Forgive, Forget. Let’s Talk Respect

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness quite a bit the last week.

So much so that I started a post that soon became an essay with a side of rant.
I’m not ranting though. Not even mad; not really.

There’s been a meme going round about a teacher who brilliantly provides her students with a lesson on forgiveness. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely read it.

The Crumpled Paper lesson on bullying and sorry.

We teach our children these things. We “like” and “share” those memes but so many adults do not walk the walk. It’s like there’s been a collective regression in society. I know my opinion is nothing new, it just has touched my life significantly in the last two years.

The last couple days, I’ve come to think that forgiveness and respect have a lot in common. They aren’t just automatically given. Like that crumpled sheet of paper, a terse “sorry” doesn’t fix things and certainly doesn’t entitle you to forgiveness. I think the belief that it should be is part of the culture of instant gratification that we’ve created.

Ten Things Forgiveness is Not Reconciliation by Gail Meyers The Scapegoats of a Narcissistic Mother 9

There’s a lot of memes state forgiving makes you the bigger person and it lifts a burden from your shoulders. I’m sure that’s true. I’ve embraced that. There are some situations and circumstances though, where I’ve seen a person who is legitimately wronged being shamed for not instantly forgiving on that grudging, lame-ass “Sorry”. That isn’t reasonable.

In this Internet age we have the ability to hurt far and beyond what we may intend; may in fact, come to regret. As adults, we have a responsibility to curb our tempers, particularly in the public realm. It’s easy to make use of that publish button, that tweet or email. It’s hard to accept that if you deliberately use these weapons to harm someone, they will hit the mark and your acquired target will not be able to defend themselves. It’s highly unlikely that a “sorry” – even if you do mean it – will put things back to rights.That momentary feeling of power – shaming the person you’re angry with, the ego-boosting pets and coos of people who only hear your side, their inevitable jumping to conclusions and their subsequent shaming or punishment of your target – will pass. You’ll want things back the way they were. The worst part of this is how people vent like overgrown two-year olds because they didn’t get their way, or deliberately ignored what the other person was saying and then expect their vengeful behavior to be simply forgiven and forgotten. No one should be made to feel bad because they don’t wish to forgive someone who offers no more than that insincere schoolyard “sorry” or the “well you made me do it”. Or worse, behind the scenes make up attempts, while taking no responsibility for the fallout of making a private “owie” a public stoning.

What may fix things is atonement. Atonement and making restitution. These things prove your sincerity and like respect, may earn you forgiveness. They may not put things back as they were but that isn’t really what they are intended for. They are to right a wrong that you’ve done.

Regardless if you felt justified – as adults, we should understand that personal relationships do not warrant a public airing – because as my other favourite parable about the woman, the rabbi and the feather pillow – we can’t possibly take back every word we spoke on a blog, a private email or anywhere else. That damage is done. It’s all too easy to try to win our point in public only to regret deeply in private. As a compassionate person, I can appreciate someone regretting their actions toward me – I certainly have done when I’ve lost my temper – but if that person had the balls to call me out in public and do my reputation, integrity and professional life significant harm, they should have the balls to atone with a public statement to own their bad temper.

What I carry isn’t a burden but the lesson that no one can be trusted to act with honour or integrity and that our society has become nothing more than a schoolyard full of bullies just waiting to feel entitled.

Unless and until atonement happens, I don’t forgive and I don’t forget.
It’s not my job to make nice so that you feel better.

Don’t treat your relationship like a sideshow because sometimes…
We have to live with the consequences of our actions.

Drake lyrics

Drake lyrics

~ kei
1 November 2014

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8 thoughts on “Forgive, Forget. Let’s Talk Respect

  1. AnElephantCant agree more
    He strongly relates to this story
    When you disconcert
    Or cause someone hurt
    Sometimes it isn’t enough just to say sorry

    PS It appears AnElephant lives under a rock

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    • I’m glad because I expected some flak. It’s disheartening to see that forgiving rather than atoning has become the virtue. Kind of like “Yeah, I’m sorry I punched you in the face. It’s just this thing I do. Can’t we just forget about it?” Well, no. My nose is broken and I have hospital bills. If you were sorry, you’d pay them and go into therapy; not walk around telling people you can’t figure out why I’m so unforgiving.
      I love the crumpled paper story! The likes and shares it gets in different waves is phenomenal because it makes the point. Unfortunately, it’s another “feel good meme” where clicking is done more readily than implementing.

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      • Okay, being serious for once.
        Is this not part of a greater issue where, increasingly, people refuse to take personal responsibility for their actions?
        We are developing a culture wherein everything is someone else’s fault.
        Our friends in the USA, with their obsessively litigatious approach, seem to have been the launch pad here, but it has spread across the English-speaking world.
        In the UK, before I left, TV was swamped with adverts by ambulance-chasing lawyers.
        The general theme seems to be that if you have an accident you can sue someone.
        And, ridiculously, if it happens after you have over-indulged in alcohol, it is the fault of the provider, not yourself.
        I know how my mum would have responded if I had ever suggested such nonsense to her to excuse my behaviour!

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      • I couldn’t agree more! If I make a mistake, I admit it, apologize and if I need to do more – I do. I wouldn’t expect someone to forgive me. I also believe in proportion, particularly when people use the Internet as a platform to air their “case”. You don’t destroy someone’s reputation because you don’t like what they said – well, some people do and if they choose to use an uzi to swat a fly, regardless to your feeling justified (and that is totally subjective) – they need to accept the consequence of their actions.

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  2. I know as an adult I’ve made some huge “online” mistakes with the send,like,tweet and publish button from time to time. Your so correct Kei, it’s to easy to vent out of fear,anger,pain,dissappoinment. You and I shared a similar experience where private went public and it shouldn’t have. I’ve always regretted my choices in regards to that. Many apologies for my words.
    Benjamin

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  3. That’s why atonement is ever more important in this day and age. A thousand pairs of eyes read an opinion thrown out in anger. That’s a thousand opportunities lost for me at the expense of one bruised ego. It’s the second time in two years that a man has impugned my integrity using the internet as a way to scattershot and you know what?
    IT WORKS!
    I watched followers disappear, I watched interactions stop. I’ve watched writers who would follow a dog, ignore me completely and it doesn’t take a genius to know why. I’ve seen the slander and the slimy trails of the voyeurs who wanted a ringside seat. Those are business partnerships, mentoring, friendships and networking opportunities that have been destroyed for me. Not through any wrongdoing on my part but because someone chose to put their ego before the facts and to share slander as if it were truth.
    There is no atonement if those thousand eyes don’t see a retraction and even at that – I can’t get back any of those lost opportunities in my business or personal life. That is food off the table of a single mum who has two children. It is savings that might mean I don’t have to work until I’m elderly. That is security that I don’t have by virtue of a dual income or gov’t supplied supplements.
    Temper, anger, insults, slander…
    People need to either stop tearing apart the lives of others on a whim or they need to take concrete steps to fix at least the material damage they do.
    Don’t even get me started on the emotional damage…

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