The cost of forgivingIn the previous post I noted that we could consider retributive anger as a reverse-polarity dynamic of mimesis and concluded that forgiveness, then, is somehow to end that counter-mimetic dynamic. The important thing to notice now, then, is that forgiving costs the forgiver.
It seems to me that part of what the successful completion of the counter-mimetic move achieves for the affronted is satisfaction, a sense of completion, of peace even. There is a very real and potent psychological satisfaction in seeing revenge, justice or proper and adequate acknowledgement of the wrong. One might regard this as a form of relief: the sense that the wrong no longer has to be borne as a personal detriment (even if the effects of it do). The ongoing personal hurt of the wrong can be laid to rest.
So, in order to forgive, we have to be willing to forego that satisfaction and to retain within ourselves the ongoing personal hurt. In short, we have to choose not to try to 'export' the hurt back onto the wrongdoer but to bear and process the hurt ourselves.
Bearing the cost.It is this bearing the hurt ourselves which I think is the key to re-imagining the Atonement. The hurt of the original detriment is compounded in the refusal to pass it on to another: the pain is held, experienced and processed by the one hurt rather than relieved by counter-mimesis.
Really this kind of forestalling of counter-mimesis can only be achieved by having a strong motivation to do so. Of course, I am thinking of love and at the moment I can't think of other motivations, except related ones, that would be sufficient to enable the forbearance necessary. it could be a variety of pathways of love that lead to such forbearance.
It could be love of the perpetrator themself which stays the retributive move, as when a parent might bite back their telling off of their child recognising that redemptive purposes might be better served by different reactions; for love of the child and hope for their growth and potential, a constructive approach is called for. So their forbear to punish in the hope of repentance which might be made more difficult by punishment.
It could be love of someone who would be hurt collaterally by the retribution, for example withholding a consequence for someone for the sake of their children who would be unjustly hurt in some way by the retributive action.
It could be proper self-love -where the offender is not in a position to be confronted by a consequence of their offence (maybe they've died, or they are too far away physically or socially) or simply too inured by their own justifications (rightly or wrongly) for the wrong done). In such circumstances, to give up the counter-mimetic impetus is a way to mitigate the wrong and prevent it from continuing to make one a victim by poisoning ones inner life and relationships with bitterness, brooding or distracting thoughts and desires.
As I write those things , I note that I've not said anything about regret, remorse or repentance on the part of the offender. I do think that such things are significant in the processing of forgiveness and that in many cases forgiveness cannot take place in the sense of reconciliation without them. It is also the case that there are times when, in a fuller sense of the term, forgiveness should be withheld until there is some indication of repentance else collusion or enabling of continued wrongdoing is the likely result (co-dependancy?).
However, we should note that even where a fulsome apology, amends and repentance are in view, forgiveness still requires the 'gift' of remittance of the counter-mimetic dynamic. It may be easier but in many cases it is not significantly easier to let go and to forgive a penitent than an impenitent. It still costs us as witnessed by many people who have baulked at it. Repentance or not, forgiveness still requires of us to forgo the retributive impetus; it still costs, and that cost is what I'm trying to focus on.
Previous post. Next Post (probably the most key post in this series).
Posts in the series:Posting 9 Analogy: human to divine and back again
Posting 8 Eikonic forgiveness explored further
posting 7 The Eikon of forgiveness
posting 6 The cost of forgiving
posting 5 Counter mimesis
posting 4 Reacting to being wronged
posting 3 To know all is to forgive all?
posting 2 Forgiveness in human life
posting 1 Love and Anger