Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Forgiveness:

No Good Without It

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

September 6, 2012



"The cost to me of not doing so. I'm unwilling to pay the cost of carrying a resentment (or whatever) around, so I draw on the intelligence of forgiving."
 ...   answering Laurence Platt's question "On what do you draw to forgive people who are hardest to forgive?" in Questions For A Friend II 
This essay, Forgiveness: No Good Without It, is the companion piece to As Good As It Gets.

It is also the tenth entry in The Laurence Platt Dictionary:


The more dire the hurt, the harder it is to forgive - or so it would seem. Following betrayal, disloyalty, divorce, treachery, and other such major traumatic situations when forgiveness may be the most desirable path, the preferred option, the best course of action for everyone concerned, the surest way to allow healing to begin, it's often the most difficult thing to do. It can be worse than that: it can look like it's the most counter-intuitive  thing to do as well, the most unnatural  way to go, both of which justify not forgiving.
Werner Erhard answers my question "On what do you draw to forgive people who are hardest to forgive?" during a recent exchange, with "The cost to me of not doing so. I'm unwilling to pay the cost of carrying a resentment (or whatever) around, so I draw on the intelligence of forgiving.".

I don't need a reason to forgive. I've already got a great reason to forgive. It's this: it doesn't do me any good not  to forgive. I've already got a great reason to grant forgiveness: it's no good without it. But I'm stuck with not forgiving until I figure out how. How  do I forgive? Werner's right. Not forgiving comes with a great cost, a cost I'm acutely aware of, a cost I'm not willing to bear. I'm already enrolled in forgiving. I just don't know how ... AND  ... when I tell the truth about it, I'm not even sure I really know what forgiveness is.

So I pursue Werner's answer further, as the seed for an inquiry. There's a solid gold track record that pursuing Werner's answers as seeds for an inquiry, always gets me to a good place. It's uncanny. It always does. Never fails. You can put it in the bank.

I go to the dictionary. I look up forgiveness. Here's what I find - and as I read, I can tell it's not enough. There's a certain dynamic  missing. It's inadequate.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:

<quote>
Definition
forgiveness


noun
from the verb forgive
to stop being angry with someone who has done something wrong
<unquote>

It's not just inadequate because being angry isn't always the way I am when I'm stuck not forgiving. And even if (for argument's sake) I were  angry, the dictionary definition of forgiveness, keyed as it is off being angry, begs the question "How  do I stop being angry?". It's circuitous.

It's further inadequate because what if the person I'm stuck with not forgiving didn't do anything wrong?  In the case of theft  ie if I was going to forgive them for stealing something from me, maybe I could say they did something (quote unquote) wrong. But what about divorce? What if they just went out of relationship?  That's not wrong  per se. And yet it's still a traumatic situation and an action which calls for forgiveness.

This is why the definition of forgiveness in the dictionary doesn't powerfully distinguish forgiveness for me. It isn't enough - on two scores. One, it doesn't give a how to. It doesn't provide an access  to forgiving. It says (essentially) "Stop being angry!" - yeah ... but how  do I stop being angry? And: what if I'm not angry? What if it's some other emotion underlying being stuck with not forgiving? Does the dictionary definition of forgiveness still apply? Two, by including the value judgement "something wrong", it provides no context for nor access to transformation in the matter of granting forgiveness, in the matter of forgiving (consider that in transformation, nothing's wrong:  - things are simply the way they are  and the way they aren't).

I realize I'll have to write my own definition of forgiveness which will one, provide an access to forgiveness in two, a transformed context, and then inscribe it in The Laurence Platt Dictionary.

For me, rewriting the dictionary is a perfectly valid endeavor, a perfectly legitimate undertaking. When the dictionary was written, it wasn't written in a transformed context, and it wasn't written deploying language as the instrument, as the leverage  of transformation. And there's nothing wrong with that.



What Happened As Distinct From The Story About What Happened



The raison d'etre  of forgiveness is there's something to forgive.

That's not a "Duh!". It's profound, and it's essential for getting to the heart of what forgiveness is. Something happened. Someone did something. Someone said something. It didn't work. It hurt. It betrayed. It violated. Whatever. There's resentment. The resentment is incomplete. And until what happened is forgiven, it (ie being resentful about it) festers, not doing any good. The longer it festers, the more entrenched, embellished, and plausible my story  about what happened becomes.

I assert the way of forgiveness isn't found in having someone apologize for what they did - whatever  they did. It isn't found in having someone pay for  whatever transpired as told in my story about what happened. There's what happened. Then there's the story about what happened. The two are distinct. What happened, happened. What I add on  to what happened is my commentary, my story about what happened. What happened, doesn't remain. What remains, festers, and doesn't do any good long after  what happened has disappeared into the past, is my story about what happened.

Pretty soon I can no longer distinguish ie I can no longer differentiate between  the original incident itself (what happened ie the what's so  of the matter), and my commentary, my opinions, my feelings, and my resentments I've added on to the original incident (the story about what happened). As long as these two are indistinguishable from each other, it's not possible to forgive.

I assert the way of forgiveness is found in distinguishing  what happened from my story about what happened, and then renouncing my investment  in my story about what happened.



Forgiveness As Renunciation



This is the access to forgiving: giving up, renouncing my investment in the story about what happened. This is what forgiveness is. This is the way of forgiveness. This is the new entry in The Laurence Platt Dictionary:
<quote>
Definition
forgiveness


noun
from the verb forgive
to distinguish what happened, from the story about what happened, then to renounce all investment in the story about what happened
<unquote>



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