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The Forgiveness Quandary

People do the wrong thing on occasion. Sometimes the “wrong thing” means they hurt or betray or otherwise disappoint someone.

I’m not talking about cases in which the person on the receiving end of the slight is hypersensitive or thin-skinned.

I’m talking about actual, unarguable wrong-doing where Person A made commitments to Person B, and then Person A failed to keep those commitments, putting Person B in a terrible predicament that cost them dearly. Person B trusted Person A. Person B even made very strong commitments to Person A also, and came through. But Person A took advantage of Person B and essentially burned Person B, left Person B stranded to face very dire consequences. And it was all done deliberately, with malice forethought.

In fact, let’s juice it up a bit more: Imagine Person B could read between the lines and sensed that a betrayal might be in the works. Person B contacts Person A and warns Person A of the serious repercussions facing Person B. And yet, Person B gets abandoned and has to face those painful repercussions alone.

What I have described above is real, and it’s a part of life. Many people experience something akin to that at some point in their lives. We hopefully learn from such unfortunate instances, and hopefully we are not then guilty of similar behavior.

But the question becomes, at what point should Person B forgive Person A?

I suspect there are deeply committed Christians who would say Person B should forgive Person A immediately, no strings attached, and then should forget it ever happened.

There may be others who might opine that Person B should be ready and willing to forgive Person A, in other words, be inclined to forgive Person A, but only after Person A acknowledges his/her culpability and seeks forgiveness.

Still others may take the position of holding a grudge, being unforgiving, and perhaps even seeking retribution.

I’m not comfortable with that third option and I have come to see what that has done to those who go down that road; it cankers the soul and poisons the peace of the person who thinks in such warlike terms. On the other hand, that person could be me if, say for example, someone did the unthinkable and harmed one of my family members. I can understand why a man (or woman, but it’s more often men than women) might lose perspective and think only in terms of single-mindedness in wanting to exact revenge for serious atrocities. I get it.

Even so, I reflect on the first two scenarios and I remain perplexed.

I’ll need to launch thoughtful conversations with friends far wiser than myself (RB, MS, KT, VW) — and see what I can learn from such persons. I am lucky to have such stalwarts in my life.

Ara Norwood is a multi-faceted and results-oriented professional. Spanning a multiplicity of disciplines including leadership, management, innovation, strategy, service, sales, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. Ara is also a historian, having special expertise on the era of the founding of our republic.
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