Finding The Logic within Forgiveness

“The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then, suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true… Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible?”  –  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 7: Forgiveness

Goodness, there are so many roads I could go down with this quote. C.S. Lewis proceeds down the route of slippery slope: hatred starts with one’s enemies, then eventually this negative complex sneaks its way into their personal relationships, with their friends, with their families, their selves, and even with God; he writes, 

“We shall insist on seeing everything as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed forever in a universe of pure hatred.” 

What a state to live within! I have to admit, there are certain figures, especially in the political climate, that I’ve actually dreamed of horrible things happening to. Never, ever do I dream of harm done to regular humans, but as for those who hold power and influence on our regular human lives? Absolutely, and I’m certain that I’m not alone in this sick fantasy. In a climate as divisive as the one we’ve got today, it’s very easy to stick a notable, influential figure into a box and label them a demon. 

This hatred of another human being, no matter what crime against humanity was enacted by whoever is your choice target to hate, is absolutely harmful and toxic to us as animals, both on the spiritual and the material plains. It’s a known fact that holding a grudge increases stress levels, which then proceeds to flood our bodies with cortisol. So, perhaps, if holding a grudge, or “hating” a fellow person, is the sickness (and offense caused the hatred), than forgiveness must be the cure. It’s fine to despise the actions of another person. But in the action of hating them as a being, you are destroying yourself by entertaining that hate, and what substance (or lack there of) will your own being be consumed with then? Forgiveness holds a key to, within this material world, health and longevity, as well as inner peace. I’d also like to think that clarity could result from the ability to separate the action from the being. (I’d also like to direct the reader to A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle to better understand the fulfilling nature of Love; perhaps those who are truly acting evil are lacking substance, and perhaps if you love them, you can partake in the metaphorical effort to shove marshmallows of love down their throats until they become agreeable and whole again.)

Possibly, humans are comfortable having a personified image of a sin. Throughout history, there have been many gods, goddesses, and spirits that embody certain traits, such as war, fertility, love- even drunkenness. Perhaps subscribing ideology to a face is a cheap way to- inspire? To have a war, you must have something to fight against, and it’s easier to fight an individual than a whole concept; as Guy Faux has pointed out, ideas last forever. On the contrary, subscribing ideology to a face promotes the opposite as well: a hero. A face for the movement.  A figure that, through his or her own personal strength and dedication, sheds inspiration and courage unto their followers, who subscribe to the same doctrine. 

That second bit is beyond the point which C.S. Lewis was making, within the short Chapter 7 of Mere Christianity, titled “Forgiveness”. So, back to his point, which was somewhat of a ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ message: I suppose it’d be good to make the distinction between man and his action, or even ideology. No matter who holds the face of the moment, there will be people who hate them, and there will be people who love them, but we are furthering ourselves deeply from the true nature of their beings: where they are human. We all mess up (and even have the capacity to deliberately chose wrong to the point of nihilism), and there just isn’t  anyone who’s correct about everything. There’s a certain self righteousness that clasps the hand of hatred; we can feel a little better about ourselves, knowing that, “I would never commit that sort of atrocity.” We look down upon others without mercy, yet the human condition inflicts us all. I believe mercy is a value, and yet I’d shrug it off if a public figure whom I didn’t agree with died suddenly from heart failure. I’d like not to be this way, and seek to amend my heart, yet the heart is wicked. Unfortunately. Through God’s grace, human beings are mutable. Our condition… not as much.

I’ve got to end with the last bit of the chapter, which provides ample reason why I find it logical to deepen my own relationship with God. C.S. Lewis writes,

 “Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that is how He loves us. Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have, but just because we are the things called selves. For really there is nothing in us to love: creatures like us who actually find hatred such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco…” 

Perhaps we’d find more enlightenment if we ceased the hate. Perhaps we wouldn’t feel the same fear, nor the stress, from knowing that there are others working against us and our ideologies. And, perhaps it would help us to find the nuance, sos that we could work together towards actualizing truth within our world. For, if everything could be contradicted by sophistry, then why do we put so much stress into hating others, simply for their different opinions and lifestyles? It’d all be up to interpretation anyway. No, when we learn about genocide, we understand that it is devastatingly wrong. We may have different views on how to prevent further tragedy, but we agree on the premise, because we are sensitive to a moral code: there is a darkness, and there is a light. We feel impassioned for that light, yet if hate is involved, we shall perpetually have the blurriest of vision when that light is turned on. If we quit demonizing our peers, and learned to love the human while sticking to our truths- well, we’d at least stop being so stressed out. We’d live longer, be stronger, and become much more, perhaps, united on a human level, if not in ideology. And most of all, it would become more clear to us when we are wrong, through a heightened empathy for others. We are commissioned to love others because they are selves; there is no reason higher to merit that love, and likewise, there is no lower reason in which that love should be taken away. 

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