Listening to Mr. Tutu's description of something that took place in the Truth and Reconciliation process reminded me of a sense I've had about forgiveness for a long time.
Seeking apology is a punitive urge. Asking someone to be sorry for what they've done may be asking that the other, the one who abused or hurt us in some way, understands the consequence of their misbehavior. But it is also a way of asking them to bow down, to beg. You can't ask someone to beg with love in your heart.
But to seek understanding, knowledge of the other, closure, to ask forgiveness oneself, these are urges of the highest aspect of ourselves. Maybe those who took part in the Truth and Reconciliation process were genuinely ready to seek out the best good. And maybe those who were wise enough to offer amnesty to the offenders were driven by the highest parts of themselves to set the stage properly.
I've never felt forgiveness is an issue in my own life even though, like most people I suppose, I've received some mighty awful mistreatment. It's the urge and the act of hurting someone that does damage; it damages the person who acts on that urge. I may have been hurt, and deeply disappointed, but I'm not damaged by someone else's ill behavior. They are damaged by it.
When I've been asked to forgive, in any of the millions of ways that we ask such things, I do say yes. I want my willingness and good faith to be available for that person in self forgiveness, in healing the wound they caused in themselves. But I don't feel a personal need to forgive - any more than I would feel a need to eat when encountering a hungry person.
I think the only way to heal after grave offense or injury is to seek the highest parts of ourselves, and with that injury in mind. In doing that, we're reconnecting with that which is holy in us. That's where healing is found.
More information about text formats