Friday, October 7, 2016

Asking Forgiveness ... or Not

There are two concepts that have never worked for me no matter how hard I try to accept them. The first is that suddenly in death, a bad person becomes a saint. That's a bit of an extreme idea, but I've done it intentionally.

Years ago, there was a nasty man that I knew. He belittled others, insulted them, hurt them. He died suddenly and all around me, people started speaking about how good he was...but he wasn't. He wasn't a saint in life and dying didn't change anything. No, it isn't for me to judge - but isn't declaring him a good person judging?

The second concept revolves around Yom Kippur and the days before. We go around asking people to forgive us; we work to clear the slate between us and our friends (and our enemies) in the hope that when our account comes up before God, He will see that we tried to be forgiven and to forgive, and He will afford us the same mercy.

I can think of three people...okay...four...who really hurt me this year. Not one of them has come to apologize for the pain they gave me - each lives in their own world believing that I have wronged them. Not one has the courage to come to me and say, "let's talk; let's work this out."

In one case, I tried, I apologized...and I got nowhere. In three other cases, I didn't try.

I saw this on Facebook and laughed. It's's obnoxious...and you know what...there's an element of truth in it. In one case, I attempted to make an ungrateful person realize how much effort others have made to help. More than a dozen people wrote or called to thank me. I didn't mean to offend, hurt or embarrass this person. I was sincerely hoping that the individual would understand the message behind my words but instead, I was blocked on Facebook...which honestly, is like so childish...

"Think very hard why I did that to you." What a concept. Why...why did I publicly encourage you to show more gratitude? To stop complaining about how unfair the world is and open your eyes to the amazing things that are happening?

In another case, an accusation was made against someone who has not been proven guilty of any crime. The accusation was inappropriate, and the person making the accusation was using their position of "fame" and "power" to abuse someone who is, according to the deepest tenets of our society, innocent until proven guilty.

I did not mean to offend, hurt or embarrass this person. I was sincerely hoping that this person would understand the mssage behind my word but instead, I was blocked on Facebook and the apology that was due to the innocent-until-proven-guilty person was never made. I received dozens of emails thanking me for what I wrote. "Think very hard why I did that to you." What a concept.

Yom Kippur is about seeking out those that we hurt out of pride, out of exhaustion. Wrongs that we did that shouldn't have been done. It's about realizing there was a better way to say something, or better for the thing not to have been said at all.

But the forgiveness thing doesn't apply in every instance. There are times when we have to speak up, when we have to hurt. There are times when the hurt being done to someone else forces you to make a choice. Choose carefully, but if the choice was right, don't apologize.

It is important for us to evaluate how we behaved and to reach out to others. But it's also important to remember - the life that people lived isn't suddenly made irrelevant upon their death. I firmly believe that the likes of Hitler and Eichmann don't deserve anything but our continued disgust and anger. Again, two extremes. Evil in life; evil in death. Obvious to everyone.

So why is it so hard to fathom a case that is a bit less of an extreme? If you were wrong this year and because of how you behaved, someone called you out and embarrassed, offended, or hurt you - instead of expecting them to come to you, consider going to them.

You may find that in recognizing what you did wrong and apologizing, your own acts of decency will open not only the gates of the relationship lost, but the very blessings of the heavens you seek.

It's a concept, isn't it? Evil remains evil; wrong remains wrong. Arrogant remains arrogant, and kindness and repentence often triggers the best in others. Go for it. Time is running out.

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