Thursday, May 17, 2012

Forgiveness is a tricky thing

I saw two articles on forgiveness recently that didn't sit well with me. Let's compare and contrast, shall we?

First up:
ELLICOTT CITY, Md. -- The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is offering forgiveness and a funeral service for a homeless man who killed himself after fatally shooting a priest and church secretary last week.
Oh my crap! Um, not to tell other people how to run their religion, but... ew?
Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton and an academic expert on forgiveness likened the diocese's attitude to that of an Amish community in Lancaster County, Pa., that forgave the man who fatally shot five school girls there in 2006.
I most strenuously disagree, guys. Forgiveness doesn't require you to honor the perpetrator on top of everything else.

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton and an academic expert on forgiveness likened the diocese's attitude to that of an Amish community in Lancaster County, Pa., that forgave the man who fatally shot five school girls there in 2006.
The bishop said at Kohn's funeral service Tuesday that Jones was a victim of the same societal attitudes toward handgun ownership and "throwaway people" that led to the violence in the church office.

Excuse me, I'm all for looking at the big picture and all that good stuff, but societal attitudes didn't make this guy pick up his gun and shoot two people at the church that had been helping to feed him. That pat BS argument is so smug it's making my eyes water. And I can't help but notice that the priest of the church, who was doing the exact work you castigate "society" for not doing, is the one who got gunned down for her troubles.

Psychologist Fred Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects and author of "Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Healing," said it was unusual and "quite beautiful" for a wronged party to offer forgiveness so quickly. The most famous example, he said, was Indian civil rights leader Mohandas Gandhi, who appeared to make a gesture of forgiveness toward the assassin who shot him in 1948 even as Gandhi fell. 
"It's a wonderful counterpoint to the more prevailing hardness in response," Luskin said. "We certainly live more in a payback culture than one of graciously offering to host a funeral for somebody who has just murdered somebody."

So we get to choose between executing criminals or giving them hugs? Swell. At least the people who feel just fine burying this guy can pat themselves on the back for being so wonderful, beautiful, unusual and even Gandhi-like, compared to their common, unenlightened counterparts who just feel grossed out by this. 
Some church members and victims' family members may not forgive Jones so quickly, said Everett L. Worthington Jr., a Virginia Commonwealth University psychology professor and author of "Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope." 
Um, no crap?

The emotional process of forgiveness is more complicated than making a statement or decision to forgive, he said. 
"They can feel like, `Well, I didn't ask them to speak for me. I'm not ready to forgive. I don't feel any forgiveness,'" Worthington said. "On the other hand, bodies say things with some authority and what they say can influence the attitudes of the people within in a positive way, too. It can bring about forgiveness."

Yes, that's right, clearly the bishop and parishes shoving this down the parishioners' throats will lead everyone toward true forgiveness! How... enlightened?

Ok, fine, so that's the Episcopal Church for you. But you know Episcopalians; they're kind of loopy to begin with. Surely Orthodox Jews, my mishpoche, will have an attitude towards forgiveness that I can at least relate to.

All right, let's see here... so apparently some baseball player yelled some slurs at a Jewish panhandler. I guess I'm supposed to be outraged or something, but compared to priest murder, it's just not doing it for me, sorry. Good thing we have this rabbi to speak on all of our behalves.

While the hurt in me thinks that Young and his number should be ejected from baseball, on further contemplation, that would be wrong. 
Rather, let's give Young a chance to learn from his mistakes, become a spokesperson for tolerance and most importantly, let him become an ally of the Jewish community.

Ok... How?

Here are some of my suggestions: 
  • Immediately make a donation to the Michigan Museum of the Holocaust, where children learn about the importance of tolerance

  • Offer to visit Jewish institutions in the off-season, letting the Jewish community get to see who you really are off the field

  • Make a visit to Israel: Your faith will be inspired and it will give you more strength to fight your addiction

  • Take some classes on Judaism

Delmon, I am sure that you can become not only a friend to the Jewish community, but that you can become a shining example of the power of teshuva, the power of the individual to transcend their shortcomings and become great.
We as a Jewish community will forgive you, and make sure that you are remembered as a great friend of the Jewish people.

Um, maybe it's just me, but all of these sound less like the genuine actions of someone interested in or even trying to reach out and connect with the Jewish community and more like blatant attempts at patronizing people too stupid to know they're being patronized. This guy can't dislike Jews, he went to Israel! He's not an anti-Semite, he took a class... of some sort!

Rabbi, you may have the best intentions in mind, but honestly, the best thing this guy can do is to reach out to the Jewish community for some friends and work slowly at trying to show that he's not a dick. Don't make things worse by encouraging him to engage in obvious and silly damage control. Let's go for substance rather than style on this one, please.

Little help, readers: what's going on here? Am I becoming a crotchety conservative-ish crank in my old age? Or has everyone else gone off the deep end?


Saif Eye said...

Just read out lots of article on forgiveness today! Your analysis is just cool! Actually without the building the habit of forgiveness no one can get himself in the higher position at all. Can you plz see the crazy video How important it is for our health that we learn how to forgive.

jenifa oadud Nitu said...

As I am quiet new in Jewish, looking around for some Jewish information> Got something important here. Nice to get it.
This piece of video helped me forgive and let go of my frustration.