Forgiveness takes three forms: dismissal, absolution, reconciliation.
We have heard lots of hard words in the last weeks about Islam. I admit to my share of them. The thing is, I speak of a grievance that others suffered in my care, not for the injuries that I suffered. Last, I speak for those who come after us, who must abide the terms of forgiveness that we strike in the present.
We all have grievances to address. Some are more serious than others, some were inflicted over a greater length of time, and some by more than one person. In some cases, the wrongs we suffered are only those of divergent principles of living, which cause the least valuable wrongs of all.
Regardless these numberless wrongs, it is on us to find a way to right them.
Dismissal; the lowest form of forgiveness.
The term, forgiveness, barely applies to dismissal, but in some cases, it is the only form that still applies. Here we simply charge off the wrongs we have suffered as an uncollectible bad debt and leave the collection to God. It may be the only forgiveness possible for a person who has passed away, leaving irreparable damages in their wake, and no means to remedy these wrongs.
We might say, "This person has done me irreparable wrong. I give it to God. let God deal out justice and I want never to hear of it or this person again."
Absolution: where forgiveness begins.
It is one thing to sneeze on another person, and another to destroy the life of someone in your family whom you hold priceless above your own life. Here we consider motive, rationale, and effect.
What sort of person was offended, which could have brought on a bad situation that only got worse constantly? Escalating hostilities can have an ugly outcome.
What was the offense? How did it bear directly on their lives (if in fact it did)?
What was the reprisal? How did it bear directly on your life (if in fact it did)?
Who else was involved? Were there torts of outrage, defamation of character, or tangible damages?
Legal action aside, we can see that no human willingly resorts to a hateful act unless something or someone else manipulates it.
Finding a common ground with an implacable enemy and a way to get back on good working relations may be difficult but it is worth it.
We might say, "We have something in common. Let's dismiss smaller issues in favor of greater issues."
Reconciliation: God's way of forgiving.
Okay, the battle still rages and very literal bullets are still in the air, combat casualties mount and the two opposing Generals still seem intent on grabbing land no matter the cost or loss. There is more than pride at stake: succeeding generations will profit or lose from the outcome of this military engagement.
Then, without appreciable warning, both Generals get notice to stand down: a political accord has been reached but cannonshells are still in the air, allies are moving in a quarter million implacable troops, and snipers still have the enemy in their cross hairs. The battle is still in question militarily but not politically.
Okay, General Eisenhower, how do you accept surrender from General Goebbels? That situation was very real in the 1941-1945 minor unpleasantness.
Can Germans tolerate American combat engineers in their buildeings, defusing bombs that didn't go off -- in their homes? Can Sergeant Goldstein overlook the fact that his grandfather died in Belzen and disarm a weapon that drove Germany to its knees?
Such is the burden of reconciliation. Germans who spoke English worked beside Americans who spoke German in the ruins of Berlin, Danzig, and 107 other cities.
Germans who spoke English worked with Britons who spoke German defusing V-1 Buzz Bombs still in London and Southampton.
We might say, "We are both exhausted freom war. If we don't put this foolishness behind us, we are all doomed."
The lessons of forgiveness are hardly in the past.
Can we forgive the religion that put Mohammed Atta -- and many like him -- to the task of the greatest provocation to war in American history Pearl Harbor included?
If so, what terms of forgiveness would you ask? Of whom would you ask them? What would you offer in return (if anything)? Why?