive others is not about what we feel toward the other person, but rather about what we will ourselves to do. I fear I missed much of what else he said as I tried to ingest the concept of forgiving without feeling forgiveness.

My SEE was not suddenly understanding forgiveness; it was realizing I’d long thought it demanded things it does not. It does not demand ignoring, forgetting, accommodating, condoning, or accepting bad acts by others. It does not demand reconciliation or restoration of trust, respect, or affection. It does not demand pretending the wrong never happened. It does not demand that we modify our values, principles, or standards of right and wrong or that we allow ourselves to be abused by others.

Forgiveness does mean “letting go” of grudges, thoughts of retaliation and retribution, and especially of anger and hatred. Even when the offender has not asked for forgiveness nor acknowledged the wrong, we still should forgive for our own sake.

Nurturing anger, plotting vengeance, and speaking disparagingly only destroys our own peace and enjoyment of life. The offender remains happily unaffected, changing nothing about his behavior. Worse, we surely offend others by our own bad behavior. If we remember what forgiveness is and what it is not, it becomes much more rational and perhaps we all would be more inclined to practice it.

The lack of forgiveness is, I believe, the root of so much that is wrong in our world today. We have groups formed for no purpose other than manufacturing and nurturing hatred. We have a media that deliberately inflames hatred, not for profit but as a political strategy.

Lately, we have witnessed hate groups staging “protests” to legitimize rioting, vandalism, and assault simply to suppress disagreement with their beliefs or political goals. These are the inevitable consequences of individuals, institutions, and our society not forgiving as Jesus prescribed.

If we accept that we are imperfect, we should find it easier to forgive others’ imperfections. If we observe the wisdom in the Bible’s advice* to “not be quick to take offense, for the taking of offense lodges in the bosom of fools,” perhaps we’d all give less offense by feigning our own.

Perhaps, even more importantly, if we did will ourselves to forgive, then we’d see how absurd are the thoughts and acts of terrorists and how pathetic and unsympathetic are the protests, rants, and riots staged by the grievance industry in this country.

None of us has the power to change others’ thoughts or behavior, but we do have the power to change our own. Not only do we have that power, we have that obligation to ourselves, to our neighbors, and to God, whether we include Him in our lives or not.

Be the example that might prompt someone else to do the same.
*Ecclesiastes 7:9

By Ken Frederic for Another View, a Maine Press Association award-winning column by a group of conservative people who meet regularly to discuss timely issues.