Over the weekend, I caught up with some friends and the topic of forgiveness and revenge came up, a friend told a story about a couple that both had an affair at different times in their relationship but when the truth came out the woman couldn’t forgive so easily, she felt more wronged, because the man was expecting a child from the affair. There were a lot of differing opinions that day but the most prominent was that an affair could cancel each other out. Really! Can wrongs somehow dilute each other? Are you obligated to forgive an indiscretion once you’ve committed one yourself? These were questions that I kept asking myself all through the conversation.
I know in the above case both parties hurt each other at different times, I’m no expert but affairs sometimes doesn’t happen in a vacuum, except the person in question is emotionally and psychologically unstable. Sometimes in retaliation to a wrongdoing couples undertake a few nasty actions like deliberately having an affair to hurt their partner. Is there a moral score sheet where one wrong cancels out another, so that in the end they reach some sort of mutual forgiveness and nullity? As tempting but erroneous that idea might be, I don’t think there’s an amount of energy put into citing, comparing, and equalizing the wrongs committed, that will undo or dilute either the acts or its lasting effects. A moral balance sheet cannot refute the fact that he has done what he has done, and she has done what she has done. One can still be hurt by the betrayal and deception inherent in an affair regardless of how guilty they are of the same offence. Just like the woman in the story above, she cheated but also feels betrayed by her partner who cheated also and is expecting a child as well, her own wrong couldn’t dilute the emotional impact her partner’s affair had on her and I’m certain the same feelings goes for the man as well but he was more willing to try the forgiveness route.
To understand the concept of forgiveness is to know that you don’t forgive because you don’t want to be a hypocrite, it is never obligatory. A person who acknowledges his or her wrong doing maybe a little more empathetic with the other who has done wrong as well, the knowledge of our own fallibility makes it some what easier to understand and empathize with the fallibility and wrong doing of others. Forgiveness allows us to move on without anger or contempt or seeking revenge. As Confucius said about revenge, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
In my humble opinion if we can acknowledge to the other our wrongs and remorse and try to overcome the feeling of resentment and grievance, I believe that’s the first step to forgiveness and healing, it isn’t about comparing or canceling each others wrongs out. Forgiveness is a conscious and intentional decision that requires the overcoming of resentment in order to stand a chance of renewing the relationship with mutual commitment and trust on both sides.
So in the spirit of Christmas, good tidings and spreading love all around, let us take a moment to consider forgiving those who have wronged us, I know it’s not an easy feat to accomplish, letting go of past hurts and resentment is a very hard thing to do but we can at least give it a go and hope for the best. Remember that not forgiving is mentally exhausting and letting go of resentment allows us space to think and feel more positive things.
Thanks for reading!