Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

on forgiveness

ascian3’s post-"Damage" post included some really interesting thoughts on forgiveness. I lifted pieces of the conversation, mostly for my own reference.

ascian3: Spike says he's starting to understand that Angel was right. And maybe Angel wasn't wrong but he wasn't unequivocally right, either. Angel lives in the past with his guilt and he's made a little nest in it. Angel is the prisoner of his past, which is one of the things that I find sympathetic about him, but I don't think it's a strength. rusty_halo said it better than me here, but Spike was never that guy. Spike knew he'd done wrong, but he also knew that nothing he could ever do would be able to change that. And so he went on instead, not asking "how can I make it right?" but rather "okay, what's the right thing now?"
And you can say that maybe that's not the right answer, that you have to make amends before you can go on, but how can you? You can't ever clear the scale. What's been done wrong can't be mended, can't be apologised for. Can't be redeemed by entries on a ledger of good. The choices afterwards are literally as simple as this: you change, or you don't. You make your life worth something, or you don't. You can be sorry - and yes, it's good to be sorry, important to be sorry, but that's not the point. Sorry doesn't matter. Actions matter.

dlgood: But "sorry" is an action. You can apologize. Others may or may not accept the apology, but that's not the point. The point is that it's offered. That you can humble yourself enough to express contrition.

Because the evil isn't confined to the list of bodies piled up. Evil exists in the legacy of all those evil acts. The messes left behind. And you can't go forward without making strides to clean up the messes you left in your wake. And Spike crushed a lot of lives and left a lot of messes behind.

harmonyfb: Ah, see, I think the thing that's really important is changing one's behavior, not in mouthing words. Simply saying, "I'm sorry," no matter how contrite one feels, means nothing if your present and future actions don't express a changed understanding.

dlgood: That's true. But, for the contrite to not express contition is a sin of pride. It reveals that the present and future actions do not in fact express a full understanding.

Because the expression of true contrition is not just "mouthing words". It's an action, and a critical one at that. It's an aspect of expressing that changed understanding you mention - and a necessary one at that.

For a better understanding of the concept, I'd refer you to any number of explanations of the ethical concepts behind the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. If you don't believe or ascribe to the concepts, that's fine, but it's important in understanding where I'm coming from in terms of this particular discussion.

harmonyfb: To me, the proof is in the pudding, as it were. It doesn't matter that the words aren't expressed. What would matter to me would be the demonstration of the changed understanding. If that exists, then there is true contrition. In other words, in my worldview, it's our actions that determine our character.

dlgood: And I don't disagree. It's just that when I say "it's our actions" - as you would - I count the honest, truthful, and understanding expression of contrition as one of those actions. You don't. I look at the ethic you espouse and say - if "our actions matter", then how can one say you are truly moving forward, when you skip out on this crucial act?

And why would one not offer such up such an action? Because one is too proud to do so? Because one is unmindful or unconcerned of the consequences of one's prior bad act, in the form of the suffering of those whom you have wronged - including yourself? Because it's just too hard?

dlgood: But you see, the offering of apology has nothing to do with whether or not the offended party accepts.

That's entirely irrelevant.

And it's not apologizing in order to ask forgiveness. It's about apologizing to apologize, because you can. It's not about asking for anything. And it doesn't matter whether or not they accept.

It's about the perpetrator being able to humble themselves enough to express contrition. To say - I'm not going to apologize because what I did was unforgivable - because they won't forgive me - that's pride. That's not releasing your ego. That's not humbling yourself in the face of what you've done. That's the perpetrator hanging onto the sin, instead of making true progress. Indeed, in some senses it's hanging the sin, and responsibility for forgiveness back on the victim.

You offer the genuine apology as an act of contrition and humility.

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